Efficiency and Flow

With margins becoming tighter, we must become increasingly efficient in the utilization of our resources here. This week the managers have been a bit agitated about not having enough trucks, trailers and crates. In some ways I am enjoying hearing that our equipment is being used to the max.

I often look at competing farms and can readily see the advantages they have over our farm. I strive for our farm to become as efficient as competitors. I remember the day I saw a presentation at a gamebird meeting by Tim Zindl of Oak Ridge Pheasant Ranch where Tim showed his three auger wagons lined up (full of feed) at the crack of dawn. Tim had one of his employees come in early to fill all the wagons. At our farm (at that time) we had two employees go out with each wagon (one to run the tractor and the other employee in the pen opening and closing feeders and using a chute to direct the feed into the small Brower feeders). Up til that time two employees would check in at 7 am, both go to the shed to get the tractor and auger wagon and then both employees stand by while the auger wagon filled. From then on we had our auger wagons filled in advance. We have taken it to the next level in that today we use all 900 lb. feeders in our all our pheasant pens which are filled directly by the feed company truck. We only use our auger wagons for touch up feeding.

One efficiency measure that we have worked on is what we call “flow”, i.e. at what age do our birds leave the farm and be delivered. I had a competitor this week ask if I could see if our long tailed cross birds had noticeable longer tails. I said “yes”, that at 23 weeks we thought there is a 1” up to 2” difference. The competitor then said “wait til 28 weeks, and you’ll see an even greater difference”. My reply was we don’t have any birds (during the fall) make it to 24 weeks here, let alone 28 weeks. Our “flow” is such that the birds are all committed and delivered. With today’s feed prices (currently spot price for grower is $.17/lb.) and birds eat 1.25 lbs./week for 50,000 birds shipping at 23 weeks vs 28 weeks = $42,500 feed cost (not even taking into account labor and additional mortality between 23 and 28 weeks).

We operate four truck trailer rigs with goosenecks. Each rig can deliver between 3000 up to 4500 pheasants/partridges. Two of the trucks are new and the other two trucks we are using both got new engines before the season. This week, in addition to our local pickup runs, we had seven full goosenecks scheduled to depart. Our first truck/trailer was loaded this past Sunday and returned home Tuesday and left again today (Thursday) The second rig left Monday, got back yesterday and is leaving again today. Tuesday’s rig is due back here today and is leaving tomorrow. Wednesday truck is just arriving at its destination today. We pushing the envelope a bit, but again what’s happening is we are using our equipment efficiently, which in today’s environment is the only way we can make this whole thing work.

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