University of Minnesota Extension
http://www.extension.umn.edu/
612-624-1222
Menu Menu

Extension > Food > Small Farms > Small Farms > Archives > Business Archive

Recently in the Business Category

On Farm Food Safety Workshop

| Leave a comment

By Jake Overgaard
Extension Educator, Winona County

We've seen the headlines linking spinach, sprouts, melons, or what-have-you with an e. coli outbreak. The impact of an outbreak on an individual farm and the industry in general is significant. Also, with the recent Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) legislation, and more scrutiny from buyers and the public, addressing food safety risks on the farm is becoming more important. This is especially true as more local producers are selling to co-ops, restaurants, grocery stores, farmers markets, and through CSAs. As a grower you might be wondering...

  • When would I need a certification to sell fresh produce?
  • How will FSMA affect my operation?
  • How can I create a food safety plan for my farm?

To address these questions and provide more information regarding on-farm food safety, the UMN On-Farm GAPs Program http://safety.cfans.umn.edu/ and UMN Extension - Winona County, have put together a workshop for commercial produce growers. At this workshop, you will...

  • Learn about GAPs, GAP Certification, and FSMA.
  • See how Whitewater Gardens implements GAPs on their farm
  • Practice writing risk assessment statements and standard operating procedures.
  • Learn about additional resources available to you.

Location: Whitewater Gardens, Altura, MN
Date/Time: June 26th, 9 am to 4 pm
Cost: $15 (Includes lunch and refreshments)

For more info and to register, visit the registration page: https://docs.google.com/a/umn.edu/forms/d/1Y0dhZWbmr2WH9sUx8Q4CjyBsQzM6JIfMiwaDtuMXCPY/viewform

We hope to see you there!

Starting with Chickens

| Leave a comment

By: Mike Boersma, County Extension Educator & 4-H Program Director with the University of Minnesota Extension in Murray and Pipestone Counties

Many farm stores, elevators, and similar businesses are beginning the spring-time tradition of offering chicks for sale. Raising chickens on a small scale is a fun experience for young and old alike. It is a great way to teach youth (and adults) about food production. Also, while not a lucrative business venture, raising chickens is a hobby that will give you something in return for the time and money you invest in it.

Whether raising chickens for eggs, meat, or both, selecting the right breed is one important step to ensuring success. When choosing broiler chicks (those raised for meat production), the most popular breed is a Cornish cross. These chickens are fast growing and will grow from hatch to market weight in as little as six to eight weeks. This breed is known for their carcass characteristics and rapid growth but they can suffer from joint problems if not managed properly.

As an alternative to the Cornish, the Red Ranger and similar breeds tend to grow a little slower but will produce leaner meat with more texture and flavor. These breeds also produce a higher percentage of dark meat. They can be expected to reach market weight in ten to twelve weeks.
When considering breeds of laying hens, there are many more options and varieties to choose from. White Leghorns may be the most popular breed for egg production. They produce between 250-300 white eggs per year. They are a smaller breed, weighing 4.5 pounds when mature. They are good foragers but are not a docile breed; they can be high-strung.

Many small-scale producers prefer more of a "dual-purpose" breed. The females make good layers while the males can be fed for meat production. There is a trade-off with the dual purpose breeds; they won't lay as many eggs as the Leghorns and won't grow as fast as the Cornish. However, their larger mature size helps them be more hardy, more tolerant of our cold winters and they are often more mild-mannered as well.

Popular dual purpose breeds include the Wyandotte, Rhode Island Red, Ameraucana, Plymouth Rock and the Orpington. There are a number of hybrids that would be considered dual purpose breeds as well. These chickens come in a variety of shapes and colors and are commonly 6 to 7 pounds when mature. The Orpington is the largest of these and hens will reach about 8 pounds. Many of these breeds lay brown eggs, however, the Ameraucana's eggs are green.

Whatever the goals, choosing a breed that suits your needs will help ensure a successful and rewarding venture. If you are considering raising poultry on a small scale but live within city limits, check with local ordinances since these can vary considerably from one town to the next.

Bale Grazing Reduces Inputs

| Leave a comment

By: Mike Boersma, University of Minnesota Extension Educator & 4-H Program Director, Pipestone & Murray Counties

For beef cow/calf producers, minimizing the use of harvested feeds is a great way to reduce input costs. Doing so will translate to reduced costs of harvesting and transporting forages as well as reduced manure hauling and labor. However, in order to reduce the amount of harvested forages being fed, producers need to find ways to extend the grazing season. This can be a challenge in the Upper Midwest where the end of the grazing season is often dictated by the first significant snowfall.

What if a system existed that would provide a "happy medium"-where forages could be harvested and protected from the effects of snowfall, yet, could be fed in a way that didn't require starting a tractor daily throughout the winter and could also require very minimal manure hauling from the winter feeding area? The idea of bale grazing accomplishes exactly this.
In basic terms, bale grazing involves bales in a field or pasture at the beginning of the winter feeding season. Using a portable electric fence wire, cows are given access to a small number of bales at a time and the fence is moved periodically to allow access to new bales as needed. This system allows feeding to take place in the field or pasture, rather than in a yard or drylot situation. Feeding the cows in the field presents an opportunity for saving time and fuel generally used during daily feeding and manure hauling.

To maximize cost savings, bales can be left in the field right where they were originally harvested. If that isn't an option, however, bales can be hauled to a new field or winter pasture and placed in a grid pattern. In either case, an electric wire is used to grant access to new bales periodically.

The system works best when cows can only access a few days' worth of feed at a time. This will force the cows to eat more of each bale and reduce waste. For producers concerned with needing to move fence posts in frozen ground, try a cordless drill to create pilot holes for small fence posts.

The concept of bale grazing may not fit for all operations. But, if the system sounds feasible on your own farm as a means of reducing fuel and labor costs, I'd encourage you to give it a try.

Pricing Corn Silage

| Leave a comment

By: Jerrold Tesmer, Extension Educator, Fillmore & Houston Counties

Due to the late planting dates and a cooler than normal growing season this year, many corn fields will probably be harvested for silage. There is potential for corn in these fields to be too immature for proper corn silage harvest. How should the value of corn silage be adjusted for immature corn? Typical calculation methods for pricing normal corn silage include:

Relative feed value of known forage market.
Silage ($/T) = ¼ to ½ value of hay
Silage ($/T = 8 times the price of a bushel of corn. If already harvested, then 10 times.
Feed replacement or substitution costs
Use market prices for energy, protein, and digestibility (NE of corn, soybean meal, hay)
Contracted price above the cost of production (280 - 320 $/A).

If the corn is immature a quality adjustment factor for maturity might be necessary. Some University of Wisconsin work suggests: Pre-tassel = 90%; Silk = 80%; Soft dough = 85%; Early dent = 90%; ½ kernel milk line = 100%; and Black layer = 90%

Two "quick and dirty" ways to estimate corn silage yield are:

Based on Grain Yield...for stressed corn, about one ton of silage per acre can be obtained from each 5 bushels of grain per acre. For example, if you expect a grain yield of 50 bushels grain per acre, you will get about 10 ton/acre of 30 percent dry matter silage. For corn yielding more than 100 bushels per acre, about one ton of silage per acre can be expected for each 7 to 8 bushels per acre.

Based on Plant Height...if little or no grain is expected, a rough pre-harvest estimate of yield can be made by assuming that one ton of 30 percent dry matter silage can be obtained for each foot of plant height (excluding the tassel. On this basis, "waist-high" corn 3-4 feet tall will yield about 3 to 4 tons per acre of silage at 30 percent dry matter.
Sample Weight Method...A more accurate way to estimate yields is to weigh the corn plants from a portion of an acre (1/100th) in several spots of the field. To do this, determine row width, then cut corn plants in one row for a certain length according to row width in the following table:

Row Length Row Width
32.50 ft. 30"
28.75 ft. 36"
27.50 ft. 38"
26.25 ft. 40"

Next, weigh the amount of whole corn plant material cut in pounds. Divide the pounds harvested by 4. That's the estimated tons produced per acre. Follow this method for several areas and average the results.

In order to obtain actual tons harvested, weigh each wagon load or count how many feet of silage went into a silo after settling. If you know the silo size, how many feet of silage was put up and what the moisture was, silo charts can be used to calculate tons stored. Dividing stored tons by acres harvested will give you the yield per acre.

The information above was obtained from work done by University of Wisconsin Corn Agronomist Joe Lauer, and UW-Extension Agriculture Agent Greg Blonde.

Forage Testing Saves Money

| Leave a comment

By: Mike Boersma, Extension Educator & 4-H Program Director, Murray & Pipestone Counties

Forages are a major dietary component for many species of livestock. With widespread drought for the past couple of years and a slow start to the spring growing season, forages are in short supply. This shortage has translated to record-setting prices this spring.

With forages becoming a very valuable commodity, testing hay and silages for nutrient content becomes critical. Matching the nutrient content of forages with the animals' nutrient requirements is equally important.

When testing forages, it is important to remember that the results are only as accurate as the sample submitted. When sampling bales of hay, it is best to take core samples from a large number of bales, mix the samples, and then collect a sub-sample for submission to the lab.

Also, collect samples that will best represent the entire bale. Core samples should be taken from a cross-section of the bale. This means the corer should enter the rounded side of round bales or the end of square bales. Also, select bales from various locations within a row or pile to ensure the most accurate representation of the entire lot of hay. Finally, if possible, analyze separate samples for each cutting of hay, as each cutting will be harvested at a slightly different stage of maturity and under varying conditions.

When sampling silages, it is again important to select representative samples. Obtain multiple samples and sample each storage structure (bunker, pile, bag, etc.) separately.

Once testing results have been obtained, using this information to accurately meet animal requirements, without over-feeding and wasting an expensive resource, can save money. Producers should work closely with their nutritionist to accurately determine nutrient requirements of their livestock.

The University of Minnesota Extension has valuable tools that will also assist in this process for beef producers, specifically. The U of M Beef Cow Ration Balancer is available for free download at http://z.umn.edu/cowbalancer. This tool includes valuable information for feeding the beef cow herd and includes a table of nutrient requirements and information on assessing the body condition score of the animals in the herd. The second tool available is the U of M Feedlot Ration Balancer, available at http://z.umn.edu/feedlotbalancer. Here, producers will find information to assist in meeting nutrient requirements of growing calves for backgrounding or feedlot situations.

Performing a nutrient analysis on your forages is the best way to know what you are feeding. With today's high prices, the potential cost associated with not meeting the animals' needs or over-feeding expensive nutrients is much greater than the costs associated with obtaining an accurate forage test. For more information on forage testing, contact your local Extension office.

By: Julie Sievert, Extension Educator, Sibley County
Christian Lilienthal, Extension Educator, Nicollet County
Mike Donnelly, Extension Educator, Rice & Steele Counties

Do you have the dream of owning acreage in the country? Do you have an existing acreage that is in need of a plan and strategies for the best possible results? The Living on the Land Workshop Series, offered by University of Minnesota Extension, will equip you with the education and resources to be successful.

The eight-week course is designed to arm landowners with agricultural information to enable them to be good stewards of their land. The course will begin with goal-setting and individual property inventory, then address soil, plant, water and animal basics.

The Living on the Land curriculum addresses a growing need for information regarding small acreages. The series incorporates knowledge and experience from a team of instructors to address topics including: what do you have and what do you want, what you can do with your land, protecting water quality, what to do about weeds, lawn and pasture maintenance, getting down and dirty with soils, and caring for and managing your animals. The series also includes a farm tour.

The series will be taught by Extension educators and natural resource professionals at two locations. One of the locations is in Gaylord at the Sibley County Service Center. In Gaylord, the series will be held on Monday evenings from February 4th to March 25th. The second location is in Northfield at the Northfield Community Resource Center. In Northfield, the series will be held on Thursday evenings from March 7th to April 25th. Both workshops will run from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. with light meals provided at each session.

Early registration is $175 until Monday, January 28 for the Gaylord location and Thursday, February 28 for the Northfield location. All registrations received after those dates will be $200. Each registration is valid for up to two people representing a single farm who will share materials. For example, a husband and wife team or two siblings may attend together. Benefits include useful educational publications, an educational farm tour, soil tests, a site visit/consultation from a University of Minnesota Extension educator in your area, as well as the tools to help you succeed with your goals and dreams on your country acreage.

For more information about the series in Gaylord, please contact Julie Sievert at 507-237-4100 or schu0944@umn.edu or Christian Lilienthal at 507-934-0360 or lili0004@umn.edu. For questions regarding the Northfield location, please contact Mike Donnelly at 507-332-6109 or donne099@umn.edu.

Register now--space is limited at each location. Additional information and the Living on the Land workshop series brochure can be found on the Small Farms website.

Ag Business Management Websites

| Leave a comment

By Jerrold Tesmer
Extension Educator, Fillmore & Houston Counties

While preparing for the recent Land Rent Workshops, I stumbled across a list of useful Ag Business Management websites that Regional Extension Educator Gary Hachfeld and I prepared many years ago. I checked out those sites to see if they were still working and added a couple that are useful. Anyone with internet access might find them useful. These sites are in no particular priority.

A great place to start is the University of Minnesota Center for Farm Financial Management: www.cffm.umn.edu. At that site you can access FINBIN data. FINBIN is the largest and most accessible source of farm financial and production benchmark information in the world.

Other useful items under the Center for Farm Financial Management site include, The Ag Risk Education Library that organizes thousands of risk management materials which help producers and agricultural professionals quickly locate information, tools, and assistance on specific risk management topics; AgTransitions helps farmers and ranchers develop a plan to transition their business to the next generation; Grain Marketing where Ed Usset attempts to separate the wheat from the chaff in the often confusing world of grain marketing.

Value of Farm Land: Land Economics Web site at www.landeconomics.umn.edu. This is a site is prepared by Steve Taff, University of Minnesota. Over the years, I have shared it with a number of realtors. The site includes Farmland sales, Timberland sales, Land values, soils data, RIM easements, CRP contracts, and Property tax assessments.

I have also found three very useful publications from Iowa State University, "2012 Iowa Farm Custom Rate Survey", "Estimated Costs of Crop Production in Iowa - 2012", and the "Livestock Enterprise Budgets for Iowa - 2012". They can be accessed at: www.extension.iastate.edu/agdm.

The final source I will mention is the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS). USDA, NASS has a wealth of data at www.nass.usda.gov or strictly Minnesota data at www.nass.usda.gov/mn/.

Record Keeping and Farmers Market Sales Log

| Leave a comment

By Betsy Wieland
Extension Educator, Hennepin County

Recording expenses, labor, and sales records is an incredibly important part of good management for any farming enterprise. This can be very challenging in the middle of farming and come market day is often the last thing on the 'To Do' list. A 'Farmers Market Sales Log' was created to help assist farmers get started with sales record keeping at Farmers' Markets. Collecting this information is a great start for understanding your production costs. It can then use this to make many, many decisions regarding your farm business.

A Farmer's Market Sales Log template, with an example, is available online at http://z.umn.edu/7v5. It is one example of the types of records that can be kept. The log can be printed and filled out as often as is helpful, but is designed to be used at each market day. This can be done for any product, whether it's produce, meat, baked goods, etc. Their data can then be compiled, hopefully monthly, but at least at the end of the growing season. Sections that are not useful can be skipped. If the log does not seem useful, at a minimum a person could write down product brought to market, product not sold, and money collected. That will provide some measure of profitability.

For questions or comments, please contact Betsy Wieland, Agriculture Extension Educator, Hennepin County at (612) 596-1175 or eliza003@umn.edu.

By Nathan Winter
Extension Educator, McLeod and Meeker Counties

Small Farms Team member Nathan Winter highlights some of of the business models that drive small-farm growth in Minnesota. The article was posted in a recent University of Minnesota Extension Ag News Wire post: http://z.umn.edu/6h6

Any use of this article must include the byline or following credit line:
Nathan Winter is an agricultural production systems educator with University of Minnesota Extension.


  • © 2014 Regents of the University of Minnesota. All rights reserved.
  • The University of Minnesota is an equal opportunity educator and employer. Privacy