Livestock Animals: When’s the right time for a new addition?
I sometimes read of homesteaders/farmers coming home with livestock animals every week. Some of them seem like they might just actually be addicted to buying chickens! Personally, I have an amazing amount of self-control when it comes to adding livestock to my homestead. This may mostly be because I like to be informed before adding a new addition, but to each their own; this is a no judgment zone! We’ve brought home rabbits with no idea what we were doing (YIKES!) so now I try to read up before making a new “purchase”. I’ve decided there’s really no absolutely perfect time to add more animals to your homestead, but there are a few things you can do to become more comfortable with the choice you make. These are in no particular order!
Space for your Livestock
One of the most important parts of adding livestock to your homestead is making sure you have space for those animals. This can be different for each person, we all have our own way of raising animals. You want to make sure that your animal will at least have a clean place to sleep and a way to keep their food and water containers away from contamination. Each animal requires a different amount of space, so do your research to make sure you prevent overcrowding.
Have your housing prepared and ready BEFORE bringing home your new livestock animal addition. This tip I give from past experience! Some animals don’t need much. For example, at the bare minimum, all a pig needs is a 3 walled shelter with a slanted roof so they have the option to get away from the elements. Your chickens need a hen house to roost and lay eggs and, in some areas, an enclosed coop to keep your chooks away from predators and/or out of the neighbor’s yard. You’ll experience the stress of your life bringing home new livestock with no plan for housing. Also, would you want to be brought to a new “home” where there’s nowhere for you to actually stay?
This is a huge one. How much is your new livestock animal going to cost you? You’d be amazed how much information you can find on how much it costs to raise an animal. For example, our next addition our homestead will be goats and simply saying I’ve been doing my research is an understatement. Weed ’em & Reap is my absolute favorite outlet for goat information! There’s a great article called “How Much Does a Goat Cost?” on their site and she really breaks everything down so well. You should go to your feed stores (yes, all of them) and compare prices. We have Tractor Supply, Rural King, and a couple of local, small-business feed stores in my area.
Before I decide to purchase a new animal I go to each store with a notepad and write down the prices of all the materials I’ll need for that type of livestock. These materials include, but aren’t limited to, your daily feed, medications, and even how much things like feeding troughs will cost you. Keep in mind that your “start-up” expenses are just as important to know as your daily expenses are. By doing this, you can get a good idea of where you’ll be getting your materials from and how much it’s going to run you.
How much do you know about your livestock animal of interest? Recently we got a pig (read about it here and here) and it was really a spur of the moment endeavor. Someone offered us a 3-month-old pig and I was absolutely not ready in many ways. Luckily, I had the housing and lot for her because the previous owners of our land also had farm animals. Within one week, I learned more about pigs than I ever thought I’d know. My days were filled with reading about different breeds, how to feed a pig, how pigs act, how to butcher a pig, etc. After doing my research, I felt so much more comfortable with our decision to say “Yes” to the offer.
You need to know the sicknesses your animals can get and how to treat them. How quickly is your animal expected to grow? What foods should you and shouldn’t you feed your animal? Prepare and inform yourself about what you’ll be doing with things like their old bedding and waste (composting it usually works!). Also, know how much of a time commitment is required for the new livestock of choice. For example, pigs require more work than chickens, in my experience.
I mentioned this earlier, and it really falls under the topic of housing, but I want to talk more about it. What I mean by accessories are things like your watering trough, feed pans, wallows/pools, salt blocks, roosts, laying boxes, etc. You don’t want to feed your livestock animals (or any animal for that matter) on the ground, so be sure to have a clean container to eat their meals from. All livestock requires clean, fresh water at all times no matter the animal. Water troughs would be an accessory you want to have prepared before getting home. It’s not a big deal to use a Tupperware temporarily, but it would reduce your stress having it all there to start with.
Finally, why are you purchasing this livestock animal?
- Food or friend? Deciding on this before bringing an animal home will make it so much easier to stick to your decision.
- Is your reasoning the same as the others involved? If no, try to come to some agreeance to reduce stress.
- Breeding to sell or breeding for personal use/consumption? I’ve only bred rabbits and chickens for personal use/consumption, but imagine things would be done differently if I were to sell my meat.
You can’t completely prepare yourself when it comes to a new addition on the homestead. Each animal is totally different and will present you with their own obstacles, good or bad. My first-time goat experience probably won’t be the same as yours and vice versa. We can only do our very best to prepare, and after that, we’re along for the ride! Good luck!