Farm Visit: Double J Farms
When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up? Jared McCray decided by the time he was 9 years old that he would be a farmer. Able to spend summers on an uncle’s dairy farm, he was exposed to the work ethic that would be required. He started raising spring calves and selling them in the fall.
Graduating from high school, he took advantage of a USDA program and bought a tractor and arranged to lease some land. Next was the purchase of some cows, and later a bull and it had begun. He says it has not been as easy as some other young men his age whose parents own a farm already, but he will make it work.
Meanwhile, his wife Amanda grew up in town and never imagined this would be her future. They have a delightful 2-year-old son who already loves tractors and a 1-week-old daughter. Life is good.
Jared leases about 1000 acres in several areas. He took me to his winter pasture area where most of his herd currently is located. His bull is on his parent’s land. In all, he has 17 cows, 3 steers, 10 calves and the bull.
Coming from the New York metropolitan area and having always lived in suburbia, I am full of questions and Jared was very patient. He explained the life cycle of each animal in his herd. How castration must be done early, and the differences between cutting and banding. How the ears are tagged to identify his ownership and each individual, and how that came in handy when his cows broke through the fence and wandered on the Interstate right-of-way one stressful day a few months ago. We discussed the pros and cons of grass versus grain feeding. He explained the difference between natural and organic.
Finally, he not only explained the slaughtering process but he took me over to Young & Stout, one of several slaughterhouses he uses to process his animals. (Young & Stout also sells meat in bulk, but much of their supply is from major meat distributors and the source farm is unknown for any given cut.)
He also explained that he charges $1.25 a pound for the hanging weight of the animal and there is also a charge of about $0.45 a pound hanging weight for delivery to the slaughterhouse. The cleaned carcass (guts, lower legs, head and hide all removed) is then cooled before being moved into an aging room for at least 10 days.
Each slaughterhouse then charges for butchering, adding anywhere from $0.50 to $0.65 a pound. The butcher will process to individual specifications, i.e., thickness of steak, fat content of hamburger.
Jared says he works 4 days a week for a beer distributor and he needs to get to 1000 head before he feels the farm can cover his annual needs. A herd of 2000 will permit some additional purchases he wants, such as insurance on the bull.
He provides meat to people as far as North Canton, Ohio and into Virginia. And it makes sense…and cents…..if you have a freezer, the idea of buying a quarter, half or full cow means you know how it was raised and save money to boot!