I’ve got an issue that, at times, really frustrates me. But I hesitate to write about it because it sounds whiny. But in today’s game bird market conditions – the issue is confronting me so often – I’m writing about it – here goes.
We make it so easy for people to get into the game bird business. We sell people chicks and tell them to raise the birds. It's part of our (and many other game bird farms) business model to get others into the business. And if we didn’t sell others their chicks, there still are hundreds other farms that would.
But many of the very people we assist in getting into business, become our competitors.
Preserves often tell me that their #1 expense is buying birds. Obviously, preserves want well-feathered, weather conditioned, fully mature birds. Preserves know that we and other long-standing game bird producers can supply what they want. But it’s common for a new supplier (one that we helped get into the business) to approach our established preserve customers with an offer to sell birds at a reduced price. As one of these new producers explained to me once, why would a preserve even talk to him about buying birds except if the price was lower? He went on to explain that the preserves are happy with MacFarlane’s birds – and there is no entry point for a new supplier except for the price.
I spoke to a new producer last week – both he and his wife have full time jobs outside of their game bird venture. He has no hired help whatsoever. He buys his chicks from an established game bird farm (one with a good genetic line of pheasants – well established). He buys his feed from the feed company most well known in our area. His pens are built on specs well known in our industry. And he is selling his mature pheasants at $1.50 less per bird than we are. And he told me he is making a profit. I asked if he included any labor cost in the cost of production calculation, and he said “no, I don’t have any hired labor.”
I guess it just comes down to us making it clear to the preserves what we can provide, not only with the birds, but support, expertise, extra birds in a good season, etc. etc.
Like I said an the outset of this days notes – I’m not sure where to go with this – but in today’s economic times – with our farm looking at trying to break even this year (vs. lose money like we did in 2008) it’s frustrating to see competitors spring up selling at cut rate prices – and realize we can’t do anything about it.