Ruffled Feathers and Spilled Milk

Farming with ducks and dairy goats, chickens and children.

“Take every gain without showing remorse about missed profits, because an eel may escape sooner than you think.”

Posted on | November 13, 2009 | 1 Comment

I don’t know what that means.  It is a quote by Lope de Vega, a playmaker in the Spanish Golden Age.  But I like it because it so clearly captures the emotional essence of making a profit.  Your books keep showing you in the red, but your mind keeps telling you that you did just fine.  Or at least better than anyone else could have.  Or maybe that you should just be happy with what you did earn.  Or that it was an important life lesson to be learned and who can place a value on that?   Or that it was worth it because nobody’s eel got loose.  Right?

For example, this year whole deer corn came onto the market at $7.00 per 50 pound bag in August.  Excellent!  This is a much better price than the $10.48 per 50 pound bag of scratch which includes cracked corn and grain that I have been feeding since spring.  Of course, only adult ducks can eat whole corn so I”ll still have to buy some scratch for ducklings.  As a matter of fact, I’ll need another trash can to hold the deer corn separate from the cracked corn, which costs $18.72 at Home Depot.  But this miscellaneous expense pays for itself after just, um, well, a certain number of bags that could be obtained by subtracting something from something and dividing it into, um, well, let’s just say it pays for itself in the long run.

While buying deer corn from the farm next door helps pad that guy’s  accounts, the loss to the local feed mill where I used to purchase eight bags of scratch each week is a bit of drag.  Especially since I’m always in the feed mill asking amateur farm questions which they listen to patiently, answer to the best of their ability, and never laugh until I am too far away to see them in my rear view mirror.  Unfortunately, loss of that support must be considered an incidental damage and included in my profit calculations.  In my accounting books I note it as “Too embarrassed to ask feed mill if I should switch from dairy ration to sweet feed for the goats because he knows I’m buying my corn for the ducks from somewhere else.”  It doesn’t fit well in the column.

After only a few weeks of enjoying the lower operating expenses, I discover that whole corn can contain mycotoxins that can drop poultry and waterfowl almost instantly.  Feed mills screen corn for mycotoxins but, obviously, local farms selling it out of the silo do nothing other than a visual check for mold.  Conventional farming holds that a simple black light can indicate the development of these toxins while the Cooperative Extension claims that technique to be inappropriate and ineffective.  So, I jot down the cost of a black light and extension cord as well as the the value of the time spent screening bags of corn after purchase and the time spent worrying that the screening is inappropriate and ineffective and will result in dead ducks anyway.  Figure the economic risk of not screening the corn and hoping no ducks get sick and die.  Consider the extra cost of scratch from feed mill  as opposed to added value of feed safety.  Then I snap pencils, tear up the accounting book, and put my head down on table until children ask if we are having cereal for dinner again.

Lucky for me, the cost of whole deer corn jumped to $12 per bag at the beginning of hunting season in November.  Good ol’ supply and demand.  So I’m free to return to the local feed mill, purchase scratch, feed it to all ducks and sleep well at night.  And for a few months I actually improved my profit margins.  I think.  Maybe.  At least, my eel never escaped.

© Stevie Taylor 2010. All Rights Reserved.


One Response to ““Take every gain without showing remorse about missed profits, because an eel may escape sooner than you think.””

  1. Heather
    December 18th, 2011 @ 10:22 am

    I love your website – just started reading and it is truly splendiforous!
    Keep writing – unfortunately I have done every stinkin thing you write about, and more . . . that’s what happens with a veterinarian husband with more debt than his income can pay off (so you open your own clinic to make more and instead give everybody deals and work 18 hours a day to make the same as you made in 8 before), 4 little girls under 6, cows that came before fences and grand ideas of saving money by raising animals 😉

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