On-farm processing discussed at event
NEW BRUNSWICK — Jon McConaughy of Double Brook Farm in Hopewell often tries to help other farmers see the best profit possible.
On Sunday, Jan. 27, he spoke at the Northeast Organic Farming Association-New Jersey Winter Conference about on-farm processing.
“I thought the issues of money for farmers were about the inability to get land and create infrastructure,” he said.
He discovered that sending meat off the farm to be slaughtered and processed also cut into the farm’s profits.
So he built a slaughterhouse.
Under the New Jersey Right to Farm law, he only needed approvals for building, electrical and plumbing permits just as he would for any other farm operation.
He said if he had to go to the municipal planning or zoning board he might have raised eyebrows in the neighborhood.
Because he only slaughters his own animals, McConaughy needs only inspections from the municipal board of health, he said.
It costs him $185,000 to run the slaughtering operation.
Taking the animals to Pennsylvania for slaughter would cost $302,000, for a savings of $117,000 per year, although he made an initial $375,000 investment in the slaughterhouse.
On-farm slaughter also saves time and puts less stress on the animals. Animals slaughtered with less stress taste better, he said.
Not having to get pigs on an unfamiliar trailer also saves the people involved a good deal of stress, he said.
The farm raises pigs, sheep, chickens, ducks and turkeys.
The common perception that profits are maximized when the use of machinery is maximized doesn’t really apply, McConaughy said.
He said he doesn’t need to bring other animals onto the farm.
Double Tree also operates and restaurant which uses the farm’s animals and a retail store which sells the meat and vegetables raised on the farm.
McConaughy said his staff handling the vegetable farm also cold-presses juice for sale. He is in charge of the livestock, he said.
He spoke about two other types of on-farm processing.
Of the 250 dairies in New Jersey 10 years ago, only 44 are left and 42 milk fewer than 100 cows. Between 50 and 100 cows, profit goes up but costs really don’t, McConaughy said.
“Above 100, you might as well be milking 600,” he added.
On-farm milk processing costs $1.50 per gallon.
When milk is picked up by the dairy’s truck, the farmers is paid about $1. A gallon can sell for as much as $5.40.
A dairy farmer’s life would be easier with a robotic milker, McConaughy said. The cost is about $115,000, down from $400,000 a few years ago, he said.
Grinding grain and baking can also be done on farm for less money, McConaughy said. He is “starting to dabble” in grain.
It goes to Castle Valley Mill in Doylstown, Pa., but he has thought about doing it on the farm.
“Some off farm costs are just inefficiencies,” he said. “Certain costs go away when you do it on the farm.”
More savings come from on-farm composting. With fermented composting the output is probiotic for soils. Slaughterhouse waste goes into aerobic composting.
Because Double Brook has a brewery/distillery on the property, the pigs eat that waste. “Our beer produces pork chops’” he said.
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