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Animal husbandry is the breeding and raising of livestock for agricultural purposes. Consumption is the primary purpose of husbandry, with many farmers using every resource available from each animal. Some invest in cattle for their milk production and/or to make and sell cheese, while others invest in poultry for their eggs. Each region has its own strengths and weaknesses; entrepreneurs considering this field should consult with their state’s animal husbandry department to come up with a strategy that would work best in their region.
Who is this business right for?
Have you ever dreamed of running your own farm? Of providing nourishment for your family and others in your community? Do you enjoy working with your hands and being at one with nature? Is the freedom that comes with being your own boss something you’ve thought about repeatedly throughout the years? While animal husbandry requires hard work, it is an exceptionally rewarding and fulfilling career.
What happens during a typical day at an animal husbandry business?
This industry encompasses a broad spectrum of goods and services. The specifics of your day will vary depending upon the types of animals you raise and the goods you intend to offer. Goats, horses, sheep, pigs, cattle, and chickens are just a few of the animals raised on farms throughout the country. Each of these animals require their own type and amount of land, fencing, cleaning, and food. Your days will be spent ensuring both the land and the animals are well-maintained and that equipment is kept in running order. Equally as important will be your marketing and networking efforts and administrative duties. A meticulously written business plan is critical for your farm’s long-term growth and profits. Conduct thorough research to ensure your land’s resources align with the animal’s needs and that there is a market for the goods and services you plan to offer.
What is the target market?
Target markets for animal husbandry businesses vary depending upon a number of factors. When developing your business plan, conduct thorough research to identify local market needs. Approach markets, restaurants, and health food stores. Speak with individuals in the area. What is your region lacking and how can you fulfill those needs? Can any of your products be sold online and shipped? If so, this significantly expands your potential client pool. How will you reach each of these groups?
How does an animal husbandry business make money?
Animal husbandry businesses make money through the sale of their farm raised livestock and/or the resources the livestock produces.
What is the growth potential for an animal husbandry business?
For as long as humans exist on this Earth, there will be a need for food. The two primary sources of food are animals and crops. Out of the various divisions of the agricultural industry, animal husbandry is the most profitable. Growth is reliant on acreage and market need, with many farmers opting to expand their businesses across multiple states.
What are some skills and experiences that will help you build a successful animal husbandry business?
As with every business venture, your success is reliant on your vision and drive. As a livestock farmer, you must be hardworking, dedicated, and knowledgeable about the animals you are raising. Long-term growth and success requires a proactive nature and a passion for learning. Due to the intricacies of this industry, one’s ego must be set aside, with entrepreneurs embracing the knowledge other farmers have to offer.
Additionally, it is critical that business owners treat their farm as a business, rather than a hobby. If you lack the skills to market and/or manage a business of this magnitude, consider attending classes at your local college or seeking the help of a professional. The Small Farm Nation Academy offers members access to a number of resources that can help new farmers build a successful animal husbandry business.
What are the costs involved in opening an animal husbandry business?
As mentioned, it’s important for aspiring animal husbandry business owners to conduct thorough research regarding land availability. The size of your land, soil, and natural feed will all play an important role in the types of animals you can successfully raise. Each type of animal requires a different type of fencing, amount of land, and grass to graze on. Your county’s local extension can assist you with any prior land information that is on file. When choosing your land, it’s also important to consider future goals. While you may decide to start out small, with just a few animals, quality and quantity will define your overall success and profits. Make sure your business plan and land investment match prior to making any commitments.
Start-up costs vary depending upon a number of factors and is, therefore, difficult to define. Land and labor costs will consume the bulk of your budget, both initially and ongoing. Once you have purchased your farm, there are a few items you may need, depending upon the livestock you raise:
- Tractors, fertilizer, heavy duty mower, plows, and herbicide equipment - To reduce initial start-up costs, consider purchasing used. Research will determine the specifics of which equipment is needed for your husbandry venture.
- Fertilizer and herbicide
- Animal feed
- Animal feed bunks/troughs and watering facilities
- Your land must be properly irrigated and must have enough facilities to handle the business’ operations
- Refrigeration and storage for goods prior to shipment
- Marketing supplies
Managing a farm requires a great deal of running capital. Business owners are urged to explore every option when it comes to funding. Many have found success through grants and CSA programs.
What are the steps to start an animal husbandry business?
Once you're ready to start your animal husbandry business, follow these steps to ensure that your business is legally compliant and avoid wasting time and money as your business grows:
- Plan your business. A clear plan is essential for success as an entrepreneur. A few important topics to consider are your initial costs, your target market, and how long it will take you to break even.
- Form a legal entity. Establishing a legal business entity prevents you from being personally liable if your animal husbandry business is sued.
- Register for taxes. You will need to register for a variety of state and federal taxes before you can open for business.
- Open a business bank account. A dedicated checking account for your animal husbandry business keeps your finances organized and makes your business appear more professional to your customers.
- Set up business accounting. Recording your various expenses and sources of income is critical to understanding the financial performance of your business. Keeping accurate and detailed accounts also greatly simplifies your annual tax filing.
- Obtain necessary permits and licenses. Failure to acquire necessary permits and licenses can result in hefty fines, or even cause your business to be shut down.
- Get business insurance. Insurance is highly recommended for all business owners. If you hire employees, workers compensation insurance may be a legal requirement in your state.
- Define your brand. Your brand is what your company stands for, as well as how your business is perceived by the public. A strong brand will help your business stand out from competitors.
- Establish a web presence. A business website allows customers to learn more about your company and the products or services you offer. You can also use social media to attract new clients or customers.
Select your state below for an in-depth guide on completing each of these steps in your home state.
Where can I find a business mentor?
One of the greatest resources an entrepreneur can have is quality mentorship. As you start planning your business, connect with a free business resource near you to get the help you need.
Having a support network in place to turn to during tough times is a major factor of success for new business owners.
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What are some insider tips for jump starting an animal husbandry business?
Successful animal husbandry business owners across the globe offer the following advice:
- Identify and clearly market your competitive advantage before your business opens. Each decision and investment you make should be with this advantage in mind.
- It’s important to remember that some facets of this industry have seasons. Research and prepare to ensure maximum profitability.
- Many farmers urge those just entering the industry to abandon the thought of trying to define the “ideal” customer. Instead, identify various customer types that will be drawn to your farm products and determine how you will reach those customers.
- Start marketing your products before you open your doors.
- Start small and do your best to stay out of debt. Farm maintenance one year may be slim, while the next year could require tens of thousands of dollars.
How to promote & market an animal husbandry business
As part of your marketing efforts, you will need to get out in the “field” and approach various businesses that would benefit from your products. This includes: farmers markets, community supported agriculture, metropolitan buying clubs (MBC’s), retailers, wholesale selling to distributors, and restaurants. Network within the community and work to foster mutually beneficial relationships throughout.
In addition to pounding the pavement, one successful farmer suggests implementing a marketing strategy during the building phase of your business. Build a website and start a blog. This is an opportunity to reach potential customers and gives them a chance to get to know you on a deeper level. With the right strategy, they will feel like they know you before your doors are even open and you will have a loyal client base from the start.
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How to keep customers coming back
One important piece of advice shared by many successful farmers is that you must match your land and product. If this is done properly, you’ll be able to consistently deliver quality products. Your brand will have a positive reputation and you will have a loyal tribe of customers.
How and when to build a team
Unlike many businesses, trying to manage a farm alone is not advisable. It requires long hours and hard work. Carefully consider each prospective employee. What experience do they have? Are they passionate about the work? What knowledge can they offer that you currently lack. Depending upon the specifics of your work, required labor may be more seasonal. Take this into consideration and be honest and upfront with team members you are considering.
State & Local Business Licensing Requirements
Certain state permits and licenses may be needed to operate an animal husbandry business. Learn more about licensing requirements in your state by visiting SBA’s reference to state licenses and permits.
Most businesses are required to collect sales tax on the goods or services they provide. To learn more about how sales tax will affect your business, check out our informative guide, Sales Tax for Small Businesses.
For information about local licenses and permits:
- Check with your town, city or county clerk’s office
- Get assistance from one of the local associations listed in US Small Business Associations directory of local business resources.
Certificate of Occupancy
An animal husbandry business is generally run out of a farm or plot of land. Businesses operating out of a physical location typically require a Certificate of Occupancy (CO). A CO confirms that all building codes, zoning laws and government regulations have been met.
- If you plan to lease a location:
- It is generally the landlord’s responsibility to obtain a CO.
- Before leasing, confirm that your landlord has or can obtain a valid CO that is applicable to an animal husbandry business.
- After a major renovation, a new CO often needs to be issued. If your place of business will be renovated before opening, it is recommended to include language in your lease agreement stating that lease payments will not commence until a valid CO is issued.
- If you plan to purchase or build a location:
- You will be responsible for obtaining a valid CO from a local government authority.
- Review all building codes and zoning requirements for your business’ location to ensure your animal husbandry business will be in compliance and able to obtain a CO.
How much can you charge customers?
Again, there are a number of factors that go into determining your product prices. Your fees should be based on three data points: cost of production, required profit margin, and what the market will bear.
What are the ongoing expenses for an animal husbandry business?
Ongoing maintenance of a farm can prove quite costly at times, while other years your maintenance budget could be slim. Fences and buildings should be properly maintained, as should your land’s natural resources. Routine maintenance on machinery and vehicles will help reduce costly breakdowns and should be regularly budgeted for. As the business grows and needs change, some buildings may require costly renovations. For farms that raise cattle, feed costs comprise over 25% of an annual budget. Payroll expenses and insurance are also important budgetary costs that must be considered.
How much profit can an animal husbandry business make?
While many farmers enter this industry to turn their passion into a business, profits can be significant. Annual profits depend upon a number of variables, including animals raises, products offered, region, size of farm, and market needs.
How can you make your business more profitable?
In addition to raising livestock and selling goods, many farms have found success holding farm tours, “family” dinners, and classes that include everything from cheese making to butchering and cooking. Before taking this on as part of your business venture, be sure to discuss this with your attorney and insurance agent to protect yourself against potential liability.