Pig Planning

This weekend White Flint Farm will hold it’s annual executive retreat to review the results of 2013 and plan for 2014.  Put differently, Cherie and I will spend a day at the kitchen table figuring out where we go from here.

I’m a little nervous about it.  We have to be honest about what makes sense and what doesn’t. As a friend of mine put it, if we operate at a loss then we’re essentially paying people to eat our food. If the reality is that we’ll always operate at a loss, then what we’re doing isn’t sustainable.

I expect the results of our review will be positive.  But I know it’s likely that we’ll end up making some changes.  We’ll see.

Whatever other changes we end up making, I’m confident that we’ll keep raising pigs.  I love having them on the farm and they don’t require a lot of effort.  I feed them twice a day, keep their water fresh and make sure they have a wallow and a dry place to sleep.  If only everything on the farm was as easy to raise as they are.

We set the price of our sausage at $6.50/pound and are having no problem selling it.  Several folks have told us it’s the best they’ve ever had.  It’s encouraging that people are willing to pay a little extra more for quality.

Assuming the numbers work out as I expect them to, I’m planning to raise four next year–two for whole hog sausage and two for the other cuts.  I may try to plant some turnips in the pasture.  I’m still considering fencing in some of the woods around the pasture so they can finish on acorns, even though that would have been pointless this year since we ended up having no acorns.

I’m still hesitant to get a boar and start breeding and farrowing.  I like bringing in weaned piglets, raising them to slaughter weight, then taking a break.  That also allows me to open up their pasture for the goats in the winter.  We’ll think about that possibility for 2015.

Whatever else 2014 may have in store for us, I’m sure it will include pigs.

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8 comments on “Pig Planning

  1. DM says:

    I would love to be @ your annual meeting and discuss pricing/ strategy. You have a business sense I am lacking, or maybe that’s not the way to put it. I have a hard time setting prices @ where they need to be in order for me to make a profit. Profit is not a dirty word, contrary to what I’m guessing a certain segment of our population who have never been self employed understand. I’m not talking about pricing things in a way that boarders on stealing,
    On a completely unrelated note, we got home last night after 30 hours on the train. I’d mentioned earlier this week we were in New York City for the week- our first real extended trip to the city. It felt good to get home to our old farm house. I took “The Longest Winter” (little house on the prairie series) with me to read. The perfect book for me this trip. DM

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    • Bill says:

      Actually, in the past I’ve applied no business sense to price-setting. We just set prices based on what others were charging or what seemed to be fair. This year we’ve been very careful to track our expenses and income separated by farm enterprise. We’ll run the numbers this week and have our verdicts by the weekend.
      Glad you’re back home. I don’t travel much now, but I used to a lot, so I know what a great feeling it is to get home after having been on the road.

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  2. It’s goals/strategies time here too. I’m supposed to be working on a fencing plan instead of browsing blogs, right now, in fact :).
    It will be interesting to see the outcome of your meeting, given the diversity of things you do – CSA with that huge array of greens and other veggies, goats, pigs, eggs, etc. Also given some of the disasters that befell you last season, like the deer and the weather, how that will affect decision making.
    I’m with you on the breeding thing with your pig enterprise…for the sake of my family’s sanity, I need the pigs to be seasonal, so after my first experience with 2 last summer, like you I’m going to get 4 weaners this year – one for sausage, one side for our freezer, and the rest to sell as sides or half sides (I keep telling people this is the only way they are going to get bacon from my pigs). Price on my sausage is $6/lb, so pretty similar, and I’m having no trouble shifting it either.
    I love the word picture conjured up by “paying people to eat our food”. A great image to keep in mind to ensure loss doesn’t happen through price setting.

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    • Bill says:

      A friend and fellow farmer impressed on me this year the importance of setting prices accurately. “Paying people to eat our food” were his words. He made the point that if some of us set prices below the cost of production it hurts those who are trying to make their farms financially viable. We’re trying to be careful about that now.

      We lost all our direct sales/farmers market sales during the summer season due to the weather/wildlife. On the other hand we had a very productive Fall. I’m not going to assume another summer like this one, but as you know, those are the kind of risks we take as farmers.

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  3. shoreacres says:

    Learning to price fairly was the hardest thing for me to do when I started my business. As someone finally explained to me, if I raise my prices and still have more work than I can handle, I’m not overpricing. I suppose the corollary for you would be that if people are buying out all your product, you’re not over-pricing either.

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    • Bill says:

      It’s been hard for me too. I don’t like being a merchant. I’d rather just give the food away. But I don’t think the government would be as generous when taxes are due.

      I was uncomfortable with raising the price on our eggs and pork but the new prices haven’t affected sales or demand at all.

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  4. El Guapo says:

    Hope the numbers fall in your favor, and that it’s a great new year!

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