Small Livestock for Small Land Owners
I’ve been seeing some really cool posts on Imgur regarding gardening, building smokehouses, and showing off seedlings and livestock. I was so delighted to see people asking genuine questions regarding how to grow their own food, raise their own animals, etc, that I wanted to contribute a little information I have learned while attempting to grow my own food.
HEY! There’s a NSFW comic at the end of the post. Just sayin’.
Disclaimer: I am by no means an expert. I don’t even own a single acre to garden in. The little I do know comes from homesteaders, authors, gardeners and other experienced folks that have kindly shared their information with interested folks such as myself. This is just a brief summary of that information.
Remember: Do your own research. I further want to thank the Internet. It has dank memes.
Some may not agree here, but according to the Google search I conducted a mere 30 seconds ago, goats are a recommended type of small livestock to own on small acres. Known for wearing pjs and sounding like a banshee riding a nail gun, goats are usually raised for their hide, meat, and dairy products. Here is a group of Nigerian Dwarf Goats.
A smaller goat breed, the Nigerian is mainly raised for its milk. However, even Nigerians contribute to pasture by browsing and munching away at unwanted weeds such as bramble, ivy, and other weedy undergrowth. According to the facts accumulated by the Oregon Zoo, Nigerians do not require as much food as larger breeds of goat, and also don’t need as much space. This makes them a preferred breed of goat for small land owners. Some farmers will actually rent their goats out to clear pasture.
Making money. Feeding goats.
Now aren’t these babies so cute? Good enough to eat!
But yes, rabbits are also another type of animal to consider on a homestead. Rabbits can be used for meat and fur, but also for grazing small amounts of pasture and manure production. Pictured above are New Zeland Whites, a recommended breed for interested owners such as myself.
Yup. I want to own a pair of meat rabbits. Gotta learn through experience as well. Books and the internet can only do so much.
A doe, or female rabbit, can have litters that average about six kits. Further, the doe’s gestation period it very small. After being bred, a doe will have her litter between 30 and 31 days. Bucks, or male rabbits, are ready to go anytime after reaching sexual maturity. With such a fast rate of breeding, rabbit owners can easily raise pounds of meat even if they choose to breed the doe only twice a year.
Considered the clowns for the fowl world, Guinea Fowl are chatty, rude, and absolute trolls. However, they are kept because they are also excellent grazers and make a good roast. The homesteaders I follow like to talk about how their Guinea Fowl will free range and eat up all the nasty ticks in their fields. These birds do lay eggs but I haven’t followed anyone that eats them like they would chicken eggs.
Guinea Fowl, like goats, are notorious for getting out of their pens. The only way to keep them in is to clip their feathers, but even then some still get out. They are also very hard to train to come back to their pen, so many times owners are trying to herd these cackling loud-mouths back onto their property. Guinea hens are awful mothers, which makes it hard to raise breeding stock.
If you own Guinea Fowl, please share some more information about them! I would love to hear some stories.
Next up, pigs! These guys are Kune Kune pigs, a furrier, smaller breed of pig. Pigs, in general, are raised for their delicious bacon, as well as for grazing/rooting and their hides. Pigs can be dangerous, especially larger breeds, and some have been filmed eating freshly culled rooster. But that doesn’t deter farmers. Some farmers even develop husbandry relationships with breeding sows (female pigs) that allows working with them to be much easier.
Of course, you have all been witness to those pet pigs! They’re so smart!
One of the reasons some farmers don’t own pigs is due to their destructive nature. Pigs root up the ground searching for grubs and other tasty morsels. This can destroy pasture easily. Kune Kune pigs, however, have been boasted at being one of the best pasture pigs to own. According to those who raise these pigs, the Kune Kune eats mostly pasture and doesn’t root too much. Some Kune Kune are bred to have smaller snouts, which seems to diminish rooting in the litter. Some farmers take advantage of rooting through a deep bedding system of compost, manure, and other organic matter. They encourage the pigs to root in order to mix the bedding and till the ground for them.
Probably my favorite pasture poultry, chickens are raised for their eggs, meat, feathers and manure production. Considered one of the easier small livestock to own, chickens eat greens, grains, and bugs, making it super easy to just let them out and free range in the pasture. Healthy hens can lay about one egg daily. With a healthy flock of 15, you could have about 11 eggs a day.
Pictured above is the Rhode Island Red, considered a good egg laying bird. The factory chickens we usually see advertised are a hybrid called the Cornish Cross. Unlike the Rhode Island Red, the Cornish Cross is raised for meat and are bred to specifically grow really big, really fast. Due to this, a healthy Rhode Island Red could easily outlive the Cornish Cross. The hybrid has a tendency to die from heart attacks or just general stress from their advanced growth. I’ve read into the controversy in raising Cornish Cross but let me know what you have experienced?
Ducks! The documented assaulters of the animal kingdom (THANKS FOR THAT ZE FRANK! >:[ ), ducks are raised for their meat and eggs. Below are Khaki Campbell ducks, a type of Bantam or garden duck recommended for small land owners. They do well in groups and the female ducks will eventually lay eggs. I say this because some homesteaders have grumbled about their ducks not laying eggs most of the time.
Ducks can be kept in coops with chickens and garden ducks, according to Homestead Vloggers livin’ that homestead life, don’t really need a water source to swim in. Sure it’s nice to have, but not necessary (I’m on the fence about this). Due to this, ducks and chickens can be raised together and even eat many of the same foods. Ducks will, however, eat their greens like proper waterfowl unlike the bratty chickens keeping an eye out for tasty grubs.
I haven’t seen too much of this on the videos and material I use, but guinea pigs are also raised for their meat and pasture grazing capability. Guinea pigs are social creatures and it’s aggressively recommended to raise your guinea pig with another so it doesn’t die of heckin’ loneliness. …
… Hello darkness… My old friend…
Social crisis aside, guinea pigs are a popular feature on bizarre food eating shows. It’s kinda hard to consider eating one of these, especially when your entire experience is seeing them running about in a glass tank at Petsmart. Regardless, due to their size and breeding rate (Who remembers that one guinea pig sire that broke into a cage of hot ladies?), it’s easy to raise and raise many of them.
Fish are popular with aquaponics owners. Aquaponics, to sum up briefly, is creating a closed system that circulates fish waste water up into a garden bed, watering and feeding the plants, and then the now filtered water flowing back down to replenish the fish tank. If you need more details, there are many Youtubers skilled in this craft eager for your views. Some might scream at you to subscribe.
These are jade perch, a popular fish to raise in aquaponic systems. Outside of harvesting their produce from these water gardens, aquaponic owners can also raise and eat their own fish. This is not recommended with ornamental fish such as bettas, goldfish or koi.
Avoid trying to eat those.