cow

Can you raise Dairy on less than an acre?

Dairy is something that almost everyone intakes at one point or another. From milk in  your cereal, ooey gooey cheese for pizza or tacos and of course delicious whipped cream, dairy is something every capable homesteader should try to be able to produce. Many homesteaders, though, don’t have acreage. Doesn’t dairy only come from big dairies with green acres covered in giant black and white cows?

 

dairy cattle

Well, that is where most milk in the grocery stores comes from, true enough. A typical homesteader, though, doesn’t need a milk producer anywhere near the capacity of a Holstein milk cow(pictured above, the most common breed of dairy cows). If you are setup for livestock but just are a bit tight on space there are several options to what is traditionally thought of when it comes to dairy animals.

You can milk what…?

Here, in the United States, most people are used to cow milk. Cow milk is nutritionally ok, but most cows are large, take a lot of room and need a good amount of pasture to economically feed them. There are several options to the large traditional  dairy cattle. There are breeds of smaller cattle, like jersey, miniature jersey, Dexter and other miniature varieties. The second most milked animals in America are goats. Goats milk is easier to digest, more nutritious than cows milk and they are a good alternative for those strapped for space. Then, there are dairy sheep. Now, worldwide, sheep are commonly milked. Their milk is delicious and the easiest to digest. Dairy sheep are a getting more popular here, but are still fairly rare.

donkey-milk

Then we move on to the more rare milk animals. Donkeys were perhaps the first animals ever milked. Yaks and miniature yaks eat 1/2 to 1/3 of what a dairy cow generally consumes and produce decent milk and much more.  Lastly, there are a few more animals that have been milked historically in different cultures: Reindeer, alpaca and even horses. Now, don’t expect to get loads of milk from any of the animals, but they can produce consumable milk and generally the animals have multiple purposes.

 

How much space do these animals need?

Different animals of course have different needs. The rule of thumb is the better your pasture the less physical room your livestock will need. If you have lush grasses and clover that works with the animal or animals you want then you usually can get away with less space. Also, if you plan to primarily provide feed and hay brought in from elsewhere you can definately have less space. No matter what type of animal you decide on they always need enough room to run around, browse and graze and a shelter from inclement weather.

Can all of that be provided on less than an acre?  Yes, if you are smart about how you organize your homestead and pasture, you can definately raise dairy producers on less than an acre. How much less? Well if you decide on goats, sheep or say miniature donkeys they can be kept pretty well on 1/3 of an acre often. You can probably easily keep 3-5 small goats or sheep and probably 3 mini donkeys on that size spot. A half of an acre or more is of course better, but for minimum room it is doable.

sheep in yard

A small cow, a Jersey breed or smaller, generally needs lush pasture if limited on space. It takes a lot of energy to perpetually produce milk for month on end, and, this energy, comes from what the cow is eating. A dairy cow not given good pasture or supplemental feed will look thinner than they should, fur will lose luster and their eyes may lose clarity. They are prone to all sorts of conditions and diseases if left to waste away on poor pasture.
As a rule of thumb, if it is suitable pasture or you plan to substitute alfalfa, grain and other nutrient dense foodstuff, you can get away with having a small or miniature cow on about a half an acre. I would not recommend attempting on much less than that size pasture.

 

What will work for your homestead?

We are all individuals, with unique needs. If your primary concern is for milk for cereal, coffee and cooking then really any of the animals listed above will work for you. Each animal has it’s own particular needs, quirks, issues, charms and fans. A milk cow, for the most part, will produce more milk than you can use, but are large and are higher maintenance for nutrients than most of their smaller  counterparts.

Goats are popular, often have charming personalities but are often despised for their adventurous need to escape any fence. There’s a saying common with goat owners. If water can get through your fence a goat will. Goats are browsers and generally far less needy for high nutrient pasture, but what they eat will effect the milk’s flavor. If you want good tasting milk, you may need to limit what your dairy goats get into.

Dairy sheep are generally hard to locate, a fair expense for such a small animal and require yearly sheering. They, though, do produce great tasting milk in large quantities for their size. They require good grass, but it generally doesn’t have to be as good as for cows. They require decent fence and are much more likely to try going under than over. They generally don’t have the personality a goat has and can be more nervous as well.

As for the rest of the exotics, they need be researched to see if they will suit you and your needs. It may be terribly hard to find a donkey with a big udder or a friendly yak in your area. You are the only one who knows your needs and your area. Are you willing and able to travel across the country for the right animals? yak black and white

In Closing

I hope this article has helped answer some questions and perhaps peaked your interest on branching out beyond just focusing on a cow for producing dairy. As always, if you have any questions or comments I welcome them.

To your HHH

-Kimmie

 

Chickens or ducks?

SI Exif
Barred Rocks and Runner Ducks

So, you want fresh eggs for yourself?

Well, if you have a backyard with fence you probably can own chickens or ducks to satisfy you egg needs. Both of these fowl have their positives and negatives, but in today’s blog I will tell you all you need to know to make your basic decision on whether owning some of these useful creatures. You, of course, do need to check with your local laws on owning chickens or ducks if you live in town- or even certain counties have laws about “farm animals” on x amount of outside space. After checking into your local jurisdictions laws then you are ready to dive into the adventure of owning ducks, chickens, both or more.

 

So… Why own either?

The primary reason most homesteaders(No matter how big or small your homestead may be) own chicken or ducks is for eggs. Others also raise these and other fowl for meat as well, but today we will focus on eggs. A decent chicken or duck will lay 200+ eggs a year.  Yes that is one duck or chicken. Now say you have 5 ducks or hens. That means you will get, on average, 1000 eggs a year. Unless you go through a ton of eggs, that is more than you will ever really need. You can usually sell or barter farm fresh eggs if you really have a surplus as well.

 

duck-eggs
Duck Eggs

 

Why Chickens?

Chickens come in a wide variety or breeds, sizes, temperaments and colors. They lay a wide variety or size and color eggs depending on their breed. They are the common eggs you are most likely used to and have all the regular uses. Depending on the breed(s) you acquire you may be able to have them in a very small area or they may need a larger roaming zone. Chickens generally will need a hen-house of some sort and will lay in a nest box as long as you supply one.

Depending on your breed and whether or not you have a rooster, some chickens will go broody and hatch you our chicks that you can either sell or raise for more egg producers. Chickens are common, generally easy and inexpensive to get and start as chicks. They usually start laying eggs between 17 and 22 weeks old depending on their breed and nutrition. Chickens are generally not seasonal layers and will lay eggs most of the year. The amount of light they get can influence their laying and during the heaviest of winter they may back off or completely stop laying eggs until spring. Putting a light in their hen-house can help them continue laying all year long.

Hen chickens are generally far quieter than hen ducks for the most part. Chickens generally will lay well for 3-5 years before needing to be replaced by younger stock. Depending on the breed of chicken you get some can become very tame and even pet like.

chickens

 

Why Ducks?

Ducks come in almost as many different varieties as chickens. They come in many different colors and a few different sizes. I will primarily just focus on the more common “farm” ducks that most homesteaders can raise for eggs. That’s right, people do eat duck eggs. What is the difference between them and chicken eggs? Well, ducks usually lay large- x-large eggs. They have larger yolks which contain more protein but also more cholesterol and fat. Some say duck eggs have a different flavor, a more “gamey” flavor, but I never really noticed a difference but then I was used to the flavor of farm fresh chicken eggs first.

Ducks don’t generally need much of a hen-house. They will appreciate an area where they can get out of bad weather when they choose, but usually they will not seek out a house like chickens want. They also will lay their eggs wherever they want so you may be having a bit of an egg hunt sometimes. They lay eggs about as well as chickens and rarely does winter stop them from laying. Most farm duck breeds lay 200+ eggs a year.

When ducks begin laying depends a lot on when they were hatched. Generally a duck hatched in early spring  will begin laying at between 6 and 8 months old, but if they are hatched later they may not lay until the next spring. Once they start laying they generally only takes breaks when molting, which chickens do as well. Ducks eggs generally lay white, off-white, grey, brown, bluish or greenish eggs depending on the breed of duck. I find ducks to be less maintenance overall and easier to care for than chickens.

BlackSwedish ducks

 

What’s the Drawbacks?

Well, all animals have their own issues and things that may turn people away from them. Here I will list a few things about both chickens and ducks that may convince you they are not right for you.

Chickens

  • Nearly always need a hen-house to be comfortable and productive.
  • Roosters(if you decide to have one) can be very loud a few times a day.
  • Are prone to getting parasites, both external and internal.
  • Some roosters and even, rarely, some hens can get aggressive.
  • Depending on the breed, can be sensitive to summer or winter weather.
  • Generally have to clean hen-house on occasion to prevent smell.

 

Ducks

  • Love making mud puddles and can drill into wet ground to make small holes.
  • Generally require more time and patience to tame down to pet level.
  • Lay eggs any and everywhere.
  • They act hungry all the time and will eat like little feathered pigs.
  • Hen ducks are the loud ones, drakes rarely even quack.
  • Can be harder to sex until full gown.

uck drilling

In Conclusion…

I hope this has helped you decide between ducks and chickens or encouraged you to try both. There are so many more positives than negatives to having a few of these fabulous fowl around. Did you know that farm eggs are healthier and can last several months? I will get more in to the benefits of farm eggs vs store-bought in another article. Until then, I wish you the best in learning and expanding your self-sufficient lifestyle.

To your prosperity,

Kimmie

 

 

Spring is Around the Corner

Hello all,

It is March now and spring is right around the corner, dear readers. If you have not done your early planting already now is the time. Wise homesteaders start as many of their plants inside early as they can. I personally have planted over 600 seeds in the past two days. I wait in anticipation to see little green sprouts in a few days.sprouts

Here in Missouri the last frost threatens until mid April. Last year I started my seeds a bit earlier- in mid February, but life held me back a couple weeks. A couple weeks in no big deal in plants for my region. If you live in a much colder climate your timing may make a big difference in how much you can harvest come fall.

USA_hardiness_zones2006x1

(See that yellow spot in Missouri, that is about where I am. It makes me long to grow things that  say they can be grown in zone 7, but I am right on the verge of 6 and 7 so I do not dare try olive trees or citrus outside a pot at present.)

How to start your seeds for a future of a healthy garden.

Starting seeds indoors early is the best way to have an earlier harvest. It also is a good way to make a little money off of your gardening. I generally sell my plants for $1 each and make small profits each season. I though am selling heritage plants grown organically. They sell quickly. This is a instructional on my technique. You may find doing other things works better for you and your area.

  • First gather all your supplies. You will need pots, soil, seeds, fertilizer and water

I use local natural soil, not treated Miracle Grow type products. I recycle and use as many of the same pots each year as I can. I use natural fertilizer from rabbits, pigeons, horse and other herbivores. I use my own collected seeds and those I collect from other heirloom vegetable growers. To have healthy plants one must give them the lest start possible.

rabbit-poop

 

I personally don’t wear  gloves. I never mind getting my hands dirty to create new life or do a worthwhile job. First for best germination you should soak the seeds 24- 48 hours. I find wrapping them in tissue or paper towels and wetting those work best for me. Some literally put the seeds in containers of water or simply over water the soil the first few days after planting. Whichever works best for you will do.

If you are pre-soaking the seeds after you have done this it is time to mix soil and fertilizer or compost. Fill your pots with the mixture. You will only be planting the seeds half an inch or so into the soil. Most seeds need only minimal covering. They just need it firmly packed around them and wet properly.  Planting-Seeds

Your freshly planted seeds need be kept somewhere warm but not overly hot. Please bring them in if thee will be a frost and they are being kept outside. They will germinate and grow fastest if kept between 60 F and 80 F degrees. If you are trying to grow peppers they like it 75 degrees or more and may not germinate with lower temps.

Water your freshly planted seeds well the first day and then continue watering them every two days or when the soil dries. Do not allow them to be constantly wet or dry out too much. Within 4-10 days most all will sprout. A few harder to sprout seeds may take as long as 18 days to sprout, but if you do not see  anything growing by day 21 then most likely the seeds simply did not take. A germination rate is 75% or more.  I generally get 85% or better. Anything under 50% is bad and shows either bad seed stock, soil or lack of proper care.germenation

 

After all chance of frost is past and your seedlings have at least two good sets of leaves (Usually 2- 3 weeks after planting) they are ready to be put into their more permanent homes. I generally transplant them into 4 inch pots for sale and then allow them establish another few days before selling or planting in my own garden.

Last year was my first spring on our little homestead. I was pleased with my small harvest despite the overwhelming weeds from freshly tilled soil. I more than made back all I invested in the first year garden and was able to harvest some good seeds from tomatoes, pumpkin and corn. I know this year’s harvest will be amazing and look forward to hearing from all others  growing their garden this year.

To your hhh,

Kimmie