Last month we visited the Shenandoah Valley. Although we visited various farms, each offering valuable wisdom and insight, what ultimately stands out in my mind is all of the components that play a role in poultry production.
In all probability there are many reasons for this being the dominant area of my focus, but the primary reason simply being that there is very little, if any poultry production in Southwest Virginia. I myself have considerable knowledge when it comes to produce and a developing ability with cattle, but beyond these two branches of agriculture I am very eager to gain insight as to how it all transpires.
While there, I learned that there are 680 poultry farms in the Valley alone. This not only brings jobs for the poultry farms, but also the 8 processing plants, 5 feed mills and 6 hatcheries. Not to mention providing work for the railcar system which delivers and average of 1.3 million tons of feed per year. This makes for a total of close to 6,000 employees.
The poultry industry as a whole has taken many hits and been the target of much debate in the past few years. Weather it is talk of antibiotics and hormones, or just the way the animal is taken care of. There is an immense lack of education in the average consumer when it comes to poultry farming. THE FACT that there are NEVER ANTIBIOTICS or HORMONES used with poultry of any kind is a little known truth! When pictures surface of crowded birds, there is never any mention of all the open space just behind where the camera cut off. The birds like to bunch together like this and will naturally gather this way no matter the size of the facility.
These are dilemmas specific to poultry farming and production. I also became appreciative of the struggles that someone in the produce business and a poultry farmer have in common. Feed is 70% of the cost of production in the poultry industry. The price of feed can change depending on some of the same factors that could effect the total cost of producing a watermelon. A drought or a hailstorm that destroys corn and soybeans would make the price of feed skyrocket just as it would the cost of a watermelon. Transportation is a pricey aspect most any farmer has to consider. Paying to have your feed brought in by railcar brings its own heavy fee, the same as the cost of shipping your watermelons out of florida by truck.
Across the board in the business of Agriculture we all face challenges specific to our trade, but many of our challenges are very similar if not the same in trying to keep a stable market.