So you’re thinking about adding livestock to your homestead? Consider low-maintenance livestock.
“Low maintenance” can mean many different things depending on your situation, but my definition is livestock that takes the minimal amount of time, energy and money to care for.
Here are what many homesteaders consider the four best:
1. Weaning or feeder pigs – Buying pigs when they are weaned from a farmer and raising them to slaughter weight is a good way to provide meat for the homestead.
It is around a six- to eight-month commitment. You simply purchase in the spring and slaughter in the fall. This avoids carrying stock through the winter. Winter, in many parts of the country, will always mean more maintenance.
Pigs are easily contained using electric fence. Make sure to give them plenty of room, and buy at least two at a time. If you can give them a pastured area, they will forage in addition to the feed you give them. Use a self-feeder and watering system, and watch them grow.
2. Broiler chickens – Raising meat chickens from chicks to slaughter can be done in as little as eight weeks. Purchase the day-old chicks from a reputable hatchery and once they are feathered out (usually in two weeks or so), it is only a matter of feeding and watering them daily until they reach about five or six pounds. Slaughtering can be done by a commercial facility or right in your own backyard.
3. Rabbits – Many rabbits are for pets, but pet breeds aren’t good for meat production. New Zealand Whites are a common breed for producing meat. Although rabbits can be raised in any climate, they prefer cooler weather. If you live in a hot climate, you’ll need to make sure they are kept cool by shading them and avoiding excessive heat.
Due to the short cycle from birth to maturity, most rabbit farmers have breeding stock on hand, as purchasing young rabbits for slaughter isn’t common.
Still, breeding three or four females and raising the young for butcher isn’t a huge undertaking.
When it comes to butchering and processing rabbits, there are more slaughterhouses that are processing rabbits than ever before, due to the growing popularity of rabbit meat. Rabbits are easier than poultry to process at home, and once you’ve done it a few times, you can process a dozen rabbits in less than an hour.
What would you add to this list? Share your advice in the section below: