I’ve often said, before I got involved in social media, my primary outside the farm information sources talked continually of the consolidation occurring in agriculture, the reality that you either need to “get big” or “get out.” By their definitions, it would be easy to consider my small family farm too small to be sustainable.
Once I entered the social media world, I learned that I was too-big, that only local produce from “small” family farms is sustainable.
Well, somebody’s wrong, but it’s not the purpose of this post to decide who. Barring excessive regulation and some self-appointed expert telling is what to do, the market will sort these things out.
But based on a conversation I just had, I wanted to talk about one aspect of our operation. The cattle feeding. We have a combined capacity on two farms of about 1000 cattle that we feed. To many not involved in the cattle business, that sounds quite large. However, it’s not. The cattle feeding industry is comprised of mostly of very large operations 10,000, 50,000, eve n 100,000 cattle in one location. It’s a very tight-margin business. For any several year historical time period, average profit from a single animal will usually average around $10 per animal. It takes a lot of animals to mater much. As with most things, the government provides data (monthly in this case) on the number of cattle being fed. Feedlots of less than 1000 head comprise such a small amount of the total today that they are no longer even counted.
In all reality, I’m fully aware we’re probably too small to be a long term player in the commodity cattle feeding business. However, there’s numerous specialty markets many of which have experienced growth in recent years, that provide us potential opportunities to be involved with. A large number of smaller cattle feeding operations I know of participate in these specialty programs. We have no plans to quit feeding cattle, we’ve just made significant investments the last several years updating our facilities.
But “how” we feed cattle might change, we’ll let the pundits, the industry analysts, the Twitter know-it-alls argue their case. And we’ll respond to what people want, to what the marketplace asks for, as far as I’m concerned, that’s the way it should be
Update: Apparently I need to acknowledge I was chatting with Kelly Rivard about her rabbit post when this blog idea occured!