By Rebecca Maxwell
One of the most satisfying aspects of homesteading is producing your own food, and if you consume meat, then it is likely that you have considered raising livestock. But is this venture for you? Taking care of farm animals is a rewarding pastime but one that requires a large amount of time, money, and energy. Before you can reap the benefits of raising animals, you will need to consider first how to feed, shelter, and protect them.
First timers can easily get overwhelmed. To help you get started, here are some of the most common types of farm animals as well as the pros and cons of each:
Chickens – As one of the trouble-free farm animals to take care of, chickens provide nutritious, fresh eggs as well as meat. They do not need a large amount of space to live and you can let them roam your backyard to keep pests under control. Moreover, chickens come in all shapes and sizes so you can find the right breed for your purposes. On the other hand, chickens have a natural instinct to scratch, and people can get deeply attached to them.
Goats – Goats are popular animals because they can perform a variety of functions around the farm. Goats provide plenty of delicious milk and lean meat plus spinning fiber. They can carry supplies for camping or hiking and can even be hitched up to help with chores. Goats only require simple shelters and a sturdy fence. However, they are social creatures so you’ll want to get more than one, and it can be costly to keep them fed.
Sheep – Sheep provide plenty of meat, milk, and wool for humans and hold many other advantages. They are easier to take care of than some other animals, they can live off of poorer types of land unsuitable for planting, and they can be trained to respond to commands. Sheep wool can be used to make a variety of blankets and clothes, their manure acts as fertilizer, and they can feed on a wide variety of foods. Then again, sheep are entirely dependent on their owners for food, they need protection from predators, and they have to be sheared regularly.
Cattle – If you have room, it can be a great experience to get cattle. Cows provide plenty of meat, milk, and maybe even extra income. Cattle can graze on land otherwise unsuited for crops and keep your land sheared and trimmed. It can be physically difficult, however, to take care of cattle and you’ll probably need the services of a veterinarian or breeder.
Pigs – Despite their tendency to eat anything, pigs can provide good quality meat for a family at a reasonable cost. The key is to provide plenty of room and shelter for your pigs to eliminate or reduce problems with mud and parasites. Pigs do best in groups.
Rabbits – Although rabbits are predominantly raised as pets or for show, these animals can provide both meat and fur. Their droppings can serve as excellent fertilizer, they are not that costly to feed, and they can be kept in smaller spaces.