How to Raise Livestock for Food

If you have the land space, raising your own livestock for food is a good step towards self-sustainability. We’ve all seen the rising prices of poultry on our grocery store runs and boy it is worrying. However, raising your livestock allows you to regulate what you’re ingesting and you can be in complete control of what the animal eats and what it doesn’t. Raising your own livestock has become a popular practice all around the world and we have a list of tips on how you can do that. 

Choosing Your Livestock

Before you make a choice on which livestock you would like to raise, think about the space or economic constraints that you may have and whether this is a good investment you’ll like to make. Raising your own livestock can be challenging and being well prepared can make sure that you have a higher success rate. Livestock comes in a variety of types – chicken, cattle, fish, pigs, sheep, etc. Our recommendation is that you get grown hens that lay eggs rather than chicks. This is because you wouldn’t have to wait till the chicks are grown up before you start getting your food. While other livestock offers you a greater amount of food, this also depends largely on the acreage that you own. 

Consider the Endgame

Think about all the factors that can affect you raising livestock before deciding on which livestock to start with. 

Dairy – Goats & Cows

If your household consumes a large amount of milk, you can consider getting a goat or a cow. While goats can only produce up to 5.5 liters of milk, dairy cows can produce up to 28 liters per day over a period of 10 months. Do note that maintaining a herd of goats does require more work than maintaining a herd of cows. 

Meat – Grass-Fed Cattle 

Alternatively, if your family consumes a lot of meat such as beef, you can consider getting beef cattle. Grass-fed beef has its advantages and disadvantages, but raising cattle does require a large number of resources that you need to have. 

Meat – Chickens 

For someone who has less time to care for the animals, chickens are a lot less high maintenance and can be slaughtered and ready to eat within a short span of just 8 weeks. Also, be prepared to feed them with a lot of food. Hens go through their feed in about 4 days so you’ll have to take note of how often to feed them and track their progress. 


Expense

Raising your own livestock is not cheap. Apart from raising them, there are many other things to consider such as the starting costs of preparing for their arrival, such as shelter and fencing. After that has been sorted out, you’ll need to consider the purchase price of the animals and also the cost of their feed. In some cases, it might be cheaper if you raise livestock on your own, but in some cases, it might also be more expensive. We will explain how the total cost of raising your own livestock can differ by breaking it down into animal types. 

Cattle

It is no surprise that raising your own grass-fed cattle is cheaper than that of buying poultry at the supermarket. Having a sizable amount of pasture can make sure your cattle are well fed from spring through fall. In winter, consider changing up their diet by introducing a higher protein diet. Haylage is a good option as it is relatively cheaper than regular grass. Being considerably low maintenance compared to baby chicks and piglets, cattle can be housed on a large grass patch (we recommend behind your house) with less wind. Keeping the cattle in with barbed wires can also cost a little each year. It would be great if your cattle could continue reproducing each year so you wouldn’t have to constantly buy new ones. 

However, if you find yourself potentially struggling with space constraints, owning your own cattle might be more expensive than you think. A good way to gauge this is to compare the cost of raising your own with the cost per pound of meat.

Pigs

Pigs eat virtually anything and everything from food scraps to grass. Although, sometimes you might need to add on a couple more kilos of feed. Raising these pigs for approximately 6 months can reap you a significant amount of benefits. 

Chicken

Getting chickens is a great way to kill two birds with one stone –  they can be a source of eggs or bring meat to the table. If you have the ability to raise free-range chickens, you can save a lot on their feed. Raising chickens is therefore really popular among beginner livestock farmers. 

Your Time Investment

Raising livestock requires time and effort. Apart from the daily essentials like watering and feeding, you might also need to keep an eye on them regularly in order to spot any budding illnesses early. Although this doesn’t require much effort, you can set a time sometime during the day to just do a visual sweep across or take a stroll with them when you’re out for a walk in the evening. 

Just like any other pet owner, if you won’t be around for a while, do get someone you trust to take over your duties for the period that you’ll be away. Alternatively, consider purchasing your own automatic stock tank valve, which helps keep water levels full automatically. This can be extremely helpful in hot months where you might be preoccupied with something else and can’t constantly keep track of the water levels. Commitment is essential if you want to raise your own livestock, so make sure that that’s possible before buying your animals. 


Emotional Investment

You will need to remind yourself that your livestock is food. They are not your pets. Having an emotional attachment to your animals will make it harder for you and your family, especially when it comes to slaughter time. We recommend steering away from naming the animals. 

Homesteading is a good step towards sustainability that we recommend everyone should try. While it doesn’t really matter where you live, whether you should try raising livestock largely boils down to the lifestyle choices you choose.

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