Planning for future food (livestock)
My post is more of an article than a short post. Please bare with me.
This is more a post for those who have a bit of land than those who don't. You don't need much to have animals, but you have to plan. I firmly believe that if you have any land zoned agricultural, you should be keeping your own livestock, and a variety if possible.
We have had many people comment wistfully about our lifestyle (they see it in a romantic light...for us, it's just getting by and is not often easy). They say that they wish they could or would have done similar. I understand that land is next to/impossible to buy anymore. We would like more, but we continue to do the best with what we have (and keep our ears & eyes open for possibilities).
For some, the time to raise their kids this way has come & gone. For some, they are caught in the web not always of their own making. I feel for those people. It can be hard to break free. But for many, they are caught in the web of their chosen lifestyle and aren't willing to sacrifice certain aspects to get there, even though they may have the means to start either small or big...so it will continue to be unreachable.
Back to the livestock. Hopefully in the future, we will be better prepared with our animals maturing. We do know that we have too many animals for our space at present, but we can either eat some or sell at a profit (if needed). As an investment, some can be bred, so there is a return and a somewhat steady supply of new animals. We at least have options at this point.
We were recently able to get 2 week-old calves for $100 each. This is very cheap as dairy bulls go from $75 (if you are lucky)-100 for day old to 1 week old, dairy heifer calves up to $600, and beef are anywhere from $350-$500. Heifers cost more than bulls & steers & sometimes you run into a twin that is a free martin (unbreedable heifer) to boot even at that price.
One of our new acquisitions is a Holstein bull calf (so not worth much, but will make good bone broth & have some meat), but the other is a Holstein-Angus cross heifer and she is clearly taking after the Angus. So, we should be good for dairy (jersey cows known for excellent feed conversion & great dairy) & beef (with our small heritage highland bull...not a trendy & often problematic miniature beef). We are also talking about keeping one of our 3 little Large Black heritage cross piggies (also bought at a great price) as a sow to breed.
We may have to bring in more hay for everyone, but it can be done one way or the other.
Choosing your livestock carefully for a smaller tract of land can make a huge difference. You need to be careful to not follow trends and fads if you are concerned about efficiency. Many people get caught up in the web of hype & popularity and end up stuck with something that costs them.
Do your own research thoroughly from solid sources (and don't dismiss knowledgefrom other cultures/countries/languages), and determine to continue to learn thoroughly all about your animals and other future prospects.
Knowledge is good. Don't forget wisdom either, that's more important. That's knowing how to properly implement your knowledge. Not all "experts"/"experienced" folks (especially online) are as experienced or as expert as they promote. Not all keepers (even offline, old or young) have wise advice. Assess carefully what you hear. What is their background? This, I find, is very important. This should be closely followed with were they active or passive in their involvement with these types of animals growing up? Are they set in their ways or are they willing to learn? Do they assess things carefully, or are they impulsive? How long have they had a certain animal or breed? Do they actually know the breed very well or do they just have book/internet knowledge? Working knowledge, and hopefully wisdom, comes over time. All these things will determine the quality of the advice you get. Its amazing what passes as great advice/ideas sometimes that is really advice that should be discarded. It can be like a game of telephone. Sometimes the best advice is found from those quiet folks who keep to themselves and continue to do what they've always done, and not the ones that have a need to proclaim what they do.
Before I forget, I should mention that you should still be willing to try new things if the evidence from other (not parrot type) resources supports it.
If you have a small tract of land, you will generally be wisest to choose smaller animals with great traits such as ease of birth, maternal instincts, number of healthy offspring for those who birth multiples...like pigs, hardiness, feed conversion, & usefulness, etc. They should have a clear purpose (and some can do double duty, such as poultry & some cattle). Being an investment, you will want good return and the possibility of multiplying themselves is a factor to consider.
You need to factor into everything your material costs (fencing, type of housing, maintenance), proper and good quality feed suited to the animal (generally for each cow it is 1 large, fairly heavily packed hay bale/month, a mix of grasses is often best), and things of that sort. Most expenses are one-time or once or twice a year things, thankfully.
Anyway, I know we chat here mostly about rabbits, goats, poultry & gardens, but I think that other livestock should be discussed sometimes as well and not be forgotten.
If you have land and as you are able, please get yourself livestock. Don’t be afraid of the unknowns or of being "tied down" (which is really an empty excuse, and a newer lazy concept of our selfish society). Getting livestock is a worthwhile investment that can reap great rewards in many ways.
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