Lessons Learned in Livestock – Part 2, by C.K.

(Continued from Part 1)

The following are the varieties of livestock that  I would not consider for a prepared homestead:

Guinea Fowl. I raised over 300 per year. Feed requirements can be met with them running loose, but that also meets the cat’s requirements on little keets. Also a guinea looks for the best hiding spot for eggs. And if allowed to roost outside they will help your owl population by supplying a midnight snack. And they wander to far from home and make way too much noise. The amount of bug reduction is nice but, chickens and ducks also love to eat insects. The butcher weight is no better than a Leghorn rooster.

Horses. Have you feed a horse with what you cut by hand and store? If you do not have the horse drawn equipment to cut and haul hay, then how are you going to feed them? What is the value to riding compared to the cost and time of upkeep? Now you horse lovers don’t be mad. Just think: what I can you accomplish by hand? My family used mules up till the early 1950s for the gardens, and we had horses up till the mid-1980s. Feed requirements are very high, hence the phrase: “eats like a horse/”

Beef Cattle. I sold my last cows three years ago. We had over 120 head of cows back in the 1980s. I’ve been around them all my life. The reason I do not recommend then for homesteading is that I plan on having no outside help. They are far too big to butcher in non-freezing weather, and the hay requirements for areas that have snow are just too high.

Milk Cows. I liked the Jersey milk cows that I had growing up but you need a place for all that milk. It is just just too much in a non-survival situation. Also milking requires a lot of time. You can leave the calf on and have the cow as a backup. That is the best choice. My grandparents milked through the 1960s. Everyone favorite was the Jerseys they have great attitudes, and are smaller than many other breeds of milk cows. If I went back to a milk cow then they would be it.

So if you consider cows or horses a must then think about the hay requirements. If you get a team of mules or horses (I prefer mules) and the horse drawn equipment you can meet the hay requirement. But is the time and expense worth it?  You have to work to keep animals trained and meet their daily feed requirements. The only way I see to keep big animals is owning lots of land. And you’d need an old diesel tractor (EMP-proof) and large sheds to store hay. Make sure you have lots of water that is easy to get to in winter. For the average Joe who has a job and family, it is too much time and expense to keep a horse. It’s a much better plan for a living-detached version of the modern world.

Turkeys. I’ve raised over 15 varieties. The only differences between them can be broken down into three types: the wilds, the butcher breeds and the heritage breeds. My goal is quiet and none of those breeds meet that requirement. The heritage varieties are all pretty good mothers. There is not much difference between the various heritage breeds other than colors and small amount of weight difference. They are fun to have around and get about 2/3 of their food in the summer from free range. But in the winter plan on a full diet of grain. Its that worth it to you? As for the other breeds forget about them, in a grid down situation.

In conclusion these are my life experiences with animals. My warning to you who envision the “perfect” homestead with chickens, cows, milk goats and all the other animals is: Don’t do it. Real life is not not Facebook. Animals take a lot of time and money. I suggest that you keep only a few to breed into production within a year’s time and store enough feed for the first year. Time is money. Spend your time on building cages, sheds, making raised garden beds, and finding time to live and enjoy life.

I’d like to add a lesson learned in life about buying at auctions: Living in a rural community and not too far from the cities is the perfect place for auctions. Why buy used? Most of us want the most bang for the buck. A new scythe is around $200 but at a auction the other day I paid just $10 for one. And Mason type canning jars were $1 to $ 2 a dozen. I go to an auction on most weekends. We have a consignment auction about 20 miles from my house. Why go every week? You will never know what is there, and old hand tools are inexpensive since nearly everyone seems to now want the latest power tools. We make trips to the thrift stores and antique malls when in town. There is no reason not to have enough clothes and shoes and boots stored for a number of years. The only problem is storage space. Have you tried to make a work coat for a $1, or make a pair of boots?  You probably cannot do it. Take advantage of what is out there now and how inexpensive things presently are. Used items at auctions are at all-time lows in price. Think ahead:  Can I use it or repurpose it?  Will it save me money and time?

My last recommendations for your garden are: If you have the space and a roadway to your garden site to buy an old dump truck. Mine cost me $600. I use the farm tractor to load it. Haul everything you can into the garden, old hay (free) manure (free) deciduous wood chips (not from coniferous trees!) available from the power line people (free). Make your soil the best, and it will pay dividends. Also go with as many raised beds as you can, they are proven effective here on the farm. I use logs for borders on them and can sit when pulling weeds. Also if you can make a pond uphill from the garden go for it, as a pipe is a lot easier to move water than a bucket. The best garden tractor for small farm work is the old walk-behind Gravely. I have many of these tractors with magneto ignition, (no battery, and EMP-proof) and every implement you can think of. I recommend finding the gear reduction wheels, tiller and sickle bar and 40” deck and sulkie. If you are mowing heavy brush 1” or bigger use the 30” deck because if you drive over it you can cut it up. This set up will run anywhere from $600 to $800 for everything. These tractors have already probably outlasted two owners and with care they will also outlast you.

As for the vegetables try the ones you like now. I love squash but try and raise them without spray and you feed the bugs. Do you have enough chemicals on hand for a decade of no stores? You will not have a safety net or store to go buy anything if your crop fails, and bugs will kill vine type vegetables in only a few days. I’ve transitioned to planting more root crops. Lots of Rutabagas, Turnips, Sweet Potatoes and regular Potatoes. The storage life of most root crops make it well into spring in the root cellar. I’m drafting this on August 13th and we are going to can the last of the sweet potatoes to make room. My root cellars are made from twelve thousand gallon fuel tanks. The round shape is a pain but they work and are inexpensive.

My last pieces of advice are: buy an old points ignition chain saw. Also buy books on herbs, healing, cooking and anything that relates to living without the modern world. And if someone older gives you advice, think about this: have they done it. The reason I wrote this article is I want you to succeed, since there are not enough Christians preparing. Yours in Christ, – C.K.