2012 is here and after a busy 2011 I can honestly say I am glad. 2011 was one of the craziest business years I’ve ever experienced. Barely 5 years into this poultry adventure we find ourselves upgrading. Technology changes so fast there is always something new to add or update to keep things “state of the art”. Of course the capital investment is difficult to stomach, but when you have one customer I guess it’s important to try to keep the peace. Technology doesn’t seem to be the only thing that changes in Cobb. In 5 years I find myself dealing with both my third service technician and my third complex manager. I also find myself unhappy with the business for the first time. I’m beginning to understand that corporate agriculture is no different than corporate manufacturing. It’s all about cutting cost. Cobb contracts a lot of things and we as contract growers find ourselves at the mercy of these contractors. If Cobb can save a few thousand or even a few hundred dollars per farm with a new contractor their business model is such that they do just that. I have no problem with cutting costs, the problem comes in when the new contractor only has to do a certain percentage of what the old contractor was doing and the rest gets pushed on down to the farmer. Not to mention Cobb doesn’t feel responsible when their contractors steal your things or damage your equipment. In particular Cobb has decided to change “wash crew” contractors. The new “wash crew” contractor bids the job cheap enough to get the contract by saving Cobb money, but they won’t wash the nests. That’s no problem for Cobb. They save money. Then they dictate to the farmer that they now have to wash their own nests. When the farmer objects Cobb simply says “you’ll do it or I won’t bring you any more chickens”. I never experienced this blatant breach of contract or disrespect in any other environment without feeling I had recourse. It’s very difficult for me as a person. In this business you are a slave to the guy who spends 3 days a week in an office, half a day a week visiting farms, and takes 3 day weekends to golf or fish or spend with his family. All the while you give up those things in an effort to survive financially. I don’t mind to work. I don’t mind to work every day. I don’t mind missing a few functions with my children. I do mind being disrespected and feeling forced to do something I didn’t agree to do. Our contracts are written by attorney’s that work for Cobb and yet they specifically state “The Company agrees to furnish the Producer with spray material, spray equipment and labor to sanitize the Producer’s houses and/or buildings at no cost to the Producer”. I can’t help feeling as though we are on a slippery slope here. At this point it’s not enough to fight over, but I am seriously concerned this has started the ball rolling. There never seems to be enough hours in the day to get things done. I’ve been feeding chickens at 5 am, gathering eggs til 9, and heading next door to work on upgrades til 4 or 5 every evening. Just this year we’ve added stir fans, attic inlets, 36″ minimum ventilation fans, 16′ roll seal doors, blown in almost 10 pallets of cellulose insulation, and we still have to work on our slats and drinkers. After that there’s cows, horses, rabbits, and goats to feed.
Luckily most of the kids activities are on weekends now so I haven’t missed many of those. We’ve been taking a break from the upgrades on weekends. Working 5 or 6 hours on Saturday and Sunday seems like a day off. Madison has had basketball most weekends. This week should wrap up her AAU league play. Every spare minute she has you find her at the ball goal shooting away. She runs through the house jumping and going through shooting motions. It’s almost as though basketball has possessed her. Kaylee cheers all the high school games so Madison and I watch and critique most of them. Garett is growing tall, but still has no interest in sports except baseball. He has however shown some interest in band. He also told me he would like to have a greenhouse and grow flowers and vegetables. Madison and Garett are both still enjoying jujitsu. Kaylee and Katie are still typical teenage girls who don’t have much use for dad until there’s a problem with their cell phones or they need money, ipods, or clothes. I guess that’s pretty typical of teenage girls. All the kids are doing good in school and haven’t had any discipline problems so I guess so far so good.
With all the upgrades and cleaning out at farm 1 the 7010 cab and the 3316 HST have been getting a pretty good little workout. The 7010 has hardly sat still between feeding rolled hay to the cows, loading out 2 houses of litter to be spread, unloading all the equipment we used in the upgrades, lifting the roll seal doors in place and holding them while we attached them, and hauling the slats to the field to be washed. The 3316 is great inside the poultry houses. The HST makes it a breeze to push the litter to the center were it can be reached. The constant back and forth in such a small space would be a lot more work with a gear transmission. I’m still itching to try the new Power Shuttle transmissions. I think they would be a great fit for a 3rd tractor here that would see limited use in tight spaces. The 6000 4×4 is a great utility tractor, but we just don’t use it like we did before the 7010 cab. For months now I’ve planned to put it up for sale, but after work and activities with the kids I’ve barely found time for sleep. Jan 2012 is the last month of a payment for the 7010. Couple that with selling or trading in the 6000 and I can see an 8560 cab in my near future. I’d pull the trigger now if I could find any need for it. It’s a real balancing act trying to grow a business and have the equipment you need to do the work without buying things you don’t really have a need for.
As the title of this posts suggests I’ve made some resolutions for this new year. One of those is to keep this blog current. I should have a real opportunity to do that with no chickens coming back to Farm 1 until February 28 and Farm 2 selling January 8. Although there’s still work to do it should allow time to do some other things too. I’ve set up a Facebook page for the farm and I’m working on a Twitter account. There’s still the Flickr account that has tons of photos to see. I’m hoping to transfer the photos to Facebook too. There’s also YouTube that’s a work in progress. All in all I’m stoked about making this a pretty cool adventure. Here’s the kicker though….It’s no good without feedback! So please comment here, there, and everywhere. Here’s wishing all you much success in 2012!