An Expensive Way to Feed Pigs
Every farmer raising a flock of laying hens can benefit from keeping a few pigs around to eat the broken or impossible-to-clean eggs. I’m feeding my pigs eggs, but not just a few cracked ones. They are getting hundreds of eggs at a clip.
I started the season with hopes to supply several markets that didn’t eventuate or that didn’t turn out nearly as big as I anticipated. I’m producing about 1/3 more eggs than I can sell. I’ve been scrambling (nyuck, nyuck) to find new markets to pick up the eggs, but I haven’t had much success. Marketing and establishing new contacts is usually slow work.
As the stock of eggs grew and grew, I ended up with several hundred dozen eggs that were getting older. Not too old for consumption since eggs can easily stay good for three or more months, but old enough that the air sacs have expanded and the quality has begun to drop. So this week I started feeding the oldest eggs to the pigs. They love them.
I can’t keep producing eggs to feed to the pigs; it is financially disastrous. I’m probably going to have to slaughter a good portion of my laying flock. That’s a hard decision to make. Eggs are never a money maker for me — they are break-even at best — but they seem to be necessary for having a complete lineup that customers expect. If I develop the market (again, more marketing needed) I could recover a little money by selling the hens for stewing, but not enough to cover the cost their feed and maintenance in raising them to this age. I haven’t seen strong demand for stewing hens since it doesn’t seem to be something that most of my customers are used to. The other option I’ve been wondering about is grinding whole chickens for raw pet food, since the prices for raw pet food seem to approach the same levels as people pay for high quality meats.
One of the challenges in all direct market farming is that the preparation work to sell a product happens far in advance of the sale. To get from an incubated egg to a fully productive laying hen requires seven or eight months. The consequences for under-preparing are disappointed and frustrated customers. The consequences for over-preparing are disappointed and frustrated farmers.
If this were a motivational speech or a TED talk, I’d move on from here to telling the story of how, when my back was up against the wall, I had my epiphany and realized I could start selling pickled eggs or mayonnaise, or how I just happened to run into a chef opening a cool new restaurant in town who was looking for these very special eggs.
So here I am in position. My back is firmly pressed up against that proverbial wall, I’m ready and waiting for the epiphany. Any minute now…