Many people say “you’re living my dream” – I suppose because people who love animals long to have the space to take in more animals in need. But running even a small sanctuary such as Star Gazing Farm is constant work, and very expensive (and I still have to have a day job to manage my own expenses!). It means carrying 60 pound bales of hay up a long driveway in 2 feet of snow and hauling manure every day, learning to get over squeamishness over too many things to mention in polite company, and feeding and watering even if you have a temperature of 104.
It’s gorgeous, though! And the animal’s faces tell that it is all worth it!
The chart below illustrates the distribution of expenses from 2015 (total operating budget $86,000).
Here are some examples:
Good quality hay is essential to the well-being of farm animals. We do not have enough land to produce hay, and in fact we feed hay year-round. Prices vary from year to year, but generally the cost of a square bale (40-60 pounds) is $4-6, and the cost of a round bale (700-1000 pounds) is $40-60 each. Winter consumption is of course higher than in the summer, but on average we go through 2 round bales and 20-30 square bales a week, which translates to over $10,000 a year for hay. WOW.
While we let our ducks, chickens, and geese forage for bugs and grass during the day, we always offer them prepared poultry feed. On average they go through 50 pounds a week, which comes to about $600 a year. The equines and elderly ruminants get a special diet to boost their mineral intake and keep the weight on them. We also supplement the feed for the goats, sheep, and llamas with black oil sunflower seeds, whole corn, barley, kelp, and fresh vegetables and fruits : $800 a year. Dog, cat, and rabbit food comes to about $1200 a year.
Equines must be seen by a farrier approximately every 6 weeks. The cost is $45 per equine for trimming and and an additional $120 for shoeing. This comes to about $1400 a year.
All animals are dewormed regularly. The cost for this ranges from $250-350/year.
Regular vaccines (rabies, tetanus, west nile virus, potomac horse fever, distemper, feline leukemia, etc.) average $1200 a year.
We work with several veterinarians who specialize in the various animals we have at the sanctuary. Veterinary care can range from annual checkups, to surgery and hospitalization. Depending on what illnesses and conditions need to be treated, our veterinary bills can range from $8,000 to over $15,000 a year.
Barns and sleeping areas must be kept clean. We use both pine shavings (for good absorption of odor and comfort) and straw (for warmth). Average cost per year for bedding is $1500.
Equipment and infrastructure
None of this takes into consideration sideline costs, such as repairing fences and gates destroyed by Mr. Newman Goat, purchase of water buckets, feed bowls, water troughs, halters, lead lines, muck rakes, hay racks, and other equipment. We would gratefully accept any used farm equipment, lawnmowers, hoses, rakes, ropes, lumber, etc.