Deciding on Livestock

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by Crunchy Mama, Jun 27, 2006.

  1. Crunchy Mama

    Crunchy Mama Hugs, Love & Bare Feet

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    Hi Everyone!

    I have to say again how much I am learning from y'all and how cool I think you guys (and gals, of course) are! I love the closeness that these forums have...yes, folks disagree, but in general, everyone is so supportive...what a wonderful example to set!

    OK, mushy stuff aside...we are looking for a farm to call our own. I am excited to move to the "country" (most urban/suburbanites would think we are already in the "sticks"! LOL) and we are having a blast looking at different places & are not in a big rush to move, so we are just waiting for the place that comes closest to being "it". That said, "my" plan includes fixing fences/ putting up fences/ general repairs in the fall and winter (when we are planning to move...we hope to move within the next few months)...Chickens in the spring along with rabbits (we've got experience with rabbits, but only want to do one "new" animal at a time, we definitely want chickens for eggs/meat, so we are going with those first), my plan after that included goats...but I am having second thoughts as to how productive goats are actually going to be. Beyond thinking they're "cute" and maybe getting one to milk...not really sure...My children would adore goats, but again, as a homeschooling mom of three boys with epilepsy and I will also be the primary person working the farm/tending to animals & garden, I question how much the goats will contribute to the family's life. And if the expense of keeping them is worthwhile. That said, I'd like to eventually have at least a couple different kinds of animals...my husband has suggested ostriches (ironically, so has my dad), but I'm just not sure about that...petting an ostrich is just not as appealing as cuddling with a tame goat! :)

    So, I'm just wondering...and I know there are bunches of "goat people" here...I really do love the animal, have learned quite a bit about the different breeds, care, etc...so I'd love to hear both pro and con goat as well as ostrich (eek!), I'm not really interested in horses or larger animals (including cows), not too sure about pigs...not too keen on butchering a large animal yet...

    For those of you with animals, did you go into your homesteading journey having an idea of exactly what you wanted or did you figure things out first and then figure out your livestock? Thanks so much for your time!
     
  2. tinknal

    tinknal Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Ostrich are old news. They have no real market value, and there is a ton of them around that no one wants. Also avoid alpaca, they are big buck right now but the market on them is going to implode any day now too.
     

  3. Spinner

    Spinner Well-Known Member

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    Avoid Emu also. Many people have turned them out to run free cause they couldn't afford to keep feeding them.
     
  4. goatlady

    goatlady Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Any of those "birds" are nasty and could really hurt the kids and/or you. They are useless as a homestead animal. Goats are very productive and my girls always supported themselves with the milk I sold, cheese I made and sold, and extra babies sold not counting the milk, cheese, and meat they provided for the family AND the companionship. All around excellent animal for a small homestead. Takes me 10 minutes to milk my current one doe and subtracting what she is still feeding to 2 kids I am tanking in the house about 1/2 gallon a day. As I said, they were self-supporting so there was very little expense involved other than the initial purchase price and fencing. They don't eat much grain at all or I should say they don't NEED much grain at all and depending on where you are you might not even need any hay for winters. Just remember goats are browsers and grass is their LAST choice of roughage - they prefer branbles, weeds, bushes and brush, young trees and leaves they can reach on older trees.
     
  5. Freeholder

    Freeholder Well-Known Member

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    If you can raise most of your own feed, yes, goats are an economically viable animal to keep -- depending, of course, on how much dairy products your family can actually use. Most decent dairy goats of the standard sized breeds will give at least a gallon of milk a day, and many give much more than that. You can make cheese from that, and other goodies, but it's still a lot of milk to use up, and there is no getting around the fact that there's quite a time requirement. It sounds to me like you already have your hands full with the boys. Chickens and rabbits don't take up a lot of time for daily chores. A garden does, but except for making sure things get watered when it's dry, it's mostly not extremely time-critical. Sure, things need to be harvested and 'put up' when they are ready, or they'll spoil, but the timing doesn't have to be as precise as, for instance, making cheese. So, I think your plans for starting out are good. What I would suggest is waiting at least a couple of years before you even think about adding goats. See how things are going, how your routines are working out. Then, if you can really use the milk and meat, and find you can fit the animals and the dairy into your schedule, go for it!

    Kathleen
     
  6. tinknal

    tinknal Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Kathleen, excess milk can be fed to chickens, dogs, pigs, etc.
     
  7. Crunchy Mama

    Crunchy Mama Hugs, Love & Bare Feet

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    Thanks for the opinions! I am not big on birds at all! I do want chickens because I have three boys & my parents with us, I bake a lot & we eat eggs as a big part of our protein, several days a week, I can live with chickens... I would be terrified of an ostrich, hadn't even considered emus...but thought I'd ask because my husband (a very NOT outdoorsy kind of guy), made the comment about "up and coming" meat...low fat, etc... Good to know that they are not up and coming...I think they're scary. LOL! I was so saddend to read of people letting their animals go (emu or not...that's just not right! :flame: ) because they didn't learn about the animal first...awful.

    Goatlady, thanks for the tips on goats...I knew there were 'goat folks' here who would give me the good points...I almost want someone to talk me into it because I think the boys would have a blast. I've got a two year old (just turned two) who is absolutely fascinated by our new puppy...he is completely fearless and I just can picture him running around with "the goats"....I love that mental picture and I know my older boys would get a charge out of doing animal chores, I mean, realistically, they won't be thrilled for too long... but once they know what to do, they won't have a choice (muah ha ha ha). I think I'm a little fearful of the milk itself...do you pasturize? I'm a suburban girl by upbringing and although I've had lots of time & a good degree of experience with many different animals, I've got a healthy fear of germs. (not helped by having three medically fragile children!) Is your milking procedure & milk preparation (pasturizing, etc?) difficult? Cheese, yogurt? (Easy, time consuming, difficult?) Do you have a buck or do you take them out to breed the "girls"? How long after kidding does a doe continue to provide milk? Is milking by hand sufficient or do you use any equipment? I've also never had goat meat and must admit that I don't know that I would use them for this purpose...mostly a learned thing, I'd guess...I know where our food comes from and its never come from a goat...so maybe that's something I'd get over and just deal with or maybe not...(and for general knowledge...I'm so sorry to ask this....but beefy? chicken-y? Texture?...I did say I was sorry...I really just don't know :rolleyes: ) I was thinking about milking one or two for our own use (I don't know our laws for selling milk, but do know that it is pretty regulated), selling extra "babies" and possibly keeping a buck or two for breeding (do these bucks need to be "special" or champion type animals for other goat owners to want to their does to be bred by them?)

    Thank you all so much...I appreciate it very much!
     
  8. tinknal

    tinknal Well-Known Member Supporter

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    I would also consider ducks. IMO much easier than chickens, but a little more seasonal on egg production.
     
  9. Freeholder

    Freeholder Well-Known Member

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    First, for Tinknal, yes, I know extra milk can be fed to other livestock, I just forgot to mention it! Thanks!

    I don't pasteurize, unless I'm making yogurt or one of the other cheeses that requires pasteurization. I've never pasteurized our drinking milk. As long as you keep your equipment clean and your goats healthy you shouldn't have to. Raw milk is much better for you than pasteurized, and tastes better, too. The disease issues that people associate with raw milk were mostly problems of the age before all the tests we now have to let us know if our goats are sick. You would want to have your animals vet-checked at least once a year (twice a year if you are really concerned).

    Milking itself isn't too time-consuming. My morning chores right now are taking me about an hour, and that includes taking care of seventeen goats (mostly babies, but all weaned now), a small flock of chickens, ducks, and geese, a pen of baby chicks, my outside cats, and outside dog. I'm only milking one of my does right now, though I have three in milk (the other two are nursing their babies). I make sure I have the milking equipment clean and ready to go. When I come in from doing chores, I put away the milk and clean everything up -- another fifteen minutes or so. Of course, with fewer animals, it wouldn't take so long to do chores.

    Goats are a good size for children to help with, though you would want to be careful with small children. Sometimes goats get a little pushy with toddlers and small children (teaching them their place in the herd, I think), and can easily knock a small child over without meaning to. The young goats jump all over one another, and jump all over their people, too, and again, this could be a bad thing with small children. However, my children were all under seven when we got our first goats, and they loved them. My oldest daughter learned to milk that first year, and middle daughter the next year when we had a doe with smaller teats. (My youngest is autistic and has very little to do with the goats, as she doesn't like being jumped on, even by the tiny babies.) Children can easily help fill water bucket, put flakes of hay in mangers, and bottle-feed small babies (the older babies will butt the bottles pretty hard -- I've lost my grip on bottles that way even when I was expecting it). I wouldn't let them feed grain, at least at first, because small children delight in feeding animals, and if not stopped will often feed enough to make the animal sick (I'm thinking of my ex-husband's fish tank and our youngest daughter!). When their hands are large enough, they can learn to milk, too. Working with children and animals, and with making things from the milk, is a good learning experience for everybody.

    Making cheese and yogurt does take time, more or less depending on what kind of cheese you are making. You also need a cool place for hard cheeses to age, unless you want to only make soft, 'fresh' cheeses (they are very good, and have many uses, but hard cheeses keep longer and are also useful). Sometimes you have to stand there stirring, or stay close to keep an eye on milk temperatures. Other times you can set curd to drain, or yogurt to incubate, and go do something else for a while. It gets easier after you've done it a few times.

    Goat meat is good. Beefy, would be the closest comparison with store-bought meat. It's really more like venison than like beef, but honestly, if you put venison in one dish of stew, and beef in another, I usually couldn't tell them apart. Might be able to tell if you are serving steaks or a roast, but if the meat is mixed with other ingredients, you probably won't be able to tell, either. I was just remembering when we got our first goats -- a purebred Alpine doe in milk (with teats the size of summer sausages), and a doe kid to keep her company. I'd been raised on and among farms, and we'd almost always either had cows or bought our milk from a neighbor's dairy. I'd eaten a lot of different kinds of meat, too, being raised on a homestead in Alaska (caribou, moose, bear, bison, porcupine). But I'd never been around goats. So my first sip of goat milk was taken with great trepidation! I quickly found that goat milk (properly handled and with clean equipment and healthy animals) was indistinguishible from cow milk (and have done many taste tests over the years to prove it -- have never had anyone who could tell me which glass contained goat milk and which one had cow milk). I guess the key is being willing to try new things and see if you like them, rather than just assuming something is nasty (as many people do -- I've known some of them!).

    You might consider dual purpose goats -- either Kinders (which I raise, and can vouch for, LOL!) or Boer/Dairy crosses. Some of the latter milk quite well, and the kids grow quickly and are meaty. I have been asking on different forums if anyone has ever had Boers on milk test, because I was curious about the composition of the milk, and finally found someone who did have a couple of does on test -- milk fat was around 8%. The Boer/Oberhasli doe I had was milking over a gallon and a half a day, which pretty much stops the mouths of those who say Boers don't milk. She also had an eleven month lactation.

    Oh, yes, that was another question you had. How long the goat milks after kidding will depend partly on the goat, and partly on her management, but any decent dairy doe will milk for ten months. Then she'll have to be dried off for a couple of months before she kids again. A few does will 'milk through', that is, milk for two or more years without being re-bred. If you need milk but not kids, this would be great, but not all does will do it.

    And about bucks: if you can find a breeder near you, with good-quality, healthy animals, who is willing to let you bring your does for breeding, there is no reason for you to keep a buck. Bucks STINK when they are in rut (most of the time). They can be very affectionate, but you practically have to keep an extra set of clothes just for scratching behind the buck's ears :rolleyes: . I'm quite fond on my bucks, but would be perfectly happy to let someone else be the buck-keeper, if there were any other breeders close enough that I could use their bucks. I'd even switch breeds, so I had the same breed they did, if necessary. IF, however, you end up having to keep a buck, no, you don't need one who is show quality. He does need to be better than your does unless you plan to butcher all the offspring (only keeping him to get the milkers freshened). If you want to sell kids, the better the buck you buy, the easier it will be to sell your kids (the does matter too, don't forget).

    It's getting late, and I need to get up early to work in the garden before it gets too hot tomorrow.

    Kathleen
     
  10. goatlady

    goatlady Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Kathleen has the right of it. Nothing to add except I make the "soft" cheese and it not hard nor time consuming at all. Oh, a goat is preggers 155 days from breeding to birthing, so usually no milk during that 5 months.
     
  11. Freeholder

    Freeholder Well-Known Member

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    Do you dry your does off as soon as you breed them? Most people, me included, milk until about two months before the due date. Milk production does drop off during that time, but you can still get some milk.

    Kathleen
     
  12. rootsandwings

    rootsandwings Well-Known Member Supporter

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    figure out how much milk you drink on average in a given week. I have three children. One nubian doe is providing enough milk for us to drink and bake - haven't tried cheese yet because I'm baking waffles to use up eggs. I don't pasturize.

    the goats (3 - one milker, one dry, kid sold for mid july) take less time than the chickens. they are not expensive to keep but I haven't figured out exactly what the milk is costing me.

    Will you garden? used bedding goes in the garden where the chickens break it up and dig it in and that has value to me also.

    I did the math and the breeding fees for two does are cheaper than keeping a buck. (I'm staggering breeding to try to even out the milk supply, so I bred one in December and will breed the second in August or September, then re-breed the first in february or March)

    You do have to keep to a schedule. we tend toward unschooling, so the schedule is hard. if you are a "school at home" type the morning chores should fit right in.
     
  13. bbbuddy

    bbbuddy Well-Known Member

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    Crunchy Mama, you said no pigs because you weren't sure of butchering large animals, but you can always consider Pot Belly Pigs. After all they are a pig raised for thousands of years in the Far East for family pork, NOT pets.
    They stay smaller but if fed as pigs, not pets, they taste the same and you don't have to contend with an overwhelming size or amount of meat to store. Pigs are a great homestead animal because they are your waste disposal system, that grows you healthy meat at the same time!
     
  14. pookshollow

    pookshollow Pook's Hollow

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    I did the math on my Saanen last year. She was producing 28 litres/week (30? quarts) and I figured it was costing me maybe $10 CDN to feed her. That's buying all my hay and grain (not enough property to raise my own). From that, we (two of us) were getting as much milk as we could use, plus about 4 lbs of cheese. I had a hard time drying her off in time to give her a break before kidding so this year, I'm going to let her milk through and see how far she goes before drying herself off. Oh, she was a first freshener! :) This year she had twins - I'm getting close to 2 quarts now, two weeks after freshening, and I haven't started separating the kids. I had to start milking her as the kids weren't emptying her udder (nowhere close!)

    Now, my little Nubian cross is giving me maybe 1 quart a day - that's with separating her at night and just milking in the am, six weeks after freshening. We'll see if she gets better as time goes by. She's nowhere near the size of the Saanen.

    Anyway, goats are delightful creatures, and I think it's just awesome that you get milk, cheese, amusement and affection from them. :p
     
  15. ozark_jewels

    ozark_jewels Well-Known Member Supporter

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    For all around usefullness, the goat is the best thing on our farm. They eat the brush, give milk, provide meat, provide fertilizer for the garden, provide companionship, entertainment and affection better than most dogs. :) They are not expensive to feed unless you want to give them all the fancy stuff. They basically need shelter, water, browse, loose mineral, and some grain if they are pregnant or milking. We also feed ours some alfalfa pellets or alfalfa hay depending on what is available. They are not hard to care for and are soooooooo much fun.......and have I mentioned they are usefull? :)
     
  16. goatlady

    goatlady Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Kathleen, I've only had 1, a Fr. Alpine that milked up until about a month before kidding, all my other girls dried themselves up about a month or so after breeding.
     
  17. jnap31

    jnap31 garden guy

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    Ditto I plan on keeping some of the heritage breeds when I get home. I love keeping pigs they are so easy to care for.