How to Choose the Right Type of Livestock for Your Small Homestead

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Adding livestock to your homestead is a big commitment. Here are a few things to consider before taking the plunge…

When it comes to adding livestock to your homestead, there are so many choices. Poultry like chickens, ducks, or turkeys, small mammals like rabbits, goats and sheep, or even larger animals such as pigs, cows, horses, and more exotic choices like llamas are all valid options in certain settings.

However, raising farm animals is a much larger commitment than growing a garden or planting an orchard, so before you take the plunge, you should make sure you understand what you are getting into, and the pros and cons of raising each type of livestock.

This article from Modern Farmer discusses some of the considerations to keep in mind when choosing smaller livestock animals that would be suitable for an urban farm or small homestead:

Goats

What Type: Meat goat breeds don’t produce much milk, so if dairy is your goal, stick with dairy breeds—they aren’t as beefy as the meat breeds, but they’re still perfectly good to eat. And you will eventually end up with extra goats that need to be eaten or sold, as the females won’t produce milk until after they’ve given birth. Dwarf breeds are highly recommended for urban areas, and are often the only type of goat permitted under local laws.

How Many: These are highly social herd animals, so you’ll need at least two; most urban lots don’t have space for more than four or five. Two full-size dairy goats will provide enough milk for the average family, plus plenty left over for cheese- and yogurt-making.

Necessary Infrastructure: Goats are content to dwell in a three-sided shed-like structure lined with fresh straw. They need an ample fenced area to frolic about in, and ideally a few large boulders or something else they can clamber around on.

Care Routine: Feeding and milking are twice-a-day chores. Clean out their pen weekly and trim hooves every six weeks.

Neighborly Considerations: Sturdy fencing (minimum 4 feet tall) is crucial, as goats are extremely curious and would love to explore your neighbor’s flower garden. Mature male goats are not suitable in the city — they’re smelly, big and aggressive — so you need to find a goat farm out in the country where you can take your girls to be bred each fall.

Rabbits

What Type: Any rabbit is edible, but avoid breeds bred only for show purposes, as these will have less meat on the bone. Bunnies aren’t suitable for mail delivery like chicks and poults, so you’ll have to find a local breeder where you can pick up a few to start your rabbitry.

How Many: You’ll need at least one male and one female to start, which will soon produce more offspring than a family can eat. Only allow them to breed when you’re getting low on rabbit in the freezer.

Necessary Infrastructure: Rabbits take up very little space – a tiny hutch and attached fenced area for them to scamper about in is all you need. Though you do need a separate hutch to house any males you plan to keep.

Care Routine: In addition to letting the rabbits out of the hutch and into the run each morning and closing them up again before dark, providing food and water are the only daily chores; though you’ll need to clean out the hutch weekly.

Neighborly Considerations: Rabbits are clean, quiet, and compared to most other livestock, easy to contain. Your neighbors will likely never know they are there.

Thinking about raising chickens or turkeys? Read the full article at ModernFarmer.com for more tips…

 

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