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More Feedback From Ranchers

Deciding the best plan of attack isn’t easy, but I’m going to defer to Seth Godin’s theme of shipping it (essentially Godin says “Don’t let the perfect become your enemy. Get the product, whatever it is, out the door, and then re-calibrate”.

We have the option of building a herd by breeding cows and raising the calves, buying calves and rasing them, or buying steers. Buying a one year old steer in the spring is clearly the fastest way to the most meat. The timeline is compressed from 18 months to 6 or 8.

Of course, we could also buy steers this year, as well as some calves. We’d slaughter the first generation in the fall of 2014, then winter the calves and slaughter them in the fall of 2015.

I still have to figure out whether we are better off pasturing the cattle or turning them out on the open range. One rancher has suggested that they’d be open to a cow-sitting arrangement, whereby they sell us some steers and rent us pasture. This seems pretty easy in that it reduces the timeline and workload. We’d have to figure out how many steers we could put on the acreage and what the rancher would want to charge for cow-sitting.

Cow-sitting appears to be a fairly broad term. I suspect it ranges from the rancher doing everything required to the rancher simply keeping an eye on things and leaving cow-op members to do whatever work is required. Somewhere in the middle might be realistic. Cow-op members will probably enjoy being involved in the work whenever feasible, but it’s unlikely that they’ll be available for a trip to the Interior at the drop of the hat just because a cow needs something. at the same time its unlikely that we’ll train cows to put their emergency needs on a schedule.

Slaughter

Slaughtering the cattle is another challenge. Farm slaughtered meat can apparently be sent to a butcher to be cut, but farm killed meat is not supposed to leave the farm. I’m assuming that you can kill the animal on the farm, send it to the butcher to be cut, then return it to the farm. I’m also led to believe that cattle that are slaughtered and butchered at a certified site can be re-sold.

In the cowoperative model I’m taking the sale aspect out of the equation. That raises some questions. If, for example, I buy a steer and raise it on someone else’s property under a cow-sitting arrangement, can I slaughter it on the farm, butcher it as I see fit and then take it to my own home for my own consumption? Can a friend and I buy a steer in the spring, raise it on our own property, slaughter it in the fall and take it home? Can we lease property and hire employees to help us raise our own beef? I suspect there is a tangle of regulations to wde through, with most of them stacked in favour of the established business model. I don’t mind sorting through those. In fact, I look forward to it.

Tim Ferriss and Amazon vs. the Old School

There’s a difference between capitalism in the free market and the environment we currently operate in. In a capitalist free market individuals are free to associate and contract with each other without third party interference from government or other business interests. In our system there are very few commercial relationships that government does not try to regulate, as well as take a piece of. Sometimes government regulation is done for good reasons, but it is common that government regulation is designed to favour established business models. We are going to run ito this challenge, but we will overcome it. The difference between the information age that we now live in and past ages is that widely dispersed individuals with a variety of skills and knowledge can combine forces to bring power to bear in a guerrilla fashion.

An example can be found with author Tim Ferriss, the author of The 4 Hour Work Week, The 4 Hour Body, and most recently, the 4 Hour Chef. All of these titles are available online, through Amazon. However, the 4 Hour Chef was actually published, not just sold, by Amazon. The established US book retailer, Borders, is threatened by Amazon as a competing retailer, and so refused to sell The 4 Hour Chef in it’s stores. This initially hurt Ferriss’ sales, but he’s a thinker who doesn’t like getting pushed around. While Borders was closing 500 retail outlets, Ferriss made an arrangement to get his book into Panera stores. Panera is a US bread seller that has 1500 outlets. He then worked on getting the book into other retail outlets like grocery stores. By “polishing brass on the Titanic” (Ferriss’ term), Borders is forcing other retailers to sell the product that Borders should be selling. Ferriss is waging a guerrilla war against them, and let’s face it: he’s going to win.

There’s no government involvement or regulation in the Ferriss/Borders struggle, and we are not going to put industrial beef producers out of business as we develop a new model. The guerrilla approach is important, howver, for two simple reasons. First, a guerrilla approach to things stresses using intelligence in order to execute the unconventional, the new, and the timeless. Second, in a guerrilla context victory is defined as surviving while making incremental gains. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.

Do You See Holes In My Argument?

Our strength lies in diverse experience and skills. This is a cooperative exercise. If you see problems with the idea please let me know, either in the comments section or through direct email to rob@robchipman.net.

My name is Rob Chipman and I’m a realtor, pilot and all around renaissance man based in Vancouver, BC. I really enjoy flying, playing guitar and hockey, real estate and the Chilcotin. My company is Coronet Realty Ltd., located at 3582 East Hastings Street, Vancouver, BC, V5K 2A7. I have a C-150L that I own with two other pilots, based out of Pitt Meadows. Do not hesitate to contact me by email if I can help you do anything, especially if its likely to be interesting.

Feedback From Kijiji

I’ve gotten a lot of feedback from the Kijiji ad that I posted. The feedback was interesting. One rancher pointed out that “The cost to purchase cows or calves is only a small part of total cost, example; fuel, feed, range fees, horses to handle cattle, equipment to feed and handle cattle”. Another said “a sticking point however, will be giving the beef farmer value for his or her participation in a timely manner ie while he is supplying the pasture, water, fence maintenance, animal care etc., long before there is any beef to sell to anyone. access to cash and cash flow is a big issue for beef farmers”.

Those are fair comments. I understand that there are hidden costs in a business, and that part of success in a venture entails nailing down the hidden costs.

Some of those costs would vary depending on what we end up doing. A couple ranchers advised that growing a herd is time consuming and labor intensive. One suggested buying dairy cow bull calves and raising them. I actually did that years ago in Central America and it worked fine, but I’m not sure about the application here. When I did it the calf ranged over a 14 hectare fenced parcel and required next to zero care.

It seems clear that the first step is to decide whether we’re building a herd or just raising some calves. Unless I learn differently I’m leaning toward raising calves. Assuming they are born around, say, April, and we raise them for 18 months, we could start next spring and slaughter them in the fall of 2015.

The next question is where we raise them. It seems that we can raise cattle on a single acreage, or raise them with a combination of privately held acreage and open range. I’m also not clear if we can buy calves and turn them out onto open range without their mothers.

Open range entails range fees, and those fees would have to be factored into the costs. Range feeding allows acreage to be used for hay cultivation for the winter, while raising cattle on a single piece of land would restrict that, leading to higher feed costs (I assume). I’m not sure which method is best, so I’ll need some input on that.

Another important question is how many cattle to raise. Costs are fixed and variable. Generally speaking, the more cattle we raise the lower the per unit fixed cost. However, there are upper limits. We need to determine a workable number.

It is important to note that this project does not involve raising cattle to sell. Rather it involves bringing partners together to raise their own cattle for their own use. Rather than investing with an eye to turning a profit in the future we would be figuring out the initial cost of buying the stock and costs of raising them. The advantage to the primarily consuming/urban partners is the meat. The benefit to the rancher is security and a potential hedge against the market.

I’m posting this in order to start a dialogue with interested parties, and if you’re reading this there is a pretty good chance you’re one of the people who responded to my original Kijiji ad. Feel free to direct feedback directly to me at rob@robchipman.net or in the comments below.

My name is Rob Chipman and I’m a realtor, pilot and all around renaissance man based in Vancouver, BC. I really enjoy flying, playing guitar and hockey, real estate and the Chilcotin. My company is Coronet Realty Ltd., located at 3582 East Hastings Street, Vancouver, BC, V5K 2A7. I have a C-150L that I own with two other pilots, based out of Pitt Meadows. Do not hesitate to contact me by email if I can help you do anything, especially if its likely to be interesting.

Cowoperative

Cowoperative!

What is a cowoporative?

A cowoperative is a group of people together raise a cow or cows cooperatively.

Why “Cowoperative’?

I can’t find any evidence of the word “cowoperative” on the Internet, so maybe I invented the term, but I think that I actually got it from a Seth Godin podcast.

The term is a simple combination of cow and co-op. It works well and is catchy.

There are lots of reasons for the project:

  • Food security
  • Reduced cost
  • Hands on experience
  • Higher quality beef
  • Sustainability

Food security is probably the least important issue. I’m not worried about the sh*t hitting the fan and the world coming to an end,. I’m pretty sure the grocery store will keep selling meat. But, I like the idea of knowing where my food comes from, which is why I also grow some of my own vegetables. I like to know what’s in my food as well.

Reduced cost is relative. Grass fed organic beef is more expensive than industrially produced feedlot beef, and I feel that a co-op approach can reduce that cost somewhat.

Hands on experience is always fun for a guy like me. I like doing things myself, whether it’s building my house, building boats or doing self-guided tours through the wilderness. I’m an involved, hands on guy.

I believe that a cowoperative would result in better quality meat than I get from a grocery store. I may not be correct on that, but until I’m proven wrong I’m sticking to that story.

Sustainability is also important to me, but there are lots of aspects to it. One that strikes me is the idea that raising grass feed, high quality beef may allow someone who wants to live a rural lifestyle may be helped by urban people who want to push the edge of the envelope and cut out middlemen. A rancher who is in partnership with a consumer may be able to create a more sustainable lifestyle than one who is subject to the whims and practicalities of bigger agri-business. Again, I don;t know that, but until I’m proven wrong that’s the story I’m sticking with.

The Plan

My idea is to pool the resources of a variety of people to raise beef for mutual benefit. The urban people would provide the capital and the rancher would provide the land and expertise. Rather than paying the rancher a cash fee for raising the animals we’d be cowoperative partners. Members of the cowoperative would be involved in all aspects of the process, even helping the rancher when practical. The logistics need to be hammered out, but the idea would be to raise a herd of a certain size, take it to slaughter, and divide the meat.

What I don’t know about are the logistics of raising cattle, which is why I need some expert advice. Do we buy a bunch of calves in the spring and slaughter them in the fall? Raise them for 18 months to two years? Buy heifers, breed them and build a herd? I don’t know, yet.

What I do know is how to think outside the box and bring talent together, and that’s what I’m working on now. I know I can get a group of urban people to participate if the numbers are acceptable. What I’m missing is someone in the Interior with some cow sense.

Looking For Help

Although progress has been slow I haven’t abandoned this project. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.

However, I need help. I know a few people with some land in the Interior, but they’re either not interested or doing it on their own and don’t want partners.

As a solution I’ve put an ad in Kijiji to see if I can find someone who will look after cattle for me on some land. The idea, initially, would be to find anyone willing to do it, anywhere. I don’t really care how small. I want to do it on a co-operative basis, meaning rather than pay someone for the land and cattle raising I’d take them in as part of the Co-op. They provide land, labor and expertise, and I provided organization and capital.

We will see how it goes! The ad is now live, and posted in “Livestock for Sale”. I’m hoping that the people who read that category are going to be the kind of people who might be able to take this on.

My name is Rob Chipman and I’m a realtor, pilot and all around renaissance man based in Vancouver, BC. I really enjoy flying, playing guitar and hockey, real estate and the Chilcotin. My company is Coronet Realty Ltd., located at 3582 East Hastings Street, Vancouver, BC, V5K 2A7. I have a C-150L that I own with two other pilots, based out of Pitt Meadows. Do not hesitate to contact me by email if I can help you do anything, especially if its likely to be interesting.

Spring Time and Food Security


Spring has finally arrived and it’s time to plant. Strictly speaking this is not a cow-operative venture, but it is about food security and so runs parallel to one of the site’s themes.

I purchased some heirloom tomato and carrot seeds from the Vancouver Seed Bank. I tried to choose seeds that would be good for this climate rather than for strange characteristics (rainbow carrots or black tomatoes). I settled on two types of tomatoes, Brandywine and Amish Paste. The Brandywines are regular eating style tomatoes and the Amish Paste look a lot like Roma tomatoes. We make a roasted tomato sauce and I’m planning on using those in place of canned San Marzanos.

The carrots are Royal Chantenay. They are a fat carrot that reportedly stores well.

brandywine tomato

The Brandywine


amish paste tomato

The Amish Paste


royal chantenay carrot

The Royal Chantenay

I started all of these seeds in the house, in Jiffy Pellets, under a dome. This gives you a head start, but you need a warm, sunny area or else some grow lights. I transplanted everything the second weekend in April. Because I haven’t finished the landscaping at my place I built a temporary garden box out of old concrete blocks a buddy salvaged. Once the box was built I filled it with a yard of compost costing me $30.00.
Food Security

The seedlings all survived transplanting, and seem to be thriving. However, one thing to remember is that a small bag of seeds needs increasing amounts of room. I’ll need several garden boxes of that size in order to get any worthwhile food security production.

My name is Rob Chipman and I’m a realtor, pilot and all around renaissance man based in Vancouver, BC. I really enjoy flying, playing guitar and hockey, real estate and the Chilcotin. My company is Coronet Realty Ltd., located at 3582 East Hastings Street, Vancouver, BC, V5K 2A7. I have a C-150L that I own with two other pilots, based out of Pitt Meadows. Do not hesitate to contact me by email if I can help you do anything, especially if its likely to be interesting.

Co-Ops

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted here. That’s one of the problems when you have about 12 websites to run!

I have no complaints. It’s a great learning experience. The World Is Changing

A lot has happened in the world since I last posted here. We saw the budget deadlock in the US. We’ve seen sovereign debt crises emerge. And the latest thing is Occupy Wall Street.

The world is changing. I ran across a new Twitter hashtag – #democratizingtheeconomy So far it’s only Luke Brocki making use of it, but I’m going to spread the word.

What’s it mean? Who knows? I guess you can define it any way you like. I think it means taking individual control of those aspects of the economy that affect us. I could get all woo woo philosophical about it, but I won’t. instead, I’ll just say that a cowoperative works for that hashtag. It delivers control of your own food supply, it provides for sustainability, and it creates independence. Yes, it comes at a cost, but morecheaperfasterinlessspace isn’t always the goal.

I discovered Luke through Twitter, where he turned up by tweeting a headline about co-ops in the Vancouver Sun. As the article points out, co-ops are common here in BC, and are successful. Think Mountain Equipment Co-Op and Vancity Savings. The article says one third of British Columbians are members in at least one co-op. I’m a member of both of those and have been for decades.

Copyblogger's Brian Clark


Since my last post I’ve also been listening to some podcasts. One of the flavours I like is online marketing. An example is Copyblogger, which bills itself as internet marketing for smart people. Two podcasts stick in my mind: Seth Godin and Guy Kawasaki. I know, I know. Internet marketing makes you think of gimmicks, but those two guys are thinkers. Godin is a treasure mind of paradigm bending stuff (at least I’m drinking his kool aid). For example, from a recent blog post:


Marketing-focused almost never works.

That’s because no one actually understands what the market wants. When you choose to make something magical instead, when you bring passion instead of calculation to your work, you’re as least as likely to get it right as the guy who is selling out.

For the cowoperative (I actually got this name from another Seth Godin podcast, but couldn’t find anything about them on the web, so I grabbed the URL myself) I think this applies because I don’t know if the market wants this, and I’m not going to tweak it for the market. I’m going to tweak it for myself and my friends and whoever wants to come along for the ride.

I won’t riff a bunch on Guy Kawasaki here, but he’s worth checking out as well. Like Godin, he advocates doing what you want and then finding a market that supports it. (I paraphrase- do your own homework).

Anyway, we’re on the edge of a big change, maybe even a revolution. I don’t think we’ll see anarchy and societal breakdown. I think we’ll see a revolution of values, and I think co-ops will become more attractive. I’m going to keep working on this. If you want to join in, sign up and sign on.

My name is Rob Chipman and I’m a realtor, pilot and all around renaissance man based in Vancouver, BC. I really enjoy flying, playing guitar and hockey, real estate and the Chilcotin. My company is Coronet Realty Ltd., located at 3582 East Hastings Street, Vancouver, BC, V5K 2A7. I have a C-150L that I own with two other pilots, based out of Pitt Meadows. Do not hesitate to contact me by email if I can help you do anything, especially if its likely to be interesting.

A Kid Talks About Food

Birke Baehr, an eleven year old, talks about food at TedTalks.

I think its a good talk, and worth watching. Groundbreaking? No. The kid’s eleven. But its worth watching.

My name is Rob Chipman and I’m a realtor, pilot and all around renaissance man based in Vancouver, BC. I really enjoy flying, playing guitar and hockey, real estate and the Chilcotin. My company is Coronet Realty Ltd., located at 3582 East Hastings Street, Vancouver, BC, V5K 2A7. I have a C-150L that I own with two other pilots, based out of Pitt Meadows. Do not hesitate to contact me by email if I can help you do anything, especially if its likely to be interesting.

How Much Meat Do We Need Per Person?


beef serving

StatsCan indicates that we eat about 63 kilograms of red meat annually as of 2001. That’s 138 pounds.

Will Taft indicates that the average American eats over 200 pounds per year, as does the Huffington Post.

Pasture to Plate says the average BC’er easts 30 pounds per year, but what is average, and does it include vegans?

Michael Bloch at Green Living Tips says Canadians eat about 48 kilos of meat per year, but that was a 1969 figure.

There’s a big dif between 30 pounds and 200 pounds, or even the 138 pounds from Stats Canada. Which is right?

I know I’ve looked at what I feed my dog, Scout. He’s on a raw food diet and eats mostly meat, with some bone and veggies (and yeah, it works great). He eats a little less than one pound per day, which is pretty standard according to the BARF people (BARF means “bones and raw food” btw).

We looked earlier at a meat breakdown that gave us about 600 pounds of carcass weight and 420 pounds of useable beef off a 1000 pound on the hoof steer. If I want to feed Scout organic beef, and plan on giving him only the cuttings, I can use something less than the dif between the 600 and 420. Let’s say 100 pounds of usable scrap from the steer (trim meat, not huge leg bones). I need three steers of scrap for the dog alone. In fact, if I give him 1 pound per day from the 420, I’m only left with 55 pounds of meat. (I better keep the T-Bones, I guess).

Of course, Scout eats about 80% meat, even if he’s only 1/3 my size.

30 pounds a year means 120 1/4 pound hamburgers. If you eat the equivalent of 1 hamburger every 3 days then 30 pounds is about right.

If you eat red meat 3 to 4 times a week its going to be higher than that. The Cleveland Clinic’s Heart and Vascular Health & Prevention page says a “serving” of meat is 3 ounces. Ellen’s Kitchen recommends 6 ounces per person.

Go with 4.5 ounces, 4 times per week, and that adds up to just over 1 pound per week, or 52 pounds per year.

420 pounds of useable beef divided by 52 pounds equals 8 people per steer. A two person family (without a dog like Scout) needs 1/4 of a steer. A four person family needs half a steer.

Track what you go through each week and see if it corresponds with my numbers. If so we have a pretty good idea of how many steers we’ll need for how many people.

My name is Rob Chipman and I’m a realtor, pilot and all around renaissance man based in Vancouver, BC. I really enjoy flying, playing guitar and hockey, real estate and the Chilcotin. My company is Coronet Realty Ltd., located at 3582 East Hastings Street, Vancouver, BC, V5K 2A7. I have a C-150L that I own with two other pilots, based out of Pitt Meadows. Do not hesitate to contact me by email if I can help you do anything, especially if its likely to be interesting.

South Cariboo Meat Co-Op

South Cariboo Meat Co-Op

Google. I love it. Whether it was Google Analytics or Google Alerts I don’t know, but through google I learned about the South Cariboo Meat Cooperative. They are building a red meat abbattoir in One Hundred Mile House. We can use them, I believe, to slaughter the cattle in compliance with all laws, rules and regulations. Once they slaughter the animals we can have them cut and wrapped in the same area, ready for delivery to the urban center.

Not a 100 mile diet, I admit, but still pretty low impact, and healthier.

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How Much Meat Are We Talking About, Anyway?

How much meat does a steer produce? The internet tels me that a Hereford will come in at perhaps 1,200 lbs on the hoof, but many meat producers use 1,000 as a round number. We’ll do the same.

How much of that turns into beef hanging in the cooler? The number seems to be about 60% of live weight, so that’s 600 lbs. Of course, if you’ve ever witnessed butchers at work you know that the 600 lbs. will get whittled down further.

Grass fed beef tends to be leaner than feedlot beef, and there tends to be more usable meat, relatively speaking, so we have to subtract somewhere between 25% and 30% of the hanging weight off the 600 lbs. Let’s use 30% to be conservative, which is 180 lbs, leaving us with 420 lbs of beef. (If we got 65% usable meat and 25% waste we’d end up with 500 lbs).

The website at Chicamarun.com breaks the steer down thus:

A 1,000 pound choice steer will dress out at 61.5% (615 pounds). Of that 183 will be fat, bone and other loss. That leaves 432 pounds of beef.

Chuck (shoulder area): 164.8 pounds (26.8% of total carcass)

* Blade pot roasts-59.3

* Stew or ground beef-32.1

* Arm pot roast-22.3

* Cross rib pot roast-10.7

* Boston cut-9.9

* Fat and bone-30.5

Brisket (basically between front legs): 23.4 (3.8%)

* Boneless-9.4

* Fat and bone-14.0

Shank (basically lower leg below brisket): 19.1 (3.1%)

Short plate (belly under rib area): 51.0 (8.3%)

* Plate, stew, short ribs-40.8

* Fat and bone-10.2

Flank (belly under the loin): 32.0 (5.2%)

* Flank-3.2

* Ground beef-12.6

* Fat-16.2

Rib: 59.0 (9.6%)

* Standing rib roasts-24.2

* Rib steaks-12.4

* Short ribs-4.7

* Braising beef-2.7

* Ground beef 3.5

* Fat and bone-11.5

Loin (between rib and round): 105.8 (17.2%)

* Porterhouse steak-18.7

* T-bone steak-9.5

* Club steak-5.2

beef-cuts

Where it al comes from

So, 420 lbs of meat should cost, what? Believe it or not, it looks like a live steer, bought in bulk, goes for just over $100 in the US and about $150 in Alberta per 100/lbs if I’m reading the tables correctly. Its going to take more investigation, but it looks to me like there’s room here. If the rancher is getting that little then there has to be a lot of marking up at each stop from pasture to table. $1500 for a 1000lb steer, which turns into 430 lbs of beef a $3.50/lb, which is what I’ve seen it advertised for.

Two currently for sale in Kamloops weighing in at 500-600 pounds would cost $1100 ($1/lb live weight)