I will start this by saying my farm experience range from South Florida to Maine and in climates in between. I also have experience from hobby farming to production on a large scale. From rabbits, chickens, pigs to beef and milking animals. My tenure in these areas has encompassed about 30 years of my life in one form or another. A lot of this is some common sense as well, so forgive me if I dumb this down too much.
A few days ago I read an article on this site about the farms in Venezuela and their government taking them over. (The country is running out out of food.) So that brings me to how to conceal the presence of these animals. Whether you are in a remote location or living at a well-known farm, your animals will make noise. One of the purposes of this writing is to minimize this risk, from people finding your animals or more importantly you. Animal OPSEC, if you will.
Let us look at why your animals will make noises. Animals make noise when they are in pain, a lack of their required food or water, for communication with each other (mating or just “Hey I am here”), a danger warning, territorial warning, coughing, and so on.
Small animals like chickens and roosters and rabbits are common, and their noises are easy to recognized. Roosters crow as we all know but the reasons will vary. For the most part if you have one, everyone knows you have one. The crow of the rooster serves as a territory marker and to say ” Hey don’t go too far lady birds, because I am here.” If you have more than one rooster you will have much more crowing obviously, but what you may not know is this: A single rooster will crow at a normal rate, two roosters will increase their crowing by a factor of four or more. This is due to competition between them. Chickens can and sometimes crow as well, but it is not the norm for them. Danger sounds from chicken and roosters are on the higher end of the sound scale and do not travel too far, as far as us humans can hear. General chicken noises are clucks or bauks and for the most part just a small noise. When in danger these noises are much louder and have wing flapping along with them and the sound will travel farther. To help offset these noises you will have a few options but they are worth mentioning. The type of chickens you choose to have is the greatest impact on noise. Some breeds are naturally not as quiet as others. You will have to make these choices for yourself, based upon what it is you want your chickens to do–either for egg layers or for meat, or both.
Rabbits for the most part are very quiet animals. When in danger or in pain they can and do make a horrid noise, a screechy high pitch scream is the best way I know to describe it. All and all they are not a concern. [JWR Adds: Perhaps the biggest noise concern for rabbits is the sound of rabbits thumping on the floors of wire cages.]
Pigs and goats are among the noisiest animals we have on the farm. These two types of animals as very human social. They like you and want to spend time with you. Goats more so than pigs. You can train your pigs to keep the noise down, but goats not so well. Pigs for the most part are their nosiest at feeding time if they are not getting all the food that they need. These squeals are ear piercing and do travel a good distance. Pigs will also sometimes fight to establish there “pecking order”. This does not last long but it is still a problem when it comes to OPSEC. Feeding Sows can be a bit of a noise concern. They do emit a low grunt for the entire feeding time for their piglets, so just be aware of it. In general pigs aren’t an issue unless they see you. I can be outside our barn and never know there are pigs in there until they smell me or see me or there is a noise that they associate with me. So in general pigs grunt and squeal. For the most part they are calm and do well, but there are always a few very noisy exceptions to this and these exceptions may require a culling depending on the circumstances. You can train pigs. Yep, they are as smart as dogs if not more so. So you can train them to keep the noise down aswell but this is only if you have the time to do so. Training apig is just like training a puppy. I will warn you: make sure you are training the pig and that the pig is not training you. Again, they are smart animals.
Goats are very human social. They want to be near us and love to walk and talk with you, even if they are the only ones carrying on the conversation. Some breeds of goats will make their goat baying for just about any reason. Like the pigs this is increased if they know I or someone is around or think they hear me. This also goes for predatory animals as well. Goats will call if they are missing someone from their group, calling out saying “Hey this way, we are here.” This can be an issue when a tactical situations demands quiet. Goats are vocal. Keep this in mind if you want them. They are a versatile animal, meat and dairy products, but weigh the risks. The various breeds of these animals will differ in their noise levels. Their sounds carry very well and sometimes sound like a human child calling out to the “mama”. This can draw in people who maybe concerned for the well being of a child or to simply take advantage of the situation.
Some cows are quiet if you have the right breeds. I will take a moment to explain some of the breeds–beef and dairy. (I am more familiar with beef animals than dairy)
Dairy cows: The louder breeds are Holsteins and your other common commercial type milkers. Like most animals they want to tell you something, so this is the reason for the moo’s, well most of the time. For the most part they are saying “Hey, my udder hurts, so fix it.” Smaller family cow breeds do not typically have a mooing problem as long as they are not bagged full of milk. You know what your needs are so pick the type that best suits your family’s needs. If you are wanting extra milk for barter then try two cows of a smaller breed, versus one cow of the larger more noisy breeds. Just an added tidbit here” Larger breeds will eat more and will use more resources compared to two smaller breeds. Also having two smaller ones will allow you to rest animals before breeding again, like stock rotation.
Beef cows: When you say beef, I would bet that your mind goes right to Angus. After all it was the breed that was promoted by the National Beef Counsel with the slogan “Beef it is what’s for dinner”. Keep in mind that the price tag for that 17-month long promo of beef cost about $42 million, which was paid for by the “Big 4” in beef. I am sorry–I digress.
Angus beef cows are meaty, and yes, they taste good. The breed as a whole has been over done on so many levels, but it’s about the noise here. Angus are very vocal. Even if all their needs are met, they will still moo, and moo loudly at you for no reason. If they have a reason, I have been unable to find it. Their mooing will travel for a good distance. I can hear them a mile down the road without any problem.
Belted Galloway cows (some folks like to call them the “Oreo Cows”) are also loud. But they are a good breed that is very hardy and thrifty on their feed. Other than their noise, they will do well in a post-SHTF situation. But they typically only make lots of noise when their needs aren’t met.
Simmental cows are not as loud as Angus but are still prone to mooing if they are not milked on a timely schedule. This breed is a multipurpose breed for dairy and beef. They consume more hay than other breeds because of their dual purpose.
Dexter cows are a kind of conundrum. They can be a multipurpose breed, but there is a trait that will pop up at times. Dwarfing, for whatever reason in their blood lines they will on occasions they will have dwarf calves. Generally, there is nothing wrong with the calf, it is just small and will be a dwarf. You can call it good thing or a bad thing depending on the needs at the time. They are a quiet breed and tend to stay that way even when food is low.
Charolais cows are my personal favorite beef animal for many different reasons and one of the breeds of which I have the most experience, besides the Angus breed. First, they are great for mixing with other breeds. A pure bred Charolais when bred with any other breed will tend to only pull the good out of the other breed. They are very cold tolerant and are very quiet. They grow fast and are very quiet. Good for eating and very quiet, they are also resistant to parasites and diseases. Oh and they are very quiet even if food or water is low.
Brahma cow are nice and quiet. They have been known to have an attitude towards their keepers/ Some have also said this about the Charolais as well. But I have not personally seen it in either breed. Brahma cows will not make a lot of noise as long as their needs are mostly met. Strictly, the Brahma is a beef animal, and they are bred for hardiness in hot and dry areas.
I would like to point out that the foregoing discussion was about cows, but bulls are entirely different altogether. The only time I have seen a quiet bull is when he is with the girls (his harem of cows). If you think cows are a noise threat to you, then trust me: bulls are twenty times as loud and will go on and on for hours–if not days. The only way to stop it is put him in with the girls and call it a day. This also comes with its own set of problems but he will be quiet none the less. So the problem is this, if the bull runs continuously with the girls then you will have them dropping calves at any time of the year. This is not desirable, for me anyway. If you were to have a calf drop outside in the middle of winter when it is 10 degree Fahrenheit with a wind chill and that calf will be done in a matter of minutes. A bull can smell a female in heat that is a mile away, and he will let you know it, too. The bull has a deep bellow which can travel far and wide. So make sure that you can keep him quiet should the need arise or you may find out that he is calling in some trouble for you.
Weaning Calves. Welcome to noise headquarters. There is no way around the fact that when you wean calve there will be noise and lots of it. I have seen a calf stop bellowing after a few day and I have seen them take 3 weeks or longer. Of course you do not have to wean them but this will not allow the mother to regain her strength before winter or before calving again.
Do your research. Look at something and then look at it again. Think beyond the moment of it all, then look to the future at what could happen. Look at it again. Have a plan and another plan and then as many as you feel need to be addressed. Do not forget the “doing” part of it. Get it done. Look at it again to see further. If you ever think you have it all worked out as I once did, know that you are more than likely wrong. Thanks for reading, – The Old Farmer, in a Strange World
JWR Adds: Readers shoulld keep in mind that dairy cows of any breed are noisy when separated from their calves. If you don’t need to maximize milk production, then you can leave the calves in with their moms during the day, and just separate them at night. This will mean that you’ll get just one productive milking each morning. But as long as you get out to the barn promptly in each morning, in my experience this creates a fairly quiet routine.