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Old 08-05-2009, 06:48 AM
 
1,297 posts, read 3,158,208 times
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Production and yield can indeed be achieved via small farmers, but it takes an incredible amount of work to get that yield. What makes the large farms "productive" is not tonnage per acre per se, but its the fact that they do so at such a reduced cost.

One time I plowed up a small field with my compact Kubota tractor. My tractor burns fuel at about 5 gallons per day and it took me two full days to plow up this field with a two bottom plow. Its pretty easy to figure out that it took me 10 gallons of fuel to pull that off. Now with our 10 bottom plow and a bigger tractor, I could have easily done that in an hour or two and spent half the fuel to do itdespite having a much bigger tractor.

Its called efficiency of scale, and its amazing what call be accomplished so cheaply when you properly factor in drawbar pull and the horse power available. (For those that like math and like farming right, the idal drawbar percentage is about 85%.) For a lot of small farmers this law of averages is hard to deal with. Its also why "buying local" is not really all that environmentally friendly. On our larger farm, we plant 1200 acres of corn and do so burning fuel at about 3/4 of a gallon per acre and this is average for corn farmers. In my little tractor example I burned 5 gallons of fuel per acre. So the math is pretty darn simple to figure out...it takes less fuel and reduces emissions when a large farmer sows corn and harvests it then a smaller farmer trying to do the same thing with smaller tractors and implements. And interestingly enough, the amount of fuel it takes to transport that food to the local grocery store via truck is lower then what a local farmer can produce it for since a truck can carry such a big payload.

Now before you beat me up, I still support local ag because there are other reasons to do so besides cost, but when people often cite local farming as being better for the environment because of food transportation costs, the sad fact is, it actually takes more fuel to grow it locally. But as I said, there are other reasons to keep small, mid and large farms in any given area beyond effeciency. Farms have an incredible amount of value to any community.

Now the flip side of this could be going micro-scale and not having equipment at all and doing it via hand. Lets say its harvesting grain with a hand sythe. That is a great idea (no burning of hydro carbons) but how many people are really going to stick with that level of intensive farming? As they age can they keep up? As the farm grows and the knowledge that they could make x amount of dollars more if they grew x amount of acres more not persuade them to get into a bigger farming operation? As I have often said...sustainable farming is more then going organic and using compost instead of fertilizer, it means you stick with farming for more then a few years and grow tired of the physical inputs it takes to get by.

But you are indeed right, small farms can get the same yield as larger farmers, but it comes at a price.
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Old 08-05-2009, 07:49 AM
 
Location: Democratic Peoples Republic of Redneckistan
11,102 posts, read 13,355,061 times
Reputation: 3926
Quote:
Originally Posted by BrokenTap View Post
Production and yield can indeed be achieved via small farmers, but it takes an incredible amount of work to get that yield. What makes the large farms "productive" is not tonnage per acre per se, but its the fact that they do so at such a reduced cost.

One time I plowed up a small field with my compact Kubota tractor. My tractor burns fuel at about 5 gallons per day and it took me two full days to plow up this field with a two bottom plow. Its pretty easy to figure out that it took me 10 gallons of fuel to pull that off. Now with our 10 bottom plow and a bigger tractor, I could have easily done that in an hour or two and spent half the fuel to do itdespite having a much bigger tractor.

Its called efficiency of scale, and its amazing what call be accomplished so cheaply when you properly factor in drawbar pull and the horse power available. (For those that like math and like farming right, the idal drawbar percentage is about 85%.) For a lot of small farmers this law of averages is hard to deal with. Its also why "buying local" is not really all that environmentally friendly. On our larger farm, we plant 1200 acres of corn and do so burning fuel at about 3/4 of a gallon per acre and this is average for corn farmers. In my little tractor example I burned 5 gallons of fuel per acre. So the math is pretty darn simple to figure out...it takes less fuel and reduces emissions when a large farmer sows corn and harvests it then a smaller farmer trying to do the same thing with smaller tractors and implements. And interestingly enough, the amount of fuel it takes to transport that food to the local grocery store via truck is lower then what a local farmer can produce it for since a truck can carry such a big payload.

Now before you beat me up, I still support local ag because there are other reasons to do so besides cost, but when people often cite local farming as being better for the environment because of food transportation costs, the sad fact is, it actually takes more fuel to grow it locally. But as I said, there are other reasons to keep small, mid and large farms in any given area beyond effeciency. Farms have an incredible amount of value to any community.

Now the flip side of this could be going micro-scale and not having equipment at all and doing it via hand. Lets say its harvesting grain with a hand sythe. That is a great idea (no burning of hydro carbons) but how many people are really going to stick with that level of intensive farming? As they age can they keep up? As the farm grows and the knowledge that they could make x amount of dollars more if they grew x amount of acres more not persuade them to get into a bigger farming operation? As I have often said...sustainable farming is more then going organic and using compost instead of fertilizer, it means you stick with farming for more then a few years and grow tired of the physical inputs it takes to get by.

But you are indeed right, small farms can get the same yield as larger farmers, but it comes at a price.
I understand what you are saying and I must admit,I had never even looked at it that way.
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Old 08-05-2009, 08:51 AM
 
9,807 posts, read 13,683,788 times
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Originally Posted by thebreadlady View Post
what we have really lost in this part of the country are the medium sized farms. maybe if they were still here, they would be a buffer between the small and the large farmers.
in a perfect world, there would not be so much difference between the way 30 cows are handled and the way 300 or a thousand plus are. but there is, and the differences are huge.
i agree that calling a farm small does not guarantee the quality of the products created there. but, when something comes from a large or mega-farm, to me the flags go up that i need to check into how they grow things there.
the small farms i see are very productive. i'm sure they produce as much per acre as the big boys. it wouldn't hurt my feelings to see many more smaller farms and less of the large.
The reason --small farms--are disappearing is quite simple.

Todays prices that farmers recieve for their products are lower than they were 25-30 years ago.

If a person was recieving wages less than 25-30 years ago, he would need to work 80-100 hours a week to earn enough to make up for it.

Working 40 hours a week 25-30 years ago, doing the same today at less wages, wouldn't pan out.

( this was an analogy)

Small farms can do quite well today ( if both husband and wife have off farm jobs that pay well enough to support and keep that small farm operating )
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Old 08-05-2009, 08:59 AM
 
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One thing where size doesn't matter is the current crisis in the dairy industry due to pathetic milk prices.

Large dairies in California are hurting as bad as small dairies in the mid-west or the NE.

ABC Nightly News did a segment on the daries in California and a banker said many farmers are on borrowed time and borrowed money.

He said for about 15% of the dairy farmers in the Central Valley, both the borrowed time and borrowed money will run out soon.

I will venture BT's family dairy of 800 cows is struggling as much as my son with 50 cows with milk prices this low and expenses not matching the low milk rates.
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Old 08-05-2009, 09:05 AM
 
Location: Democratic Peoples Republic of Redneckistan
11,102 posts, read 13,355,061 times
Reputation: 3926
Quote:
Originally Posted by marmac View Post
One thing where size doesn't matter is the current crisis in the dairy industry due to pathetic milk prices.

Large dairies in California are hurting as bad as small dairies in the mid-west or the NE.

ABC Nightly News did a segment on the daries in California and a banker said many farmers are on borrowed time and borrowed money.

He said for about 15% of the dairy farmers in the Central Valley, both the borrowed time and borrowed money will run out soon.

I will venture BT's family dairy of 800 cows is struggling as much as my son with 50 cows with milk prices this low and expenses not matching the low milk rates.
And what's even worse about those abysmal milk prices ...they are not being reflected at the stores,just like when the bottom fell out of the pork industry...the price of pork on the shelves never changed.
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Old 08-06-2009, 09:34 AM
 
9,807 posts, read 13,683,788 times
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Originally Posted by muleskinner View Post
And what's even worse about those abysmal milk prices ...they are not being reflected at the stores,just like when the bottom fell out of the pork industry...the price of pork on the shelves never changed.
I was at a Walmart Supertcenter yesterday, so I checked the price of milk---------$1.68 a gallon for 2%

Since there are about 12 gallons in a hundredweight ( the term used in farmer prices) that comes out to about $20 a hwt.

Farmers are getting about $10

Also, that milk was only 2% anf if a farmer sold milk that low in butterfat % he would be docked so bad he probably only would get about $7

Rest assured, milk that the farmer sells at 3.5% butterfat has the butterfat used, not discarded, in more expensive items---butter, half and half, ice cream etc.

So in reality, comparing 2% milk to what the farmer recieves for his, is even more unbalanced when the butterfat content is taken into consideration.

We are located in the #1 dairy county in the state of Minnesota and I believe our county ranks in the top 20 dairy counties in the US.

( so its not that milk is scarce due to our location )
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Old 08-06-2009, 06:30 PM
 
1,297 posts, read 3,158,208 times
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Milk would be scarce if we actually stopped importing 5 billion pounds of it a year...but then that would devastate Canada. Last year it all worked out because China needed milk and so we exported our milk to them, while importing milk from Canada. Crazy huh?

When the milk scandal hit China last year, well down went milk sales...then the economy tanked and we are where we are at. I still say its time for Canada to take care of themselves...they are well subsidized compared to our farmers.

Milk should be $10 a gallon since there is so much work in it. If any wants they can come on up to the farm and see for themselves. A great time is on Christmas at 1 AM in the morning...or July 4th at 5 PM...or Easter Sunday at 9 AM...it really doesn't matter though, we milk cows 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365¼ days a year..............
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