How many acres do I need?

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by beorning, May 23, 2006.

  1. beorning

    beorning Well-Known Member

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    We're looking at buying land and starting a homestead in five years. For reasons beyond my control, we need to stay in an area where land prices are ridiculously high, limiting the size of the parcel we will be able to purchase. I'm a bit of a rookie, but I have a general idea of what I'm wanting to do, and was wondering if anyone could give me a rough idea of what is feasible on a 10-15 acre parcel.

    Here's the short list:

    I'd like to raise highland cattle. For meat and milk for our own use, and maybe for the odd animal to sell. I'm thinking 5-7 animals maximum.

    I'd like to raise sheep for wool and meat. 10 animals maximum.

    We'll be raising egg chickens as well as running 50-100 broilers in tractors each year.

    rabbits, maybe 20 tops

    I'd like to keep bees.

    We'd like a woodlot big enough to provide around 4 cords of wood per year.

    I'd like a small pond that's big enough to raise fish in. Not attached to the kind of fish, except for not wanting carp.

    We'll want a big garden.

    We're very much in the planning process right now, and I'm just trying to figure out how much I can do on the least amount of land. There are per acre livestock limits here that don't apply on parcels bigger than 8 acres. But I'm not wanting to crowd things.

    Any advice would be appreciated.
     
  2. albionjessica

    albionjessica Hiccoughs after eating

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    Are you planning on growing the hay and other feeds for your animals on your land? What kind of crops will you plant for your own personal use? What percentage of your yearly intake of grains, fruits, and veggies would you like to be able to raise on your homestead? Are you planning on pasturing your sheep, cattle, and chickens? I personally think meat and eggs taste better from pastured livestock than from penned-up animals, but you could save a lot of space if you decided not to pasture.
     

  3. beaglady

    beaglady Well-Known Member

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    If you are moving to an area with high land prices, that's probably because its a relatively populated area. Higher poprulation may mean zoning, which may brig restrictions on how many animals you may be permitted to have on a given piece of land. I'd start with the local municipality to find out what resctrictions may be in place.
     
  4. Clifford

    Clifford Love it, or leave it...

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    Land is at a premium, that is for sure. I don't imagine that 10-15 would be enough for the animals you described. Depends how you plan to feed and house them. A 40, partially wooded would be perfect, but you couuld manage with 30.
     
  5. Queen Bee

    Queen Bee Well-Known Member Supporter

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    It sounds resaonable but you will probably have to feed grain/feed/hay to the larger animals. Cows (we had Black Angus) can really clear a pasture if there is a drought, during winter months or if your pasture is not so good. Sheep, I have no dealings with. Chickens and other fowl can run in the same pasture as the cattle. Honey bees are not a problem at all very little actual space is needed (they will forage up to five miles). Vineyards, ochards, gardens take up small amounts of land if done correctly and there are so many dwarf var. now..Just don't plant things that your family will not eat--it's a waste of money, time and land. I would not think a small wood lot could support your four cords per yr..It would be pushing it. I think even a well managed small, wood lot would have problems but I could be very wrong...
     
  6. Terri

    Terri Singletree & Weight Loss & Permaculture Moderator Staff Member Supporter

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    Here in Kansas, I knew a lady who had 4 head of cattle on her 10 acres.

    She got top dollar for them because they never had implants or anything, but she only had 4 head that she bought as big calves and sold as beef. They got a little (bought) corn every day to make them fatten. I do not know how good her land was because I never saw it: but for her 10 acres supported 4 head of cattle.

    I THOUGHT Kansas would support more cattle on 10 acres than that, but that is what this lady was doing. And, I believe you can support more cattle if you rotate the grazing.

    Out here, a bee yard I THINK tends to run 20 or so hives, and the average honey per year runs perhaps 65 pounds?

    *And, oh yes. Put the bee yard on the OTHER side of the fence from the cattle! On occasion, a cow with a hot, itch back will look at a hive and think "That is the PERFECT height for a scratch"!

    After she knocks the hive over, the bees decide they are under attack and they reply in kind. This injures the cow and damages the hive. A fence between the livestock and the hives is best!
     
  7. beorning

    beorning Well-Known Member

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    Thanks for all the tips, folks.

    We'll be grassfeeding all the ruminants, and running the poultry behind them in tractors. We'll probably start off slow... Chickens and rabbits the first year, maybe a beef steer the second and build up to the full list. Dairying would come last. I would like to put up my own hay.

    I'd like to produce as much of our own food as possible. We'll be growing our own produce, except for the occasional treat from warmer climates. We would like to establish a small orchard. Apples and apricots. And lots of berries of various sorts. Probably won't be growing any grain early on, but I haven't ruled out giving that a whirl. It's not something we plan on being wholly self-sufficient with. Flour is cheap, as is corn.

    I keep getting further confused by my apparent inability to accurately price land. 10-15 acre parcels around here are running between 100-150k with some not so great buildings. Farmettes are about the same if you aren't talking Mcmansion.At least according to my web research. Everyone I talk to in person is saying that it's possible to find land much cheaper. A person in town we met just bought 35 acres with a house for 179k. I think I might give a realtor friend of mine a buzz and see what she can find out for me. Of course, five years from now it will all have changed, but I'd like to know what we can afford ballpark, at any rate.

    I'll definitely do my best to keep the cow away from the bees :)
     
  8. Freeholder

    Freeholder Well-Known Member

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    I'm going to go on the assumption that you will want to be able to raise all your own feed (with high fuel prices, purchased feed is going to be ridiculous in price before much longer).

    Your woodlot for firewood probably needs to be close to eight acres in Wisconsin's climate.

    Your cattle will each need a well-managed acre for pasture (with intensively managed grazing, moving them every day), plus a couple of acres for hay -- each. So figure three acres per cow.

    You ought to be able to keep around six sheep per acre of pasture, and will need about two acres of hay for that many sheep.

    Bees can go in a sunny edge of the woodlot.

    Chickens, if following the cattle around, don't need to have any extra land allotted to them.

    Rabbits go in an outbuilding, and a quarter of an acre of alfalfa would feed quite a few of them.

    Using semi-dwarf fruit trees, and planting them in your yard, you could raise a lot of fruit on a quarter of an acre. Ditto for the vegetable garden, though if you start raising grain for your family, potatoes and pumpkins and corn and dry beans and such, an acre wouldn't be too much.

    The pond you would need to talk to someone about, possibly your local ag. extension agent. They should have some information that would help you decide how big a pond you need.

    You are wise to plan on starting slowly and gradually adding projects. It will take more time than you think, and cost a LOT more than you think, to fence your pastures, build shelters for all the animals, buy whatever equipment is needed, and then buy the animals.

    Kathleen
     
  9. Melissa

    Melissa member

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    Most likely whatever amount you come up with will not be enough. We used to think five acres was plenty, then we got 2 more acres, then 10 more acres and now we are eyeing the 48 acre parcel on the other side of us! I would get the largest amount you can possibly afford.
     
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  10. myheaven

    myheaven Well-Known Member Supporter

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    I assume your in the southren part of wi?? Youll need at least 40+ to do wha tyou want. Look at land watch .com or remax you can find some nice plots. Why must you stay where your at?
     
  11. rambler

    rambler Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Bluejuniperfarm has things pegged about right for the upper lakes states. You would need to buy some grain as well for the cattle & sheep on his numbers. And that is intensive grazing to get by with so little pasture; a drought would be a problem for you.



    --->Paul
     
  12. canfossi

    canfossi Well-Known Member

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    I would think that 50 acres would be a minimum for what you've described. You'll need at least half of it woodlot and the other half for pasture and home/outbuildings. Thanks Chris
     
  13. Al. Countryboy

    Al. Countryboy Well-Known Member

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    Not sure how large your family is, but I have lived on 10 acreas for over 30 years and still have firewood for a few more years. Our winters are mild and have different people always giving me fallen trees. You may not need as many animals as you think. I have 3 does and a buck which is one doe too many. At the moment one doe has 9 babies and the other 7. They will be put in the freezer at 8 or 9 weeks old. Weaned bunnies go into a rabbit tractor. Moms rebred when young are about 4 weeks old. That's alot of rabbit meat. I have 7 laying hens and a rooster and get 5 to 7 eggs a day. Scramble up the extra eggs and put into ice trays and freeze for later use in the winter when eggs slack off.Have about 40 quail and get about 30 eggs a day which we pickle. Have about 6 acreas of pasture on which I have at the moment 3 dairy goats that had 7 kids with 4 already sold. I am getting about 1 1/2 gallons of milk a day. Some of the milk is fed to other animals and the rest is frozen for later use or made into other dairy products. We have a few apple, pear, peach and plum trees and also have a few few blueberry, raspberry,and blackberry bushes. My garden has gotten smaller over the years with kids grown and gone. We have fresh veggies all summer and freeze and give away alot also. I do have a small pond and am trying my luck raising talapia in there this summer. I think management is the key to small homesteads. Like you said, start out slow. Find what works for you.
     
  14. Dreaming

    Dreaming New Member

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    Where in Wisconsin? I live in Racine county and lands gone for as much as 50k an acre.
     
  15. beorning

    beorning Well-Known Member

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    We're in south central wisconsin, between Evansville and Madison in Rock county.

    I've noticed that any further east than we are, the land prices skyrocket.
     
  16. Terri

    Terri Singletree & Weight Loss & Permaculture Moderator Staff Member Supporter

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  17. Lady_Jet

    Lady_Jet Fiber artist & Instructor

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    One of the problems I have with finding my 20 acres is the land in WA State can go for as much as $30k an acre. That's a heck of a lot more than in WI... Y'all are lucky to have it so inexpensively... I'm working to find someone who'll trade for teh acreage I want by doing a property trade...someone who wants to live close to the city (we're less than a mile from the city limits) for a piece that's about 5-20 miles from the city limits. I wouldn't want to live anywhere but in WA State...

    I grew up in WI and have lived in 30 states, and WA is the only state I've found that is livable...though it's not perfect. The last winter I was in WI had over 20 feet of snow in one winter as well as -70 degrees below 0 with the windchill factor. Heck, it was colder in WI than it was in Alaska. The humidity was 98% at 98-115 degrees, and you couldn't find a way to dry off when you got out of the shower.

    I was so happy to move out West I cannot describe it. And I will never move back to live there...even if my blood relatives are still living there. All I have to do is to go back for my high school reunion and I remember why I left. I see my relatives every 5 years and that's plenty. It's not worth it for my health (physical and emotional) to be in WI for more than a week... Not to mention the allergies I had when I lived there were something fierce and the only time I was comfortable in WI was in the autumn... IMHO, I loved the Autumn in Wisconsin...the only time it was livable for me.

    Jet :shrug:
     
  18. MullersLaneFarm

    MullersLaneFarm Well-Known Member

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    We're in NW IL, have 13 acres we use. About 3 is in hay field. We use rotational grazing. We keep 1-2 milk cows, a beef steer, 2 draft horses on this land. We still need to buy hay although in the past we have had access to another 15 acres of organic hay fields where we get half the bales for haying it for the owner. We also keep meat & egg chickens, geese, turkeys, guineas. There is a pig pen that supports 4-6 hogs twice a year. Round if off with a couple bee hives, fruit trees & veggie/herb gardens.

    It doesn't totally support our family of 5, but it sure makes a big dent in the food bill year 'round. We haven't had to buy meat or milk products in 4 years.

    (eta: You might be interested in the Homesteading weekend we are hosting July 29-30, 2006)