I’m a prepper, however my situation is a little different than most. I wanted to write an article explaining my unique challenges.
My family has a small ranch in New Mexico. In the old days when it rained more often we ran about 100 head of cattle. With the drought that has hit the southwest so hard, we’re down to about 50.
I know most of you are thinking, oh my goodness this guy is so lucky. He can eat all the beef he wants when TSHTF. The answer is yes, and no. I had about the same initial reaction when I first started prepping. I thought I’d just go home, to the ranch, from my day job and be safe. I read all the books and browsed all the prepping blogs, then began to realize it wasn’t so simple. Not only did I have to prep for myself, I had to prep for 50 head of cattle! Plus a lot of other animals like chickens and dogs.
After I got my beans, bullets, and band aids squared away, my family and I started prepping for the cattle. There’s little question that they are our greatest resource. Imagine what half a beef could net us in a barter situation when everyone is starving. Provided I can defend the livestock, and keep them happy, healthy, and alive.
Everything needs water. There are dozens of articles about water on survivalblog. One gallon per person per day seems to be the golden rule. For a cow in 100 degree summer heat its 50 gallons a day! Crunch the numbers and that’s around 3,000 gallons of water per day worst case. Some days they don’t need near as much. We’re in the high desert, and do not have surface water. No streams, lakes, ponds, etc. Our current water source is pumped via an AC pump from a depth of ~600ft. Running a generator to pump the water we would need isn’t feasible. Solar was the solution. We ended up drilling a new well and equipping it with a solar pump that can produce about 2,500-3,000 gallons a day in the summer. To supplement this we installed a very large and complex rain catchment system. All in all we have ,7500 gallons of potable (people) water and 38,000 gallons of stock water that we keep on hand at any given time. This is fed all over the place via gravity to stock troughs and solar powered booster pumps to other areas such as the house. As you can imagine this cost a great deal of money and my income is lower middle class. It was a matter of priority setting for us. In a grid down situation the cattle would all die without water. That is not acceptable.
Here’s some advice about drilling a new water well. I did a lot of the work on the well myself to save money. Of course the actual drilling was done by a “professional”. When you interview your well driller be sure to ask the following question, “Are you the actual person who will drill the well?” Make sure it’s not his cousin, son, or some neighbor down the road. We ended up with an inexperienced guy. Our well also proved to be extra difficult to drill, because soon after drilling started he ran into caves and basically freaked out. This ended up costing more money. Ask around for recommendations and don’t just go with the lowest bid.
If you choose to install the pump and pipe yourself be sure to put more check valves than you think you’ll need. I put one every 200 feet, and it’s not enough. Install a good brass check valve every 100 feet. Do your own research about the gauge of wire to be used. I ran number 10 wire down to the pump at 575 feet. To compensate for the DC voltage drop I added another solar panel to bump up the voltage instead of buying the recommend more expensive number 6 wire. The new well is working better than I dreamed it could. Solar water pumping is amazing.
To feed cattle; it rains, the grass grows, and the cattle eat the grass. Unfortunately for good healthy critters you have to add to that diet. At the very least you must give your cattle some salt and minerals. You’d be amazed at how much salt we use in a year. I have food for myself stashed away, but also we’ve included several thousand pounds of bagged stock salt, and minerals. We went with granulated bagged salt instead of blocks because it could be used for other things like salting beef.
Sick animals need medical care too. In my band aids section there’s plenty of the normal veterinary supplies we use on a regular basis. Many of these items can be used for all types of animals including the two legged kind. I did not include vaccines as once TSHTF the cattle should not be exposed to other cattle that could be carrying something nasty. Of course that isn’t 100% certain but one must pick their battles.
If you think your retreat security causes you to lose sleep at night imagine securing seven square miles of land. Without an army; it can’t be done. I don’t have an army, so another solution had to be found. The current plan is to pen the cattle up at the ranch house during the night, and then send a small patrol with them during the day to graze. We’ve erected guard towers at the retreat and at least one of them will be manned at all times. I hope however that our remote location is adequate to keep the golden hordes at bay, because defending our retreat properly would need a very large force. I suppose that could be said about any location. I’m still searching for more people to join me at the ranch, and as many of you know, it’s very difficult to find like-minded people. I’ve been fortunate so far and have some great folks who will stay with us in the event of a disaster. We have a doctor and a dentist as well as some ex army guys. I don’t know what the magic number of people needed is but there’s safety in numbers.
Bartering of beef
Without the power grid, cooling and preserving raw meat will be a challenge. Currently (if you want really good meat) after you dress out an animal you typically hang them in a cooler and let the meat age for a couple of weeks. This allows the natural enzymes in the muscle tissue to break down some of the harder parts of the meat. Aged beef is quite simply the best food there is! I’m sure 99% of the population has never had it. The fast paced production slaughter plants today don’t age meat more than a day or two. To age and store the meat we kill we have two large deep freezes. I’ll soon be installing a solar system to run them. One of the freezers will be equipped with a thermostat to regulate the temperature so the freezer can be used as a cooler. Without the solar freezers processing and selling meat during the summer will be all but impossible unless of course I try to make 600 pounds of jerky.
To supplement the beef sales we also have a milk cow and lots of chickens. If you have a bug problem, get yourself some chickens instead of an exterminator. You’ll be amazed at the result, plus free eggs! Our chickens and guineas roam free, but generally lay their eggs in the hen house.
We’re going to need more flexibility than other groups when we’re hunkering down on our ranch. For this reason a blacksmiths shop has been setup. Not only is it fun to learn how to make metal parts with nothing but a hot fire and a hammer. There will certainly be a need for building things. I don’t know what those will be; otherwise I could go buy a few.
Heat in the winter is an issue too. Our ranch house has no central heating. We have a large fireplace and a wood stove. I was 19 years old before I lived in a house with a thermostat. A wood stove is a great way to heat a space but it uses a lot of wood. We burn between 3 and 9 cords of wood a year depending on how cold it is. I can only imagine how much wood the folks up north are going to need. If you live in the colder areas of the country you had better get a spare chainsaw and all the stuff needed run the heck out of it! I’ve stashed gas for the sole purpose of hauling wood from the pasture to the house, as well as a spare chainsaw (don’t buy a cheap one). There are no trees around our house. That makes for great sight lines from the guard towers, but it’s a long way to haul wood for the stove.
I know the EMP group out there must see that my plans would come crumbling down in the event of an EMP. I just pray it’s not an EMP or CME that kicks off the SHTF chain of events.
In conclusion: next time you feel overwhelmed about your prepping remember the poor ranchers out there who are responsible for a great many more mouths to feed and water. I envy your relatively simple preps often, but this is the lifestyle I’ve chosen to keep. I also feel that after the collapse, if I can pull my family and herd through, ranching won’t be such a hard way to make a living as it is in our current society.