Farm Livestock: Choosing Mid-Sized and Large Animals

Farm livestock can overtake your time and energy on the farm, how to choose mid-sized and large animals, including pigs, sheep, dairy goats, horses, cows, cattle and disposing of unwanted livestock.

| May/June 1987

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    Still, it's wise not to commit yourself to large or mid-sized livestock without first analyzing the vastly greater demands on your time, facilities and budget that such stock will make.
    ILLUSTRATION: JOAN LANDIS
  • Figure 4: farm animals
    Figure 4: A simple shed provides adequate shelter.
    JOAN LANDIS
  • Figure 3: farm animals
    Figure 3: Lure hungry hogs into the loading chute with food.
    JOAN LANDIS
  • Figure 1: farm animals
    Figure 1: Pigs are not finicky eaters.
    JOAN LANDIS
  • Figure 2: farm animals
    Figure 2: Converting a pig into pork.
    JOAN LANDIS
  • Figure 6: farm animals
    Figure 6: When it comes to sheep, get on the shearer's circuit or learn to do the fleecing chores yourself.
    JOAN LANDIS
  • Figure 5: farm animals
    Figure 5: A minimal flock consists of a ram and two or three ewes.
    JOAN LANDIS
  • Figure 8: farm animals
    Figure 8: Centuries of genetic manipulation by humans have left the modern ewe with a myriad of birthing problems.
    JOAN LANDIS
  • Figure 7: farm animals
    Figure 7: You'll need to fence your pasture well, or else keep shepherd dogs with the flock to discourage feral canines.
    JOAN LANDIS
  • Figure 10: farm animals
    Figure 10: Each of your bred ladies will produce one or two kids—every one of which you'll have to bottle-feed to weaning age.
    JOAN LANDIS
  • Figure 9: farm animals
    Figure 9: Dairy goats require a lot of attention. Twice each day—early and late—you'll have to fetch each doe from pasture or pen to the milking station.
    JOAN LANDIS
  • Figure 12: farm animals
    Figure 12: Unfortunately, few custom meat cutters will process goats, so you'll probably have to do the butchering yourself.
    JOAN LANDIS
  • Figure 11: farm animals
    Figure 11: Being natural climbers, goats will clamber up rocks, trees, walls, low sheds and floppy wire fences.
    JOAN LANDIS
  • Figure 15: farm animals
    Figure 15: Before you buy, think: Can you honestly find a use for two to three gallons of raw cow milk per day?
    JOAN LANDIS
  • Figure 14: farm animals
    Figure 14: To develop a good team requires years of training, preferably begun when the animals are colts.
    JOAN LANDIS
  • Figure 13: farm animals
    Figure 13: For such large beasts, horses are surprisingly delicate.
    JOAN LANDIS
  • Figure 16: farm animals
    Figure 16: Feeder cattle are nowhere near as difficult and expensive to keep as milkers.
    JOAN LANDIS

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  • Figure 4: farm animals
  • Figure 3: farm animals
  • Figure 1: farm animals
  • Figure 2: farm animals
  • Figure 6: farm animals
  • Figure 5: farm animals
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  • Figure 16: farm animals

MOTHER'S Handbook: How to choose the right mid-sized and large farm livestock animals for your farm. 

Farm Livestock: Choosing Mid-Sized and Large Animals

Moving from raising the bees, poultry and rabbits we discussed in MOTHER EARTH NEWS NO. 104 to keeping "real" livestock is quite a jump. Nonetheless, doing so is a move many newly arrived countryfolk are eager to make. And most of the time, things work out just fine for novice keepers of cattle, horses, sheep, goats and pigs. Still, it's wise not to commit yourself to large or mid-sized livestock without first analyzing the vastly greater demands on your time, facilities and budget that such stock will make. Once you've done your research and feel certain you're ready, I'd suggest starting of with feeder pigs. (See Figures 1 through 16 in the image gallery.)

Raising Pigs

As mid-sized farm animals go, pigs are easy to care for. They can be purchased inexpensively (for as little as $20 in many cases) as weaned piglets (shoats), require only a small pen and rudimentary shelter from the elements, need be kept just through the warm-weather months to mature and are anything but finicky eaters (Figure 1). With pigs, you have little to lose and much to gain. Even if your initial experience suggests that "pig ranching" isn't your cup of soup, you'll still have earned both that knowledge and a freezerful of tender, delicious, additive-free pork.  

Mature pigs kept as breeders require only four or five pounds of mash daily, plus whatever table scraps you can come up with. To fuel a 20- to 40-pound shoat to maturity (at which point you'll net around 120 pounds of hams, pork chops, ribs and bacon) will require six to seven months and some 500 pounds of hog pellets plus table scraps—or a half-ton-plus of garden excess or restaurant garbage. Including the cost of hog pellets, cholera shots and wear and tear on your equipment, you can raise pork for well under $1 a pound with little more effort than filling the feed and water troughs once a day.



To convert a pig into pork, you'll need either a) block and tackle, scalding drum, bell scraper, knives, stunning gun, cutting table, pickling tank and smokehouse (Figure 2); or b) the will and a way to haul several hundred pounds of uncooperative hog to a butcher. (Expect to pay from $30 to $50 per adult hog for custom butchering, hams and bacon salted and smoked in the bargain.)

To transport hogs, I equip my pickup with strong side and end rails, then herd the oinkers up a sturdy 2-1/2-footwide loading chute equipped with solid, three-foot-high sides (so the cantankerous beasts can't see out and be tempted to bolt). Here's a method for simplified pig loading:






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