I understand the "it's bad manners to ask" but I can also see if from another point of view. If you don't ask you can't learn BECAUSE so many that do the asking don't have any family or "past history" to ask from. I am guilty of asking. Mostly because I want to know how a person manages to do what they do on what they have. Can I learn something that they are doing to improve the way I am doing it? I am always impressed with someone who is doing more with less. And we are spread out too much, and with the downturn in the market, are questioning what and how we are doing some things.
One thing that we struggle with is how to balance our time due to full time jobs, and the size we have gotten to. So I like to hear what others have and how they balance it with their other obligations.
My grandmother and great grandmother had 10 cows and they shipped milk on RR cars to NYC from Conn. but that was before I was born. My dad helped as a kid and hated it. He had a couple of horses until he met and married my mom. I got some chickens when I was in 4-H and was always drawn to the "farming life". My grandmother said I was a throwback to Granny's generation.
I started out milking on a dairy after I got divorced. A family friend had been a dairy farmers' daughter and I spent time with them but the dairy was already closed down and they were only raising some heifers. I answered an ad for a milker, got the job and started raising some bottle calves. Got into some veal raising for awhile. Then moved about a days drive south to "enemy territory".... I was a Yankee and moved to Va !!!!! Needed the distance from an ex and the climate here was more conducive to farming due to the longer growing season. Added a calf here and there, bred my heifers/cows. Kept a few beef cows and some nurse cows. Got a job milking and did some AI relief breeding for a SS rep. Worked waitressing inbetween. Then after a bad car wreck, and 2 years of full time waitressing, got the job as a milk tester. Got me back in contact with more farmers, and when my son came south to stay full time, started to expand. Both of us worked full time. Have had to sell out twice due to finances, but always got back in. Now up to between 150 - 200 cow/calf operation. Lot of rented, leased land. But we have lost a couple of places due to sales and will be cutting back a bit to accommodate. Feel like in a couple of years, with many older going out and prices forcing some others out, there will be more places around to rent again. I am 65 and wanting to slow down a little, and the job is fading out due to the horrible shape the dairy industry is in, and many of the farmers are getting older and no one to take them over. Many smaller dairies going out and they will never come back, so my job is being phased out by circumstances in this area.
We buy good registered bulls, and buy and sell some cows. Raise some replacement heifers out of our better cows. Make all our own hay and do some custom. Make and sell small square bales as that is where some cash flow comes from. Sell feeders at 450-600 lbs. off the cows. We are a commercial operation. Might get a little smaller for awhile, and see where it is going. We do as much rotational grazing as we can and sell a few grassfed beef some years. I still have several nurse cows and raise calves on them because I like my dairy cows. Milk for the house and try to be somewhat self sufficient, garden and such. Like most of the hard working farmers and ranchers on here I guess.
One thing I would have done differently, I would have sold more when the prices got crazy high, and made a bit more hay or rented less land, or just had more grazing available for what we had. We did not buy or expand then, but should have sold at least half of what we had and had cash money to sit on. I sold all my own heifers, but my son did not sell many of his and in 3 years we could have bought twice what we sold, for the same dollars. A lesson that was well learned.
One thing here that drives the land available, is that the owners that do not run their own animals, get to begging for a farmer to make hay or graze their places so they can get the land use tax which is about 1/3 or so of normal taxes. So when there are not as many people around doing it, and next thing you know, they cannot find anyone to rent it... they get desperate to keep it under land use. It runs in cycles. The only thing that is against that is all the development and that the bigger parcels are getting more spread out. It will be interesting to see what the next 5 years will bring here.