In preparedness, as well as in our normal lives, my family has adopted a strategy of self-sufficiency on the homesteading model. While food storage, arms and ammunition, communications gear and generalized survival equipment and skills remain important to us, the ability to sustain ourselves long-term is the heart and soul of our preps.
These are strategies which serve us well in these “normal” times and will keep us going well into TEOTWAWKI days.
Is Raising Livestock for You?
We have previously discussed the basics of gardening for survival and self-sufficiency, but what about your meat, poultry, egg, and dairy needs in a long term crisis? Livestock is an option that all serious preppers should consider, but the keeping of animals should not be entered into lightly. Before you buy your first animal, you have to be fully aware that this is a responsibility and a commitment.
Your livestock need food and water regardless of the weather, they don’t go into stasis when your vacation comes along, and their needs don’t get put on hold when you get sick. Livestock ties you to the land 24/7/365. If you can’t live this commitment, then keeping livestock is probably not for you. Remember that these are living creatures, and even if they are bound for the cook pot they deserve your care and respect, and the best life you can provide for them.
With carefully selected livestock, a great deal of security can be achieved. I know that my chickens and turkeys will provide me with eggs and meat. I know my goats will provide a steady supply of milk and cheese.
My pigs will give me a periodic influx of bacon, ham, steaks and chops. I know my horses will get me where I need to go long after the gas pumps are dry.
However, I also know that I will have to run goats out of the orchard from time to time, that there will occasionally be chickens in the vegetable garden at the worst possible time, that vacations will be tough, and that I will have to find the funds to buy feed even when money is tight.
I know that I will have to include my animals’ needs in my preps, so that they can continue to provide for me when the feed store closes. We have done the math, and for us keeping stock is a good option, you will have to do your own math to see if it works for you.
The Best Type of Livestock to Suit Your Needs
Once you have determined that keeping livestock fits your needs and lifestyle, you will have to decide what critters you will keep. Many factors enter into this choice. These factors include available space, feed requirements, cost of the animals, and what you hope to produce.
You should check any local ordinances (state, county, municipal, and any homeowners associations) to determine what types of livestock are permitted in your area and on your size parcel.
You should also do an internal check, will you be able to butcher animals that are intended for meat? This is a very real consideration, hunting an animal you have never met is worlds away from butchering a lamb that you had to bottle feed for two months!
Our homestead encompasses 40 acres, so space was not a huge consideration in our selections. However, not all of our land is in pasture, we have a lot of brush and woods. This, and the cost of animals, led us to choose goats over cows for our dairy needs.
For the cost of a single good milk cow you can get 10 good dairy goats which will provide milk, cheese, and a source of meat. In a drought year, like 2012, goats are perfectly content to eat dead weeds. Last year I watched friends and neighbors with cattle scramble for hay and even sell off or butcher herds they could no longer afford to feed while my goats soldiered on without additional feed costs.
I love my goats! This points out the importance of feed requirements in stock selection. The more capable your stock is of living off the land, the better off you will be when the feed store shuts its doors.
Raising Livestock in the Suburbs
Even if you are stuck in suburbia, there are livestock options available. Many municipalities now allow a small number of chickens to be kept in back yards. Rabbits can be raised in a very small space, and are very productive (they are also very cute, do your internal check; be certain that you can do the dirty work of converting cute and fuzzy bunnies into fabulous meals!).
You might even consider an ornamental pond stocked with tilapia rather than koi. There are always options for raising livestock, explore them all. In any setting, look to what you hope to gain from livestock, be it meat, eggs, or dairy products, to inform your decision. An animal without a specific purpose is not stock, it is a pet. Pets are great too, we have plenty of them, but in a crisis pets are an additional responsibility as opposed to an asset.
Livestock is an investment. It can be high yield, with dividends paid far into the future, regardless of the economic or social climate. It can also be high risk at times, but with careful management the risks can be mitigated substantially. As with any investment, there are costs involved.
The purchase of animals, feed and veterinary supplies, hoof care supplies and equipment, housing for animals, etc. can add up. But again, with careful planning, and selecting the best animals for your land and area, the costs of raising livestock can be significantly reduced. As with all elements of survival, knowledge and skills are the keys. The more you can do for your animals on your own the better off you will be, today and at the end of the world.
Now is the time to make your choices, gather your flock, and develop your skill set. Should the stuff hit the fan, your window of opportunity for raising livestock will slam shut faster than you can imagine.
To learn more about raising livestock and homesteading, visit our Homesteading Tutorial.