Sunday, September 20, 2009

Weighty decisions

All our growers have been weighty this year so far, and the remaining three grower pigs seem no exception.

The four fat lambs, of which three were sold live in the spring and contract-grown here on the farm, dressed out at 45 pounds, 36, 35, and 35. The 45 pounder, Picasso, who wrenched my arm last week during loading for the ride to the butchers, was out of Snorri the rental ram, and born quite early, which explains the weight difference.

Van, the home pig, dressed at 162 pounds.

The remaining three look at least that weight. One, Gus, seems more.

The extra gains were of course passed on gratis to the customers. They paid for the animals already, so they share the risk with us. They were told at least 20 pounds of meat for a lamb, possibly 25, at least 100 for a pig, but that it could be more in either case.

I didn't say, "It could be much more." Maybe I should have.

At the price we initially charged, $138/lamb, and $280/pig, the lamb worked out to $4.70 or so a pound, the ham and pork around $2.80.

Now it's turning out a good deal cheaper. One customer, the one who bought Picasso, got 45 pounds of lamb for $138, or $3.07 a pound. If we had sold Van instead of putting her in our own freezer, that would have been $1.70 a pound.

However, this bonanza may cause a little anxiety over the next few weeks as freezer space is freed up in preparation for the pigs' arrival. Most of our customers have only standard American fridges with a two or three cubic foot top- or bottom-freezer, and the lambs are coming back needing up to two cubic feet, while the pigs definitely need five.

So I sent out an email with a few bits of advice, like eat all the old stuff as soon as you can, borrow some freezer space from a friend, plan to eat a little fresh ham or pork in the first week, etc, or, obviously, "have a barbeque."

This is the kind of problem most people should be glad to have, I guess, in these days of high food prices and hunger all around the globe, including even here in the US where our local food bank does a serious trade and our local unemployment rate is above ten per cent.

Did Womerlippi Farm make a profit? Aimee seems convinced the lambs were profitable, since they ate mostly grass, apples and a little oats all summer. I'm not so sure if you take into account the winter feed for ewes and rams, but you'd also have to account for the very much less lawn mowing we do than our neighbors.

As for the porkers' profitability, we will sort though all our receipts for pig feed next March, in time to pay our taxes on April 15th, so I'll be able to tell you then. The pigs ate through many hundreds of pounds of much more expensive feed, so I doubt we made out at all. Probably we broke even. But that was our business goal, to grow more food for our friends and neighbors and break even.

Snorri the Rental Ram certainly seems to have paid for himself. He cost us about fifteen pounds of meat in trade, and we got what seems to have been an extra 25 pounds in one lamb out of him, never mind a very nice little ewe-lamb called Polly to boot.

In case you'd forgotten what he looks like, here's a photo of us unloading him back at his home farm last winter. What a chunk! Named for a Newfoundland Viking, he's an amiable fellow and we're looking forward to having him back.

All except for Abraram, that is, who will be furious.

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