Regenerate a Fifth Generation Farm for Sustainability and Profitability While Revitalizing an Aging Farming Community

Progress report for FNC23-1386

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2023: $14,874.00
Projected End Date: 01/31/2025
Grant Recipient: Nieder Farms
Region: North Central
State: Missouri
Project Coordinator:
Trisha Nieder
Nieder Farms
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Project Information

Description of operation:

Trisha Nieder: Trisha grew up on her family’s Black Angus cattle farm. After 20 years in cities - New Orleans, New York, Miami - Trisha and her husband realized the value of the farm’s preservation. They moved back and are transitioning the farm to sustainable practices to build a profitable business. Trisha studied sociology and English in New Orleans. Accepted into the highly competitive New York City Teaching Fellows Program, she taught high school from 2007-2009. She was the Grant Manager for a $100K federal MLK Day of Service grant and a grant writer for Best Buddies international and was responsible for writing and reporting on grant funds. She’s currently a Vice President at Max Borges Agency, where she built their branding and creative department. She has a strong background in marketing, visual design, and public relations. She manages accounts, leads brand strategies, and manages teams of 10+. The agency, based in Miami, is remote, allowing Trisha the freedom to work from home at the farm while also growing a national network of coworkers, clients, and marketing partners.

Daniel Gonzalez: From Miami, Daniel is a first-generation Cuban American. During college Daniel met Trisha. Over the years he fell in love with the farm and aims to expand and diversify the farm with poultry, native Missouri horticulture, and regenerative approaches. He attended Loyola University for marketing, and worked for a decade in experiential event marketing. He later worked in beverage sales, and is familiar with infrastructure and set up for grocery stores, restaurants, and bars. Current Role: Daniel is focused on working on and growing the farm business as a full time role. Since moving in September, he’s already expanded our local network through Mizzou’s Agricultural Food and Natural Resources extension, the University of Missouri Soil Testing Lab, the Missouri Department of Conservation, Forrest Keeling Nursery, the local 4H chapter and MFA, and several more. Daniel and Michael will be responsible for day to day labor and farm maintenance.

Michael Nieder: For 40+ years, Mike has stayed up to date on the latest farming practices and organizations; bred, raised, grew, and maintained what is now 65+ herd of purebred Black Angus cattle; and ensured that Nieder Farms continued through a fourth - and now fifth - generation. Mike’s decades of knowledge and first-hand experience is what has kept Nieder Farms running, and now he’s applying it to the farm’s future growth.

  • Losing formerly vibrant towns and farming communities in Franklin County: 
      • Franklin county farmers are aging with few replacements. Farms are rapidly being sold for development properties. In November 2022 alone, nearly 2,200 acres were for sale (accounting for 10+ acre properties). A once vibrant farming community is quickly declining. 
      • Younger people don’t see the value in farming and preserving farmland. 
      • Fewer local farms means less local food for sale, and fewer dollars being reinvested into the community.
  • Cow/calf farms are not economically sustainable.
      • Rising prices across diesel, corn, and hay make tight profit margins tighter. With repairs and replacements on farm equipment, there’s little funds to invest in growth.
      • Due to a higher volume of cattle from larger, big-name farms at local auctions, live cattle is no longer a viable revenue source for small farmers.
      • Labor intensive operations such as cutting, raking, and baling hay leaves little time to invest in farm growth. Farmers work full-time jobs to pay the bills and keep the farm.
  • Cow/calf farms are not environmentally sustainable:
    • Continuous/overgrazing is stripping soil of key nutrients. Grass is neither nutrient rich, nor diverse. Soil erosion and loss of topsoil is inevitable.
Project Objectives:


  • Build and strengthen relationships in local farmer community
    1. Partner with local 4H to host five experiential education workshops to inspire new generations of farmers. Invite groups to the farm to teach sustainable (economic and environmental) farm practices first-hand. Currently our 4 H group has business relationships, but no hands-on partnerships with local farms. The Franklin County 4 H group is the largest in Missouri.
    2. Develop a unique print and digital startup guide based on findings and geared to local Missouri cattle farmers. Featuring original illustrations by Trisha it will visually - and very simply - walk farmers through clear steps on how to start/transition to a sustainable cow/calf farm and improve profitability. Resources (experts, organizations) will be included as well.
    3. Support local farmers by becoming an education resource. Partner with local organizations (i.e. Cattleman’s Association, FFA, local farm bureaus and agencies) and others to distribute 300 printed sustainable  startup guides. Provide the guide free online at, and promote it via digital advertising to Missouri cow/calf farmers, exposing local farmers to sustainable practices and giving them the tools to get started. 
  • Use Nieder Farms to teach local farmers - emphasis on cow/calf farmers - how to increase profitability.
    1. Nieder Farms - a fifth generation cattle farm - faces similar economic sustainability issues as other local farms. We will increase profitability among the local farmer community by demonstrating how two changes on cow/calf farms can increase profit margins. We will provide insights, steps, and support so others can do the same.
    2. Nieder Farms will transition to management intensive grazing to increase herd grazing days and save on diesel, hay, and corn costs and cut labor hours. This will result in better profit margins, less labor, and more time for farmers to invest in growth opportunities.
    3. Introduce new enterprises to the cow/calf farm to diversify income streams and stabilize profits. Diversify revenue streams in two ways: introduce poultry (chickens and turkeys) for meat, and plant a fruit orchard for eventual sales. 
  • Use Nieder Farms to demonstrate the value of sustainable farming practices, and the positive impact they have on the environment and farming.
    1. Improve the environment by transitioning Nieder Farms from continuous grazing to management intensive grazing to restore organic topsoil. By effectively using grazing practices, we can fertilize, control grass growth cycles, manage weeds without chemicals, and -  in year two - introduce native grass varieties and clover to diversify grasses, support soil health, and increase nutrients for cattle.
    2. Plant native fruit trees such as pawpaw, cherry, apple, elderberry to help with soil erosion, and begin building a strong foundation for a diverse farm ecosystem.
    3. Introduce pasture raised poultry that play a role in improving the environment through fertilization and pest control. Poultry will be moved via a chicken tractor to fresh grass daily, ensuring ongoing soil support, lower feed costs, and higher quality meat.
    4. Educate the broader community why environmental practices not only produce healthier, nutrient rich beef and poultry but also benefits their local environment.


  • Strengthen relationships among young farming community:
      • Partner with local FFA and 4H for a sustainable farming workshop and experiential education.
      • Create and distribute a startup guide for sustainable farming in Franklin County and Missouri.
      • Become a resource.
  • Diversify production and revenue streams:
      • Reduce costs tied to baling and buying hay by 50%.
      • Reduce labor tied to baling hay by 50%.
      • Raise and process 200 chickens and 50 turkeys.
  • Improve soil quality:
    • Implement management intensive grazing.
    • Plant two varieties of native grasses or clover.
    • Plant at least three varieties of native fruit trees.
    • Utilize poultry to continuously fertilize and control pests.


Click linked name(s) to expand/collapse or show everyone's info
  • Daniel Gonzalez - Producer
  • Michael Nieder - Producer


Materials and methods:
  • Overall, the more planning and organization you put in early on, the less overwhelming and better your results will be over time. The first thing we did to get organized was list our objectives, equipment, and action items, and then organized them by month. This made it much easier to manage the project in smaller pieces, rather than get overwhelmed. Some examples: we started by purchasing the various equipment we'd need (scalder, plucker, materials for chicken tractors, freezer, coolers, tools, etc.) so we could set up the infrastructure.
    • In the early months, we also planned our poultry timing - counting back from when we wanted the batches of chickens to be ready to the month we needed to have them arrive. 
    • We did a lot of outreach to local resources (e.g. NCRS, extension office, State of Missouri Department of Agriculture Division of Animal Health, etc.) early in the year (e.g. Jan.-Mar.) to get our poultry exemption, learn the best way to arrange our paddocks, learn how to measure forage and types of forage, and more. This is also when we reached out to the 4H leaders to schedule workshops throughout the year.
  • In early spring, we got to work on some of the more manual labor and prep work, like building the chicken tractors and setting up brooders so we were prepared for the chickens.
  • We kept detailed records throughout the year. This included checking off the list mentioned above (and adding things as needed), as well as keeping track of our expenses, timelines, and customer information (e.g. emails). This record keeping of expenses and timelines - especially tied to raising and processing chickens - was incredibly helpful. In 2024 we can now better estimate the amount (and expense) of feed, the time needed to raise chickens to a profitable weight, and get the best pricing for the chicks for better profitability margins. The same is true for rotational grazing timelines
  • Sharing progress and content on social media is very important to growth. We try to post photos or videos at least once a week, if not more. Since we run social advertising to purchase steers (freezer beef), it goes a long way in credibility and trust for a consumer to click the ad and then see a variety of content as proof of our farm's legitimacy and practices. Along with this, having frequently asked questions available on our website helped dramatically in saving our time needed to explain pricing and processes, and offered even more confidence and clarity to consumers.
  • Similarly, maintaining customer information (emails) is useful. You can leverage one type of customer (beef) for another (poultry) and grow profits this way. We leveraged our beef customer base for our first batch of chickens, and sold out entirely, never needing to advertise on social to new customers.
  • For rotational grazing and setting up paddocks, the most important thing is to get started. Set up your first paddock, see how quickly the herd goes through the forage, and begin gauging when to move them to the next paddock. Knowing the basics is helpful to estimate the number of cattle and acreage, however learning by doing is incredibly effective. Seeing first hand how much your herd consumes and getting a feel for how often to move and manage them is helpful.
  • Connecting with like-minded people and other farmers is important to success. Reach out to local extension offices, groups (e.g. 4H, FFA, Cattleman's Association, MFA, etc.) to find helpful resources. Reach out to other local farmers via their social media accounts. Making connections and getting advice and guidance outside of books or videos is priceless, especially when it's hyper-local.
Research results and discussion:

Strengthen relationships among young farming community

  • Partner with local FFA and 4H for a sustainable farming workshop and experiential education.
    • We hosted two 4H workshops, reaching 24 individuals so far.
    • We plan to host two additional 4H workshops in 2024, and an FFA workshop or presentation.
  • Create and distribute a startup guide for sustainable farming in Franklin County and Missouri.
    • We drafted an outline for the guide to prepare for formal writing, illustration, and distribution in late 2024.
  • Become a resource.
    • Developed working relationships with the local 4H group, as well as four other local farmers who are using or shifting to regenerative practices. After our workshops, we started receiving advice/inquiries on our social channels for tips (appx. 10) as well from followers. Our customers are also aware of our regenerative practices (appx. 50) and discuss and share with their friends and family for referrals.

Diversify production and revenue streams:

  • Reduce costs tied to baling and buying hay by 50%
    • We have not yet achieved this goal, although we did reduce gas fees in 2023 (saving $387) due to a longer grazing period. We still baled a similar amount of hay as year's prior, but cattle grazed longer reducing the need to put out hay earlier in the fall.
  • Reduce labor tied to baling hay by 50%
    • We did not reduce labor tied to baling in 2023. This was due to a drought that delayed our rotational grazing.
  • Raise and process 200 chickens and 50 turkeys.
    • We raised and processed 80 chickens in 2023.
    • After completing the chickens, we discovered turkeys would not be profitable, so we decided to put our focus entirely on chickens.

Improve soil quality:

  • Implement management intensive grazing.
    • We successfully implemented intensive grazing for our herd in 2023.
  • Plant two varieties of native grasses or clover.
    • We did not plant new grasses in 2023, largely due to drought reasons. This is slated for 2024.
  • Plant at least three varieties of native fruit trees.
    • We ordered the seedlings, and plan to plant mid-April 2024.
  • Utilize poultry to continuously fertilize and control pests.
    • We utilized 55 of the total 80 chickens to fertilize the land allotted for fruit trees in 2024. 
    • There weren't enough chickens in 2023 to impact pests (e.g. flies).
Participation Summary
3 Farmers participating in research

Educational & Outreach Activities

3 Consultations
5 Curricula, factsheets or educational tools
1 Journal articles
2 On-farm demonstrations
1 Published press articles, newsletters
2 Workshop field days

Participation Summary:

24 Farmers participated
6 Ag professionals participated
Education/outreach description:
Newspaper clipping showing an article about the Nieder Farm receiving the SARE grant.
Nieder Farm in the "People" section of the Missourian.

When we were awarded the grant, we reached out to the local newspaper - the Missourian - and shared this press release. Trisha spoke to a reporter about the plans for Nieder Farms made possible through the grant, and highlighted various elements of the grant project. An article was printed in the March 25-26 weekend edition of the paper.

We also shared several videos, photos, and updates on our social channels on a weekly basis: @niederfarms on Instagram, @niederfarms on TikTok, and @niederfarm on Facebook. Below are a few examples including our SARE grant announcement, a few of our consulting meetings, our first time  raising broilers, and the some content from when we began rotational grazing.

A woman and a man stand in front of a pasture reading a document
Making some progress with our shift to a regenerative model. Rhonda from NRCS came to visit this week to continue helping us plan our grazing system - learning types of grasses and soil we have, plotting out a new system for water across the farm, and helping us estimate forage 🌱
A man and woman speak in a pasture
We had a visitor today - Mary Wolling from the Lincoln University extension office - who gave us our first grazing stick, taught us how to use it, and was just an endless source of knowledge and local resources. If you’re looking for some local support, Mary is so amazing 🌱
A collage features cow and chicken illustrations and a thank you letter announcing an SARE grant awarded to the farm
We have exciting news to share! Our farm was awarded a $14,800 two-year grant from @ncrsare! We are incredibly grateful for this opportunity to transition our farm to sustainable and regenerative practices, introduce more diversity through animals and plants, and connect with our local community. Follow us here (and @niederfarms on TikTok!) where we’ll be sharing our story. Thank you to everyone who has supported and believed in us as we made the move from Miami to Missouri. A special thank you to @mike.nieder, @cfr_rennick, Dennis, Doug, and my grandmother who helped get us to this point today and for every Nieder, or friend of our family, who has given their time and support to make sure this farm as remained in Krakow for more than 100 years. Here’s hoping for 100 more!
Man walks through an open pasture with polywire reel
Unrolled the first reel (and then another 😂) and set up our first paddock today. Have done a lot to prep for rotational grazing, so setting this up is exciting! Rotational grazing means we’ll keep the cattle in enclosed paddocks set up throughout the farm. Every day, or couple days (soon we’ll find out how often), we’ll move them to a new one. This helps us better manage our forage for the cattle and the pasture and soil.
Woman moves chicks from a crate to a larger chicken tractor
Two week mark: chicks are out of the brooder and into the chicken tractor 🐥🌱

We also hosted two workshops on our farm with the local 4H groups. 

  • Pastured Poultry Workshop:
    • Attendance: 10
    • Date: September 9, 2023
    • Photos: There are several photos from the workshop available at the link here.
    • Surveys: We asked three questions (the same questions) before and after the workshop to ensure the group learned the information. Surveys can be viewed here.
    • We hosted 10 people at this workshop, including children and their parents. This is the lesson plan we used for the workshop.
    • We began by discussing what they thought pastured poultry was and how it was different from other types of poultry operations. Linked here is a brief presentation we shared with the group. We discussed four main benefits of pastured poultry, and gave some insight into the time it takes to raise the chickens until they're ready for processing. 
    • After the lesson, we went into the field for a demonstration. We discussed how we built our chicken tractors, and things we like / would do differently the next time around. We talked through how we feed them, how much, and how often. We showed them our water system, and the grass from the prior months' pastured chickens so they could see the difference. The group asked several questions because many were interested in building a tractor for themselves and starting a similar operation. Following this discussion, a few 4H members helped us demonstrate how we move the chicken tractors daily. They helped to feed the chickens, and then move the tractor to a new patch of grass. We did this with two chicken tractors.
    • Following the demonstration, we brought the group over to help us build another chicken tractor. Since they were so interested during the demo and asked numerous questions, there wasn't enough time to finish the full tractor. However, we did walk them through the build and tools needed. We also shared several material lists and book recommendations with the group afterward.
    • We hosted lunch (pizza, drinks, and snacks) since this was a longer workshop, and many people from the group stayed longer to chat with us and share stories. It was a fantastic community-building event, and the group showed high interest in a chicken processing workshop for the following year.
    • We also shared this information on our blog:
  • Rotational Grazing Workshop
      • Attendance: 14
      • Date: September 30, 2023
      • Photos: There are several photos from the workshop available at the link here.
      • Surveys: We asked three questions (the same questions) before and after the workshop to ensure the group learned the information.
      • We hosted 10 people at this workshop, including children and their parents. This is the lesson plan we used for the workshop. Trisha referenced these notes/talking points for the discussion.
      • We began this workshop with a group discussion where we shared the benefits of rotational grazing and why we introduced it this year.  We covered several topics such as defining rotational grazing, the benefits of it, challenges we faced this year (e.g. a major drought, not having numerous water sources, etc.), as well as some basic tips like knowing when to move the cows, how big to make a paddock, etc. Mike, who managed a lot of the daily logistics for grazing, offered some more detail into things he found difficult and interesting. Overall, our message what that you can have all the information in the world, but the most important thing is to just take a step to get  get started. 
      • We also invited Mary Wolling, a Missouri Extension Office employee, to this workshop since she met with us earlier in the year to teach us about each of the topics. We wanted to introduce her to the attendees to offer another local resource / make a local connection for anyone who wanted to get started.
      • After the initial introduction, we took the group into the pasture and showed them how we move the cattle to a new paddock. Mike demonstrated how he reeled up the poly wire and picked up the step in posts, and then reset a new paddock for the following day. During the demonstration the group had several questions (e.g. timing, materials, utilization) and were taking notes.
      • Following the pasture demonstration, we walked back to the house for the wrap-up survey, discussion, and snacks.
A man reels a spool of poly wire in a field with tall grass in the summertime
Mike demonstrates how to use the reels in a paddock system
  • Startup Guide Outline: In addition to the above, we've also been working on our Startup Guide. We currently have 16 pages of content written and outlined. The overall outline is below for reference. We haven't started the orchard phase yet (other than ordering seedlings and testing the soil), so that section will be drafted next year.
  • Forward from Trisha
  • How this book is setup
    • Start with the basic infrastructure.
    • Build from there, one section at a time.
    • Each section’s first page includes equipment needed and then the basic steps for easy startup
    • Sections are color coded.
  • Basic Infrastructure
    • Assessment & Goal Setting
      • Budget
      • Soil Testing
      • NCRS
    •  Necessary Paperwork
      • LLC
      • Exemptions & Licenses (Meat & Poultry, Eggs)
    • Other Needs
      • Insurance
      • Accountant
    • Partners
      • Processors (include local list of processors; things to know; pros and cons, tips like booking early)
      • Veterinarian
  • Grazing
    • Equipment
      • Step in posts, polywire, reel(s), electric box, existing fencing
    • Basic overview of controlled grazing - what, how, why
    • Setting up a controlled grazing system
      • Planning
      • Fencing
      • Water Source
      • Grass Types
    • Start Grazing
      • Introducing cattle (how, how many per acre) - Grazing Stick
      • Assessing length of time
      • Moving cattle
      • Introducing Chickens
      • Grazing Patterns
    • Winter
      • How does winter grazing work?
      • Hay & Supplements
    • Local Resources
      • Grazing School: Missouri Forage and Grassland Council
      • NCRS
      • Soil & Water Conservation 
      • Lincoln University
  • Cattle
    • Equipment
      • Trailer, hay feeder, troughs, water
    • Raising Steers for Beef
      • Reducing Input / Low Input
        • Reducing hay farming
      • How controlled grazing can lower overhead costs to help with raising steers
    • Overview of Raising Steers / Feedlot Operations
      • Grazing
        • Old operations vs. new more profitable (more grazing means less corn and grain in feedlot) 
      • Birth, and with mother for 6-7 months
      • Removed from mother, vaccinated, castrated
      • Moved to feed lot
      • Managing hay and feed intake
      • Need for any mineral or otherwise (consider beginning farmers)
      • Knowing when to process (frame size)
        • Choosing which steers to process - Ideal weight and why
    • Processing
      • Contacting Local Processor
      • What to look for in a processor
        • How they interact with your customers
        • Cut sheet, packaging, cost, inspection options
        • Same day slaughter
      • Loading steers and delivering to processor
      • ### days/weeks to age
    • Customer Needs
      • Pick up options
        • Customer coordinates cuts, picks up frozen beef
      • Ongoing communication
      • Processing Day: share final live weight update and invoice
      • One week: call to remind to call processor. Offer tips and advice, explain how choosing cuts works
      • Two weeks: Follow up to ensure they picked up beef and are happy with the product. Ask for any feedback. 
    • To Inspect or Not to Inspect
      • Non-Inspected Beef - who it’s for, what it means
      • MO Inspection - who it’s for, what it means
      • FDA Inspection - who it’s for, what it means
  • Chickens
    • Equipment
      • Brooder, Chicken Tractor, Feeders/Waterers, Scalder, Plucker, Freezer, Heat Lamps/Bulbs, Knives, Cones, Cooler, Bags
      • Illustration of our processing set-up
    • Raising Chickens for Meat
      • Ordering / Sourcing
        • breeds, how to order, how to time it, tips for best deals, etc.
      • Raising
        • How much space per number of chickens
        • How much feed
        • Timing for raising from chicks, when to know to put on grass, when you know they’re full grown
      • Processing
        • Equipment and set up
        • Week / days before processing
        • How to process a chicken - full steps (calm transporting, killing cone, scalder (and temperature), plucker, chill, remove organs/cut, chill, bag, ice, 24 hours/ice, freeze
      • Packaging & Storage
      • Pricing - what to account for and example budget
      • How to sell them
    • Turkeys
      • Context on how we originally planned to do turkeys, but discovered margins weren’t good enough
  • Planting an Orchard
    • Equipment
      • Tiller, shovels, tarp?, soil test, supplements (e.g. lime), seedlings…
    • Choosing a Location
      • Soil Test
      • Adding elements to soil
    • Preparing to Plant
      • Order Seedlings
      • Till? Dig?
    • Planting
      • Importance of Native Plants and basic overview of each:
        • Apple
        • Elderberry
        • PawPaw
    • Pests & Rodents
      • Protection
      • Others?
  • Grants & Other Funding Resources
    • FACT
    • SARE
  • Index of Local Resources
    • Missouri Extension office - in Union, at Mizzou, at Lincoln
    • NCRS
    • State of Missouri Department of Agriculture Division of Animal Health
    • University of Missouri Extension
    • MFA, Washington, MO
    • 4-H
    • Future Farmers of America (FFA)
    • Cattleman’s Association
    • Missouri Evergreen Library System  Regional Library (Joel Salatin’s book with building plans)
    • How to find Local Regenerative / Sustainability Farmers
  • Book Recommendations
    • Pastured Poultry, Joel Salatin
    • Missouri Grazing Manual, Jim Gerrish

Learning Outcomes

33 Farmers reported changes in knowledge, attitudes, skills and/or awareness as a result of their participation
Lessons Learned:
  1. Introducing Pastured Poultry
    1. The SARE grant helped Nieder Farms jumpstart our poultry operation. In June 2023, we finished building our first chicken tractor, and purchased and raised 25 Cornish Cross chickens. The purpose of this initial smaller batch was to determine baseline costs and volumes for feed intake, any additional supplies that might be needed (as an example, we decided to use a bell waterer to lessen time spent watering the birds), and time spent to raise and then process the chickens. This batch averaged 2.5 - 3 lbs per bird and we learned a great deal. We then ordered an additional 55 birds for a second batch. Some of or learnings included:
      • Price per bird is one of the biggest ways you can increase your profits, so finding the right (lowest possible) hatchery prices is key to higher profitability. Our initial batch cost $2.47 per bird and our second batch (55) cost $3.10. We learned that Tractor Supply sold chicks for far less, which we will utilize next year. The downside is that orders cannot be scheduled in advance, which can be riskier in planning. We will likely do some scheduled batches, and some through TS to help cut expenses.
      • Timing matters as well, especially when ordering in large quantities. Placing orders in November / December for batches in spring helps guarantee you'll have chicks when you want to kick off the program. Similarly, we learned that you can overlap batches since they need appx. 2 weeks in the brooder and then on the pasture for an additional 4-5 weeks. So rather than wait 6 weeks between batches, we can wait 4, having an ongoing rotation of chicks moving to the chicken tractor in order to raise higher quantities.
      • Accounting for Loss: In our first batch we lost 8 birds in the first week. Although we were refunded from the hatchery, those were 8 less birds we could sell. Although the hatchery typically sends a few extra, if we want to account for selling 50 birds, we learned to overestimate our order by about 5-10 just in case. Our second batch fared better, with less than 5 losses.
      • Type of Feed: Our first batch had a lot of issues with loss, and we think we might've had a bad batch of chick starter feed. Once corrected, the chicks did fine. However, that was $15.75 lost. We then made another feed mistake, and used a "frypan chicken" mix, which wasn't high enough in protein. As a result, the chickens didn't grow as fast and we were needed to feed them more. Finally, we got it right with the 20% protein mix, and they started filling out. Since we were raising alongside a family member (same hatch date group), we saw how much bigger his looked at the end of six weeks - double the size of ours. Although we prefer a smaller bird, the feed makes a huge difference in their overall cost due to timing.
      • Smaller Batches: Our initial batch of 25 birds - outside of losses mentioned - did very well. The group grew fairly evenly. With the second batch, they remained in a brooder together for 2 weeks, and shared a chicken tractor for one week. In hindsight, we should've split them into two brooders because there were several runts that ended up taking longer to grow. Once they were separated into two tractors, the two groups of 25 birds started growing much better.
      • Selling Price: Thanks to our experience with the first batch, we were able to better predict costs for the second. Then, while doing the second batch, we refined those costs even further to determine how much we needed to charge per pound.
        • Our first batch - due to all of our mistakes - ended up costing us $7.92 per bird. Those costs account for the chicks, the feed, warming bulbs, wood chips for the brooder, water, and plastic bags for processing. If we took into account the chicken tractor and processing equipment, that cost would be far greater.
        • Our second batch, although they cost $0.63 more per bird, ended up costing us $6.05 to raise a chicken. We anticipate getting this cost down even further, to around $5 or less. Because this second batch had been grouped together too long and didn't grow as effectively/quickly, we ended up needing to purchase 2 weeks more worth of feed.
        • Ultimately, we ended up selling the birds at $3.50/pound, with them averaging 3.5-4 lbs. The profit per bird was about $6.20.
      • Profits: Thanks to the support from the grant, we have decided to continue to reinvest any profits back into this operation in order to scale it further. To build a chicken tractor costs approximately $350, so each of our initial batches will be used to build another tractor in order to raise more birds at a time.
      • Turkeys: In determining expenses and profits for the chickens, we began applying the same method to turkeys. Our initial plan was to raise 102 batches of turkeys to sell them during Thanksgiving. However, in various scenarios, we still ended up losing money in order to raise and sell turkeys. This is due to the length of time turkeys take to raise fully and the amount of feed that's needed to support that growth. Because they are larger birds (e.g. 12-15 lbs), there isn't a market here willing to pay $42-$52 for a turkey. Due to this, we decided turkeys were not the best option for farm profits and decided to remove them from our future plans.
    2. There's more to making a farm profitable than simply raising livestock and poultry, and set up can be difficult to navigate without a guide.
      • Throughout the last year, we have connected with a variety of people in the community regarding grazing management for our herd, obtaining the necessary exemptions or licenses to sell meat/poultry, learned necessary water access points for grazing, learned how measure fescue, created budgets and projections to plan for expansion, and that marketing plays a significant role in success. In total, it took about 6 months to learn enough to get started. This is a major reason creating a local startup guide is a key element of our project.
      • Outside of getting all the necessary forms signed, and LLC, insurance, and other formalities, we put a lot of effort into growing our customer base and our farm content. Things that we've found to work:
        • Keeping Records & Email Newsletters: We were already keeping records of cattle sales for various reasons, but we created a clear, organized system, and began collecting email addresses of our customers. Any time a customer places an order with us (typically they reach out on our social channels), we request their email address and phone number. Outside of making customer service communication easier, over the last year we built a strong list of customers' email addresses. Once we had our poultry operation running and ready for sales, we gave our existing customers (who purchase beef) the early option to purchase. To do this, we sent an email newsletter, letting them know our upcoming beef processing dates, announcing our SARE grant, and letting them know we're also raising chicken for purchase. The original intention was to sell to this list early, and then advertise on social media the remaining quantities. However, we sold out within days from our existing customers. Thanks to this record keeping and formal outreach, rather than having one-off customers, we are already seeing more return customers -- people buying beef for their second time in the same year; and our beef customers now buying our chickens. We also are getting word of mouth referrals due to this, adding to our customer base. 
        • Social media (Facebook and Instagram, specifically): Posting a few times a week about our farm not only offered more awareness into what we're doing with sustainable practices and the SARE grant, it offers a first-hand look into the day to day practices of our farm. This goes a long way when new customers are learning more about our farm - our cattle, poultry, and practices - so when they're researching whether or not to buy from us, they're more inclined to reach out to purchase.
        • Social Advertising: Since we have established content about our farm and why our products are great, we started to run targeted advertisements to our local area, within 30 miles. This has been very successful for selling our beef quarters and for bringing in new customers beyond our family and neighbors. Many of our customers begin following us on social media, and then eventually make a purchase.
        • Website & Blog: While our social channels are updated frequently, our website and blog act more as a hub for information. For example, we often receive questions about processing beef (e.g. price, how cuts are determined, the process) so we created a helpful FAQ page. This saves us a lot of time when we get inquiries on social asking for pricing or how it works. We simply send the link, the customer reads the information, and then places an order. It saves us a lot of time. On our blog, we share news like our SARE grant award, as well as information to offer insight into some of our practices (e.g. what is pastured poultry?). We're working on building out our blog content further in order to better support SEO so we can appear in online searches more often and to help provide more detail in some questions we receive (e.g. specific ways we raise livestock).
        • Social Advertising: Since we have established content about our farm and why our products are great, we started to run targeted advertisements to our local area, within 30 miles. Currently, this is how we're able to sell our beef. As we ramp up poultry production in 2024, we will rely on social advertising for this as well.
    3. Weather is unpredictable and can cause chain reactions that affect your daily operation.
      • Drought caused us to post pone our rotational grazing plans because the pasture wasn't prepared to recover from the program. Once the drought started to lift, we got over a week of rain which left the pasture too wet to begin since we didn't want the herd tearing up the ground and established grass.
      • Outside of our own grazing plans, feed prices rose due to the drought as well, which impacted our overcall budget. In order to account for the increase, we needed to sell several calves because we didn't know when or if the drought would lift and a bigger herd meant higher costs. By the end of the year as the drought let up, we found we could've kept those calves and grown our herd. At the time though, the risk wasn't worth it.
      • The high temperatures reaching 100F+ for a few weeks over the summer thankfully didn't affect our chickens, although we took measures to keep them cool (water, shade, etc.).
      • Ultimately, we've learned that you can lay the best plans and have dates and deadlines to begin or end, but ultimately you're not only handling natural animals but also nature, which doesn't always align with what you need or want. Flexibility is important, but also not having too much invested in a particular endeavor - or downsizing to compensate (like or herd) - is important to remaining stable.
      • It would be an interesting as a follow up project to see how droughts and extreme temperatures affect a rotational grazing operation, especially in this start up phase. Even though we had to start grazing in July, later than we preferred, we were still able to extend our herd's grazing through the beginning of November. In the past, we were already rolling out hay at this point, so despite the weather and late start we did have better utilization this year. Next year with the infrastructure set up, we'll be able to begin earlier and likely see a bigger impact on farm costs and our hay operation.
    4. Introducing rotational grazing
      • A key piece of advice that we've shared at our workshops is to just get started - even if it's small. Outside of facing a drought, we were concerned that we wouldn't have the exact recommended setup with water placements throughout the farm (which would be an upfront expense we aren't ready for yet). We moved forward anyway, arranging rotational paddocks so that our herd can always back track to access water. Our ideal plan is to have completely closed paddocks with water access so that the forage utilization is easier to measure and much more efficient. However, even getting started with the way described, we saw great utilization and were able to extend pasture grazing through early November -- something we've never been able to accomplish before.
    5. Profitability
      • Ultimately, profitability is what we're working toward. We began our shift to poultry and grazing in the spring and summer this year, so we hope to have more apples to apples comparison on expenses for 2023 vs. 2024. Compared to 2022, in 2023 we were able to reduce our gas/diesel expenses slightly, by $387. However the feed costs, which almost entirely goes to our steers, increased by $5,000. This was due partly to rising grain costs (appx. +$200 more per 4 tons) as well as the fact that we increased our number of steers YoY. Although these fees aren't tied directly to our herd's grazing cost, feeding steers is the bulk of our expenses each year so reducing as much as possible elsewhere (gas, hay, equipment repairs and maintenance, etc.) and selling steers (freezer beef) and poultry at profitable margins will be significant in helping our growth.

Project Outcomes

3 Farmers changed or adopted a practice
3 New working collaborations
Success stories:

Thanks to our pastured poultry workshop, we met like-minded farmers who were hatching eggs and raising chickens for a 4H breeding project. They loved the idea of having them on the pasture, but didn't have the tools or time to build a tractor. Instead, they asked us if we'd be willing to do it for them. We we not only able to build them the chicken tractor so they could get started, but thanks to the fee we charged for it, were able to earn some money on the side to build another tractor for ourselves to expand our operation next spring.

Through our social media channels, we met another local farm using sustainable practices: Idle Wind Farms. Ryan and his dad raise Red Angus and Akaushi Wagyu cattle as well as Heritage Berkshire pork. Ryan is based outside of Missouri, and is extremely knowledgeable in the agriculture industry and often offers us helpful tips and encouragement. In fact, the week before our farm was in the newspaper, their farm and history was featured. He and his dad visited our farm so we could all meet in person, and we've kept in touch since. His mom bought some of our first pastured poultry this summer, and they offered us some of their pork to try. This is just one example of a relationship that was started in thanks to the SARE grant and shifting to sustainable practices.

The week after our Missourian article published, numerous people - including MFA employees, local shop owners, other farmers - approached Trisha and her family to congratulate them and say how happy they were we were preserving a local farm. In December 2023 an article published announcing 200+ acres of farmland were purchased in Franklin County and would be used for more retail and housing development properties. As more and more farmland gets turned into national food chains, our goal to inspire local farmers to either get started or keep and sustain their land is more important than ever.

  • With another year ahead of us, we look forward to becoming more efficient (and profitable) on the poultry side of our operation. Not only growing the operation, but better managing feed intake and weight for better profitability.
  • Community relationships has opened numerous doors for us, and I anticipate this will continue. During our rotational grazing workshop and attendee from the MO extension office learned we'd be planting an orchard and offered to have a Lincoln University contact come out to help and host a workshop. Since the 4H director was there, she too said let her know so we can do one large workshop together. In conversations with the MFA employee about our newspaper article, we learned they host presentations there, which we'll likely use next year for a broader presentation on our farming practices. Another of our workshop attendees teaches an agriculture class at the local middle school, opening even more doors for teaching sustainable practices.
  • Future research tied to starting a regenerative farm during drought years or extreme temperatures would be an interesting addition. It affected rotational grazing timing, length, and overall expenses. Seeing how weather might affect affect beginning farmers or those transitioning could be helpful information to help them better plan in these scenarios.
Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.