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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Can you folks suggest specific varieties of sheep, goats or cattle that would be best suited to the farm (described below)? I want hardy, healthy animals (heritage is good, if practical) that can flourish on our site and allow me to generate a minimum of $5000/year on 60 acres of good pasture (currently farmed but would plant to pasture), plus 20 of pine wood and coastal scrub. I need that much to replace the rent the farmer pays us for the land.

Meat is a sensible first product, with a secondary product of wool or milk soaps (don't have money to set up a commercial dairy on site) plus kids/calves. Lots of Mexican and South American families around who would likely eat goat and sheep. Wealthy cities nearby for farmer's markets, but transportation cost is an issue.

Moisture is the challenge: our farm (my 16 acres and mother's 100 acres) is surrounded by water on two sides, a marsh to one side and a tidal river on the front, sheltered from the Atlantic by barrier islands and marshes. Climate zone 8. Average winter temps in the 40s, lows in the 20s. Grass grows well for 9 months out of the year. Long, humid summers. Extremely fertile soil drains well, but parts of the property are occasionally covered by standing fresh water for 12-24 hours when there's a storm tide with heavy rain (just the low spots, not the whole place).

Ticks, chiggers and mosquitos are an issue. There are lots of wild deer around. Few livestock farms on the Eastern Shore, lots and lots of corn, soy, wheat, tomatoes, potatoes.

What livestock can do well on land like that? I take care of my animals, but I'm not looking for a hobby flock or a herd of pets. If I can't find animals that earn their keep plus $80/acre (after a reasonable investment of $ and time, of course), I'm better off letting the farmer do his thing.

Any suggestions?
 

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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
p.s. I can also plant part of that acreage in hay and harvest it for winter feed. I'd have to pay the farmer to plant and harvest it when he's working the back acreage.
 

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Hardy, mixed breed cattle do well on coastal pasture from Houston , south to Mexico. One difference is that in addition to the bugs you mention, the coastal Salt Grass margins are thick with Western Diamondbacks...Glen
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
I'm in Virginia, climate a lot like coastal NC. We have cottonmouths here, and rattlesnakes too. We also have endemic rabbies - is that a problem for livestock? I'd hate to face off against a rabid cow!

The animals wouldn't be grazing in the salt grasses though - the pasture is nice and high (except when it's under water :)
 

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My big concern would be hoof rot. Are there parts of the property for the livestock to retreat to high ground when the lower parts flood?
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Rose, I just wouldn't pasture at all in the areas that flood to deep standing water. There's plenty of high ground, and I can make sure that each pasture area has high ground. The animals would have to be smart enough to choose to walk there!

I'm looking at Devon and Red Poll cattle. I like the personality of goats but don't know if they're too high-maintenance. I'll be the only one working with the animals on a daily basis.
 

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You could try Brahman cattle - they're Indian breeds crossed with European cattle. They're more resistant to pests, hoof rot and tolerate hot humid climate better than regular cattle. Mennonites raise them here in Belize, which to me would be enough of an argument to get them too if I ever went into beef production.
 

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i love the idea of water buffalo but the market for them is so limited.
 

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Romney sheep don't get hoof rot, they were originally called Romney Marsh sheep and are from England, but you can find Romneys here. They were bred in the marshy wet areas of England to be able to withstand being in wet places, unlike most other breeds.
If you crossed them with maybe another sheep breed (for wool, Shetlands are very hardy - or for meat, some of the Hog Island sheep) they might do well.
Trying to make that kind of $$$ in livestock production right away is a little idealistic, no offense meant, because the learning curve is years long (in my experience) and there's the cost to set up fencing and shelter, plus other handling/feeding/maintenance equipment up front, to say nothing of the initial investment in livestock.
If there's a market for hay, and you can get the farmer to cut and bale it for you at a cost that still leaves a profit margin, you might do well advertising to the local cattle and horse people. If anyone in the area still has a baler, kind of getting to be dinosaurs here, at least the square balers.
 

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Consider growing rice/crayfish...for whatever reason the two just go hand-in-hnd, both on the farm and on the dinner plate! I was just reading something about that in the Illinois Steward magazine. It is almosr free money to raise the crayfish in the rice beds...you just have to harvest once you get them established, and it isn't much more than trapping them.

I know this doesn't answer your livestock question, but it would help supplement your income...
 

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This is going to sound weird, but the guy who just leased my pasture put in Corrientes cattle. He gets 'retired' roping calves to start. He said they are really rugged, hustle for their grub, and don't take a lot of care. They wean a 500 lb calf, just like fancy breeds.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Thank, you, folks; many great suggestions.

My place is very close to both Hog Island, so Hog Island sheep would be well suited to my land, and I never knew they existed. I'm going to look into the other sheep suggested, and those scrubby spanish cows, as well.

WeaverRose, your point is well taken about the difficulty of making money in livestock. I suspect that rather than rent my mother's acreage from the get-go I'll start on my own property; I could easily put 6 acres in pasture and get a small herd of something started. I could even get a few of several types of animals to see what I like best and what's best suited to the land. Then I could work out feed and fencing and logistical issues on a manageable scale, develop markets, and choose to expand only if the situation warrants.

Willow, I'm close to Chincoteague, and those ponies are cute, but no pets allowed! :)
 
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