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Most versatile livestock?

Discussion in 'Back to Basics' started by Motomom34, Aug 13, 2016.

  1. Motomom34

    Motomom34 Moderator Moderator Site Supporter++

    Running debate in our home. We were talking livestock and in the future will be purchasing some. The kids think that a horse or two would be the most versatile whereas I think having a few cows would be better, if I have to have a large animal.

    Kids say you can ride a horse, pull things with one and in worse case eat it. I say a horse is too high maintenance and that cows would be easier. Meat, milk and they seem to have trade value- milk, meat or the whole thing. I am not 100% sure but I think cows are easier to fence in though my neighbors cows seem to get out quite a bit.

    Personally, I I think a herd of goats would be the best because they a brush hogs, you can milk them, eat them and they can pull a little cart, though you cannot ride in it. Plus they would not need a large barn.

    What would be your choice of livestock to raise and why?
    chelloveck, Tully Mars, Joe13 and 9 others like this.
  2. Jeff Brackett

    Jeff Brackett Monkey+ Site Supporter

    Are you including poultry in your list of possibilities? If so, I would consider one of the smaller varieties of quail. They breed quickly and easily, are a good meat source, egg source, dropping can be used as fertilizer for the garden, and are pretty quiet so shouldn't attract much attention. I read a blog post once from a guy who had hundreds of them in coops in his garage for three years before any of his neighbors knew it. This was in a "normal" suburban neighborhood.

    EDIT - Found the blog I was thinking of. If you're at all interested...
    coturnix giganticus | simple observations and studies with larger Japanese Coturnix Quail
    Last edited: Aug 13, 2016
  3. ditch witch

    ditch witch resident bacon hoarder Site Supporter+

    Over the years I've raised pigs, goats, sheep, chickens, rabbits, and horses. I've worked with and shown both beef and dairy cattle tho I've never bred either nor had my own herd for an extended period of time. My advice for someone new to the whole idea of livestock in general? Start small. VERY small. The larger the animal, the larger the labor and financial input are.

    Chickens are by far, IMO anyway, the easiest for the noob to get their toes wet with. Their needs are minimal and their start-up cost is extremely low with chicks being available for around $3 each and laying hens around $15-20 a head.. You'll need a secure coop that can be built from nothing fancier than pallets or as grand as Trump Tower. You'll get eggs, and meat if you decide someone belongs in the stew pot. They're also a lot of fun to watch. You'll need an incubator if you plan to produce chicks with any regularity. Broodies are great, if you find you have some, but they set when they want and there's a limit to how many eggs you can cram under them.

    Next up are rabbits. You get meat, and they're easier to process than chickens. Upfront cost for good stock is considerably higher than day old chicks ($15-45 a head or more depending on age, sex, and breed), tho you can always just get free whatevs off Craigslist if you really want to go the cheap route. Unlike chickens, they scratch and bite if not handled regularly and their claws are as nasty as a cat's are, but non-retractable so be prepared to trim nails or wear kevlar gloves when handling the doozies. They also have health issues with air quality and heat... tho where you are, heat won't be a big concern as it is for me down here in Texas. The upside is the poop is garden gold. Cold manure that doesn't need to be aged, just apply directly and watch your garden go nuts.

    Now we move on to "Animals That Require A Trailer", unless you don't mind transporting them in your personal vehicle or you have a pickup, a loading ramp, and a bed cage for them.

    After that I like sheep, specifically hair sheep because unless you're a spinner, there's no market for wool unless you have a fancy breed like Karakul or Churros or something. Shearing sucks. Hair sheep tend to be flightier than woolies, but the more Dorper in them the more settled in the head they'll be. Straight up Barbado and MouflonX are what we used to train wether track dogs on (dogs trained to chase show goats around a track) because they run like the dickens. However they're extremely self sufficient so if I wanted to get back into sheep for meat I'd go back to the hair sheep ewes (Barbado, Dall, Katahdin) and get the best Dorper ram I could afford to run with them. This would mean around $35-55 a head for the ewes and upwards of $400 for the ram, in my area. You won't bother milking sheep unless you have Fresiens (I can't spell it) or one of the rare milking breeds. Lambs tend to come in twins most often, then triplets, then singles, and they're freaking adorable. And tasty.

    Pigs are something I could never justify the expense of maintaining breeding stock. Sows get freaking massive and eat a ton. Whereas I can buy weaners for $25 a head and just raise them up to slaughter weight for considerably less. I used to buy pigs in the fall and put them where my garden was for the winter. They'd till it up and root up all the missed carrots as well as grubs and whatnot, crap all over it, and come spring time they'd be ready for the butcher and my garden plot would be ready to plant. I had to use hot wire around the perimeter tho since they would dig under anything else. Sometimes I think if I had the place and a suitably fenced paddock I'd get a few Berkshire gilts and raise my own Kurobuta pork.

    Goats are funny critters who talk a lot and never stop looking for an escape to the world beyond their fence. There are meat breeds (Boers, Myotonics, Savannahs, Kikos), milkers (Alpine, Toggenburg, Saanan, La Mancha (no ears), Nubian (floppy ears), Kinders, Nigerian Dwarfs, Oberhasli, and some others I forget), and lawn mowers (Pygmies). Dairy animals require a serious commitment, and this goes for dairy cows as well. We had a dairy in the family for generations and it was milking at 4 am and 4 pm, every-single-day. I had some Nubians for a while, and had a routine where I'd leave their kids with them all day, then separate them in the evening. In the morning I'd milk the does, then turn them out with the kids. It worked ok, but it's still an every day commitment. Expenses are higher than you'd think. You'll need to administer CD&T shots as well as tetanus ones, and there's a health issue goats are prone to called caseous lymphadentitis, or CL, that causes them to get abscesses around their lymph nodes and various other places including internally. It's highly contagious and zoonotic (transmissable to humans). Good breeders work hard to keep this out of their herds but auction goats? All bets are off. Then there's CAE, Caprine Arthritis and Encephalitis, which may or may not present symptoms but if you see a goat with big swollen knees, it's a good bet she has it. It passes from dam to kid through the milk, which is why a lot of dairy goat breeders bottle feed all their kids and use pasteurized milk for it. If you want dairy goats, be sure to check if the breeder maintains a CAE/CL free herd. No sense in paying hundreds of dollars for someone else's headache. Yeah they'll pull a cart, I had a 225 pound NubianXBoer wether who pulled carts and carried backpacks for camping. Hitch up a team of big wethers and you can ride in hilarious style behind them.

    Cows. I showed 'em in high school and milked my uncles herd every summer for years. Beyond that I don't know a whole heck of a lot about raising them beyond what I learned in high school and college Ag classes, and from having to deal with them while team penning and showing horses in cutting and working cowhorse. If you need cows herded around an arena I'm your girl, but raising them will get a blank look from me. :D

    Horses are $$ critters. $$ to buy, $$ to feed, $$ to shoe, and $$$$$$ for those 3 am Saturday night colic calls to the vet. The romantic in me fantasizes about having a team of Belgians like my cousins did, and using them to pull carts and hay rakes and a surrey. The realist reminds me that there's only a couple of farriers in my area who will even touch a draft hoof and a trim for those dinner plate feet runs $80. Still, a little team of sturdy Fjords or Haflingers would be fun and if I fall off one while riding, it's not that far to the ground. :D I put horses at the end of the list because, IMO anyway, they're the most expensive to have and to hold. They're like the trophy wives of livestock, even the ugly ones with bad hair. BUT, a good looking horse under your son will definitely help him pick up cute girls so I can see why he's voting equine. :D
    BlueDuck, Clyde, chelloveck and 20 others like this.
  4. Yard Dart

    Yard Dart Vigilant Monkey..... Moderator Site Supporter++

  5. Ganado

    Ganado Monkey+++

    I agree with everything @ditch witch posted. Start small and I would not start with any dairy. Milking 2x a day is a huge commitment and you have to do it at the same time everyday.

    Horses are too spendy for what they provide
  6. Oltymer

    Oltymer Monkey+

    When you take on animals you are owned by them.
  7. Wild Trapper

    Wild Trapper Pirate Biker

    I've had pigs to raise for meat not for breeding, goats that I milked and some for meat, (good eating), chickens for eggs and meat. Now just some chickens for eggs because store eggs suck.

    Because I was brought up and lived and worked on farms as a youngster, I know better than to mess with larger animals on small acres, they just require more space and work than I have ever had the time, space or money to justify. Even milk goats require that you are there twice a day to milk them. If you have to go away, you have to find some neighbor willing to do it for you and either you teach them to do it or find someone who knows how to milk them while you are gone.
  8. TXKajun

    TXKajun Monkey++

    I think "every single day" in the posts above should be in caps, font 50. No vacations unless you get someone to take over milking. No working late (which may be a blessing in disguise! LOL). No more excuses like "I don't feel like getting up this morning, so I'll just sleep in" or "I am sick and can't get out of bed." or "I had too much party last night and am soooooo hungover that I can't get up" (not that any of us would ever be in this situation. :) ) Tons of responsibility. Every day. Every week. Every month. Every year.

  9. Ganado

    Ganado Monkey+++

    Feeding animals is the same but milking you pretty much have to be on schedule. Think how you feel with a full bladder and add pain when not milked on time
  10. ditch witch

    ditch witch resident bacon hoarder Site Supporter+

    Not to mention, trying to get someone to take over non-automated milking means 1) teaching them how to actually milk, which is trickier than you'd think, 2) convincing them it's awesome to have a cow repeatedly slap them in the face with a crap covered tail, and 3) getting them to do it at exact times of the day. A goat is easier in that there's no crusted tail, but they still find ways to stick their feet in the pail just two seconds before you pull it away from them.
    chelloveck, Ganado, 3M-TA3 and 5 others like this.
  11. Kingfish

    Kingfish Self Reliant

    Rabbits have been the easiest for me. I can feed them my lawn , Dandelions, grass, and we added lots of alfalfa and white clovers. Easy to grow grass. Best long term in my opinion. Chickens are more work as in feed. Take away the feed mill ? Rabbits and Goats seem to thrive on what you can grow easily.
  12. AxesAreBetter

    AxesAreBetter Monkey++

    Rabbits eat and pelt. Goats CAN milk, eat and pelt. Horses CAN milk, Work, Ride, Eat, and Pelt. Oxen can Work, Pelt, Eat. Cows CAN milk, eat, pelt. Sheep CAN milk, eat, wool, pelt. Fowl eat, and fluff. Pigs eat, but damn do they eat.

    Depends on what you WANT the livestock to do. Oxen pulls as much as 2 draft horses, But, at 1/2 to 2/3 the speed. Horses Ride, and do they ride, and they can perform tasks. Rabbits eat, and the pelts are EXCELLENT heat sinks, but they don't have much fat, and you WILL die if you lean on them feed you too hard. Goats and Sheep CAN weedeat some, if the weeds aren't poisons, and you still have to fence them. Fowl eat, and can egg, but require fencing, and they are so easy to have just die on you.
    Depends on which features you value.
  13. Motomom34

    Motomom34 Moderator Moderator Site Supporter++

    Thank you for all the input. I guess I am raising a couple of kids that believe S could HTF so they are thinking transportation and plowing fields but I think to use a horse to ride and to plow would be chancy. If you are using the horse as a work horse, they may not be up for a ride to civilization the next day. I really do not know much about either but was unsure where to start researching. I think stating small is good advice because horses are high maintenance IMO and I have no clue what the maintenance consists of.
    chelloveck and Wild Trapper like this.
  14. 3M-TA3

    3M-TA3 Cold Wet Monkey

    IIRC, the families who participated in Frontier House found that life depended on a horse and a cow. Watching it I understood why horse thieves and cattle rustlers were lynched.

    kemps, Motomom34, Ganado and 3 others like this.
  15. Joe13

    Joe13 Monkey

    Goats. The quiet kind.
    Milk, meat, they can pack or pull a cart. They also will mostly free range if you have some property.

    Pigs because they eat about everything so no waste and bacon - nough said lol.

    Chickens for eggs and you can rotate them into the goat or pig pastures to eat all the bugs the dung brings.

    Rabbits if you have little room for meat.

    Those are my future plans.
    Motomom34 and Wild Trapper like this.
  16. AxesAreBetter

    AxesAreBetter Monkey++

    An in shape horse, so long as it does not come down with a malady, will do basically the same work day in and day out. You can plow half a day, throw the saddle on, run to town, and back, so long as you don't overwork the sob. And you can do light duty with a riding horse if you train them. Would not recommend plowing, but buggies and tree hauling are EASILY in their wheelhouse.
    I'm trying to get the funds together to pick me a couple up. Spent a few years researching into what I wanted. Now, if you get a draft animal, be sure a put some room aside to grow and store grains. It's pretty easy to do. And rabbits also run primarily off hay and oats, so you can pull double duty if you can swing the start up.

    My $.02 would be to consider a pig. A lot of the equipment and experience will carry over, and you can eat the thing at any point you get in over your head without any real repercussions other than then having to cold smoke the bacon. haha.
    Motomom34, ditch witch and Joe13 like this.
  17. Joe13

    Joe13 Monkey

    Just remember to learn how to trim a horses hooves and know how to shoe them if your riding them.

    But I don't own horses, just been around people who do.

    My friends have to trim their goats hooves but not shoe them so that was my deciding factor. They aren't nearly as powerful as a horse though either as was pointed out above.
    Motomom34 likes this.
  18. Tully Mars

    Tully Mars Metal weldin' monkey Site Supporter+

    The bacon lovin chick with the smokin heels just posted the best overall advice on this subject that I've read in a very long time-maybe ever.

    That being said, if you do end up going with larger animals I like pigs, cattle. Have raised both for years. Was raised on a cattle ranch. Just my opinion, I don't like sheep, and I friggin hate stinkin assed goats. They are of no use to me.
    I am a Cowboy, so of course I love horses. As DW mentioned, they are a lot of work if you expect to be able to do anything with them. Honestly other than transport you'd probably be better off with a mule for load bearing or plowing,ect. Don't get me wrong, horses can carry heavy burdens and can pull a stump or plow, whatever, but most riding breeds are not great at the draft horse chores.

    We don't rent pigs..
    Yard Dart, Motomom34, Ganado and 2 others like this.
  19. Cruisin Sloth

    Cruisin Sloth Special & Slow

    trophy wives of livestock = Horses & @ 1 time ,I had both !!
    Hairless Sloth !!
    Ditch Witch is 100% , we have birds & goats,pigs & rabbits are next .
    Just back from the 4H Fair ..
    It's for the Kids !! who will one day pay it like me & my teachers
    Ganado, Joe13 and Wild Trapper like this.
  20. Brutus57

    Brutus57 "You may fire when you are ready, Gridley."

    We raised horses, cows, a couple dozen chickens when I was really young...fortunately I missed out on the pigs. No goats.....My grandad had a half jersey and angus cow he milked, just enough for him, grams, and their kids (my dad, uncles and aunts) that wanted it.... Cows are pretty sturdy, we didn't have a lot of vet calls for the 30-50 cattle we raised... Horses???? Fun to ride and great long distance transpo if no gas.....but the EAT $$$ High water mark we had 14 horses and ponies, return on the dollars, kept my mom busy and mostly happy. I have considered goats but second thinking that after reading Ditchwitch post.

    Since it's me and the wife only now....one milk cow would be plenty for milk, butter and cheese with raising a steer every 2-3 years if the neighbor had a bull. Might do chickens for eggs.

    Brutus Out
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