It was steady as she goes in the poultry business for Olar farmer Chad Brubaker.
The co-owner of Brubaker Farms owns two chicken houses with a total of 30,000 square feet for the chickens.
The farm currently has 72,000 chickens in both houses.
“It’s not a big money-making thing, but it’s a steady income that pays the bills," Brubaker said. “Our price is pretty much set with contracts with the integrator (also known as the chicken processor). We are a contract grower for them."
In many ways, Brubaker serves as a Motel 6 for the birds.
The chicken processor provides the feed and the chickens, and Brubaker provides the housing, electricity, labor and gas to heat the chicken houses.
"We take care of the chickens," he said. "We basically grow their chickens.”
Though Brubaker does not pay for the feed for the poultry farm (the processor does), feed costs are down right now.
“From raising crops, I know that feed prices have to be at a low point,” he said.
But low feed costs are somewhat offset by other costs.
“The cost of housing the chickens has been consistent," Brubaker said. "Fuel prices are starting to go up here, though.”
He said more farmers are starting to get into the poultry business.
“More automation is certainly why people are getting in,” he said.
Brubaker estimates there are approximately 12 or more poultry farmers in Bamberg County, nothing that farmers are remaining in the poultry business, including young farmers.
"The poultry business is going very well in Bamberg County. It’s a big business. It brings jobs, and it brings industry. All these trucks that have to deliver feed come through here," he said.
“The poultry business provides a place for corn to go to. It’s good for our crop farmers. It also provides jobs for our builders (of chicken houses). I see it as a good thing for the county."
According to the 2012 U.S. Department of Agriculture Census, Bamberg County ranks 16th in the number of cattle and calves and 24th in the number of broilers produced.
The county is ranked 16th in swine production, according to the census.
The 2012 census shows that Bamberg County had $11.2 million in livestock and poultry sold.
The census notes that the county had 39 beef cow farms and 12 dairy farms and a total of about 1,545 beef cows and 1,900 dairy cows.
Bamberg County's dairy and beef cattle industry has seen a decline since the mid-1980s due to rising operation costs that have forced many farmers out of the business.
Herds have fallen an estimated 50 percent, from 50 herds in the 1980s to an estimated 15 to 25 herds today.
The county reported two chicken farms and 10 hog and pig farms, according to the 2012 census.
Cattle prices were slightly better this year than last. According to the South Carolina Department of Agriculture Market Report in early October, medium and large high-quality feeder steers sold for an average of $114.50 per hundredweight (cwt) for a 830-pound steer and $173 per cwt for a 295-pound steer in late September.
Last year, medium and large high-quality feeder steers sold for $116 per cwt for a 805-pound steer and $166 per cwt for a 288-pound steer in early October.
Cattle prices generally have struggled to move higher as beef supplies have been increasing.
Earlier this year, Canada implemented a 10-percent tariff on some U.S. beef products after the U.S. moved ahead with tariffs on U.S. imports of Canadian steel and aluminum.
Across the globe, China also raised its 12-percent import tariff on U.S. beef to 37 percent on July 6.
U.S. beef exports to China in August were down from the prior month and represented 0.47 percent of August U.S. beef exports. Monthly beef exports to China have decreased 47.5 percent since the pre-tariff May peak.
But President Donald Trump's renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the creation of a new United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement have given beef producers new hopes for greater markets.
Experts do believe cattle prices may increase over the next couple of months due to tighter supplies and high consumer demand.
Another issue facing beef farmers this year has been a beef recall.
The USDA recalled several million pounds of beef over potential salmonella contamination.
So far, the department’s investigation has found 120 patients from 22 states with illnesses linked to eating the contaminated beef since August. There have been no deaths reported.
South Carolina has not reported any illnesses related to the beef recall.
There are estimated to be about 10 large-scale beef producers and 25 overall in the county. Many of the cattle farmers in the county are aging.
The hog industry in Bamberg County is virtually non-existent.
According to farmers familiar with the swine industry in the county, about 70 years ago the number of hogs increased but the number of hog farms went down.
In the late 1990s, hog prices fell to 8 cents per pound - a full 40 cents under cost, prompting many to get out of the business.
Today, the hog industry is heavily vertically integrated and is controlled by large companies like Tyson and Smithfield, causing more hog farmers to get out of the business.
Many hog farmers were unable to invest in new hog houses to meet the demands of the new-age contract situations.
What is left in Bamberg County today are predominantly hog farmers raising animals as a hobby.