This question comes from Craig and I think it’s an important one to examine. Thanks Craig! I don’t think I’ve told my story as to why my first attempt at grazing failed, today I’ll try and explain why.
Here was the situation. I had done the following:
- Leased 100 acres based on a “handshake deal” (no written contract)
- This 100 acres had bad, old fencing and ONE water point and was laid out very weird
- I had to drive 35-45 minutes to get to the land
- I had never handled cattle before and there was no corral or anything similar
- I didn’t know how to use my temporary electric fencing properly
- The truck I bought was a P.O.S Ford F-150 (1993) and it was awful on gas and cost me $60 to fill it up.
- I had 50 laying hens in an “egg-mobile” that I built. Feeding chickens is expensive and I had to fill out $350 worth of paper work in order to sell my eggs at a farmers market. Never got to the point of selling them at the market as you will find out later.
- Built my own solar powered fence energizer which worked quite well actually
- Found a cattle owner that had 20 head of cattle and paid me $13/month to graze her cattle. That is $260/month, that might be enough for half of the gas I used getting out there in a month!
So that is a bit of background info for you. The first mistake I made was with the land owner. You ALWAYS need to get a written contract, which of course I didn’t do. I can’t stress this enough. Maybe Greg Schwab can comment on this post and talk about some of the “clauses” he puts into his leases, thanks Greg! I don’t care if your leasing from your family, just get a written contract so each party knows what the expectations are. What ended up happening with this “handshake deal” is the landowner was a computer programmer and knew nothing about cattle (just like me). He thought the cattle were ruining the land by grazing the grass and turning the area around the water point into dirt. Long story short, he kicked me off the land. So, I had 20 head of cattle I was grazing and 50 laying hens with no home. Thankfully the numbers of animals were small.
Getting kicked off made the relationship with the cattle owner a rocky one. I had agreed to graze her cattle and she had them hauled there all for nothing basically. She lost quite a bit of money in this venture. Next, I had to find a home for my laying hens or sell them. Luckily I sold all my laying hens, and the cattle owner was so nice that she let me bring my chickens and eggmobile to her property so I’d have a place to house them. I eventually sold all my laying hens but it took me 2 months.
Luckily I didn’t have any money invested in permanent fencing, so all I had to do was take my reels of polybraid and posts.
Here is what I would have done differently:
- Get a written contract!
- Try and find an absentee landowner that doesn’t live on the land like mine did
- Get some experience handling cattle anyway you can. Go to a school, a neighbor or watch youtube videos on cattle handling
- Repair old or broken fencing. If it’s barbed wire, this can be really cheap if you find some wire lying around. All you need is some soft flexible wire, old barbed wire and some pliers.
- Don’t invest a lot of money into anything until you and the landowner are happy with what is happening on their land
- Live in a close proximity to the land you are leasing! (5 mile radius if you can)
- Practice setting up your temporary electric fencing and test the voltage of that fencing. Your looking for 5.5 KV or higher. I will do a video on how to handle, roll up, unwind and care for electric fencing reels, however I don’t know when I’ll be able to post it (slow internet in South Africa)
- Graze a number of livestock that can make you a profit
Overall the biggest things that caused me to fail were my lack of experience and not getting a written lease contract. In addition to the commute out there. This is why I maintain this blog, to provide you guys and gals with information that will make your more likely to succeed! I don’t have all the answers but I can share my experiences with you and hopefully you can learn to not make the same mistakes that I did. Pleas don’t hesitate to ask any additional questions that I did not cover. Thanks for reading!