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The Right Livestock for You & Your Lifestyle

When one considers a pioneer lifestyle that consists of living off the land, most of us automatically picture a milk cow in the back pasture just waiting to produce us fresh milk and butter and cheese.  This is closely followed by happy and clucking chickens running around trailing a line of baby chicks, otherwise known as fuzzy little yellow balls of fluff.  But, which animals are best suited for you?  While some are more romantic than others: chicks and lambs, vs. say pigs, it’s important to base your decisions first and foremost off of your land and your capabilities for sustaining particular animals, followed secondly by your needs and wants. There’s no point in raising a milk cow if you dislike the taste of unpasteurized milk, right?

Cattle

If you have the acres and the means to feed and care for cattle, then this is one of best ways to get started in sustaining yourself.  Beef cattle require little time but do require extensive feeding and room to roam.  Dairy cattle, on the other hand, require less room to roam but much more time.  An investment in a dairy cow not only means a higher cost up front but also an extensive investment of your personal time.  You will need to consider devoting upwards of an hour, twice a day to milking.  This also means being tied down to being around morning and evening, without fail.  There’s no such thing as milking twice as much in the morning to avoid milking at night.  If, however, you are willing to give up your time, you will find yourself blessed with rich, wholesome, natural goodness twice a day, every day.  The options for milk are limitless: cream, butter, cheese, sour cream, yogurt, etc.  A dairy cow can drastically increase your independence upon store purchased items.  You can also opt to purchase a young orphaned beef calf and feed them with your extra milk.  And, if you’ve never been around a dairy cow, prepare to be irritated and maddened on a daily basis, but also prepare to fall deeply, madly in love.

Poulty

Chickens require very little time and energy.  There’s also not much that tops farm fresh eggs.  You’ll see yolks purer and darker than ever before and enjoy a richer egg scramble then anything yet to have graced your table.  Feed is inexpensive and a small pen that’s sturdy and tall enough to keep out predators during the night should be adequate.  Raising poultry for eating is also a very short time investment.  Spring chicks are usually full grown by mid-summer.

What’s Best?

Outside of poultry and beef, the options for livestock really come down to personal preference.  You can opt to go for a pig or two for pork, a goat or two for milk if you don’t need the quantity of a dairy cow, and various other types of poultry like turkeys and ducks.  When you have the time, space and resources, your options are nearly unlimited and can easily give you the ability to maintain yourself off the land for as long as you choose.  Add a garden, and you’re just about set.  If I was recommending a basic set of options with unlimited means, I would suggest a dairy cow, two or three beef cattle and a wide range of chickens.

And, I will tell you, as a farm girl of the majority of my life who has raised everything from chickens and sheep to pigs, cattle, dairy cows and horses, that a sustainable life is not an easy life, nor a predictable life.  But, it is simple, uncomplicated, immensely rewarding and a very, very good life.

Author Tara Alley is a Montana native who enjoys writing about sustainable lifestyles and the benefits to living off the land.  She is currently working as a freelance writer alongside Coffee Home Direct.

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