Farm Livestock: Choosing Food Producing Animals

Farm livestock can overtake your time and energy on the farm, learn essential management techniques when choosing food producing animals for your farm.

| March/April 1987

MOTHER'S Handbook: How to choose the right food-producing farm livestock animals for your farm. 

Farm Livestock: Choosing Food Producing Animals

Many good folks dream of the day they can exchange the noise, dirt, and pressure of city life for the tranquility of a country place with a cozy house, a big garden—and livestock. It's the animals that really make a rural home special, isn't it? Only with a flock of glossy-feathered poultry, a few gentle sheep, a mare with a frisky colt, or maybe even a great-eyed Jersey cow does the picture of country living come alive.

But there's a hitch, a big hitch. While the house will wait patiently for its repairs and you can make up for a week's garden neglect with a hose and hoe, farm livestock demand continual care and attention. Many new country dwellers populate the barn before they're ready to take on the challenges involved, and then find their long-anticipated rural tranquility transformed into plain old drudgery. They can't even get away once in a while not once Daisy's marvelous milk machine starts turning their meadow grass into two or three gallons of Grade A every day.

Don't let yourself become unwittingly indentured by what I call the livestock trap, and end up as much servant to your animals as they are to you. Think through each acquisition of a living creature...know how it will change your life before you take it on...learn essential management techniques in advance...and build your animal facilities ahead of time. Do all that, and livestock can be a major satisfaction of country living.

In this two-part series, I'll move from what I consider the least to the most demanding livestock and tell what you should know, good and bad, about each of the main barnyard creatures before you take it on. That way you'll be better able to pick the ones that are right for you. (I'll even tell you how to get rid of any that don't work out.)

Now, I won't tell you my long story about the spring I learned to string fence through cold New England rain and biting insects while my newly arrived piglets and goats merrily trashed the milking parlor. Just believe me when I recite this crucial rule: Take on only one type of animal at a time. And don't be in too big a rush to get started, either. Be sure you have the garden in, the house livable, the well flowing in reliably, and the septic system flowing out even more reliably before you so much as look at livestock. Then get the fences up, pens built, water piped, and hay racked before you actually adopt your first animal.

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