Alpaca, Goats, Horses, or...? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 13 Old 07-10-2014, 11:27 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Alpaca, Goats, Horses, or...?

Which livestock should we consider getting?

We are going to get chickens and a dog... but am wondering if livestock is also a good idea. The goal? Well, something to have if, say, we lose our source of income or something we could use or sell (fiber, milk, transportation?). But, also probably a good idea to have some animals here.

We live in cold climate with winters half the year. 6 ft of snow. Neighbor has horse, further down the road, alpaca farms, bison, cows, and goats. That's all I've seen.

We live in a mountainous 20 acres off-grid. And, we are vegetarian. Mostly vegan actually. We're not eating these animals... and probably don't want to feed them to others. And... I am a city girl. This is new to me... but we're jumping into this self-reliant lifestyle. Yikes Which is would be more affordable to maintain, too?

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#2 of 13 Old 07-11-2014, 07:27 PM
 
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Hmm.. I don't know anything about alpaca so you'd need to check that with someone else but I have never considered them since I see no purpose in them. I suppose you could eat them but idk any one that does and you're vegetarian anyways. I'm not sure what they would produce that would be beneficial except maybe fiber??? I wouldn't do horses personally but if you have plenty of land they are beautiful creatures and you can ride them although their stuff is expensive and they can be expensive to feed. We are looking at donkeys instead of horses. They live better off pasture, can be ridden, used as draft animals and double as livestock guardians. Goats are amazing. I love them. They can be eaten although that's not an issue for you. They also provide milk and dairy products. There are plenty of recipes for items such as goat's milk soap as well so there would be numerous things that could be produced and sold from them. Certain breeds can also be fiber animals. They do very well on pasture will little to no supplementation if you use good pasture management. Sheep are another good one like goats. Milk products, fiber, plus meat and furs if they've been killed. They can also do well on pasture.

It is possible to do multi-species livestock grazing on the same land if you want and is often done in paddock style pasturing. Goats and sheep work well together in this way since goats are more browsers (eating up - trees and brush) and sheep are more grazers (eating down - grass, weeds). Chickens can also be run behind the animals in the same paddocks and will eat the bugs that are left behind. This will help with worm and bug infestations as well as the chickens will kill off many of them. If you do get chickens and livestock that's something to consider. The dog I can understand you likely have a pet breed picked out but if you get livestock and don't get donkeys (for livestock protection) then consider LGDs - livestock guardian dogs. Some good breeds for this are Great Pyrenees and Anatolian Shepherds. I've had the Great Pyrenees before and they're awesome dogs although they are large.

Our goal with livestock is to have chickens, rabbits, goats and/or sheep, donkeys (for protection), turkeys, possibly some quail, and bees. There have been discussions about pigs and maybe a small cow but I shut those down pretty quick If we weren't going for any meat production though then I'd probably do chickens, sheep (or maybe a fiber breed of goat), donkeys, maybe quail, and bees. I'd maybe consider the fiber rabbits as well but I doubt it.

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#3 of 13 Old 07-11-2014, 10:13 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thank you for the reply.
Ah yes, I was reading about worms and goat's gut because we have white-tailed deer here.

Love the sheep idea... goat's milk soap idea... and bees, I forgot about those.

Quail, on the otherhand, we wouldn't eat the eggs. Probably just chicken eggs because chickens are biblically clean. Quail are unclean. I'd likely stay away from unclean animals (except horse/mule). Besides meat and eggs, are they beneficial for other reasons?

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#4 of 13 Old 07-11-2014, 11:22 PM
 
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No I'm not aware of any other reasons to keep quail. We don't have any religious dietary restrictions so we have considered them for the eggs. Chicken eggs are much better for eating anyways because of the size difference. The only reason we have considered getting a few of them is they're the perfect size for pickled eggs which dh loves. You can also use sheep's milk to make soap just like the goat's milk though if you'd rather the sheep than the goats. The worms can be a problem (we also have a large deer population) but it's pretty easy to manage. There are herbal remedies - check out Fiasco Farm. The website has a wealth of info on goat's and even on herbal wormers. The best thing to keep worms and parasites down though is rotational grazing. I live in a hot, humid climate with lots of wildlife so rotational/paddock grazing is big thing here to keep from losing livestock to parasites. Rotating different species through the same paddocks also knocks down the population and running the poultry through too as they will eat the larvae. Honestly with a good rotational grazing system and herbal wormer it shouldn't be a problem at all.

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#5 of 13 Old 07-13-2014, 12:34 PM
 
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Keep in mind with goats (or anything dairy) that you have to breed them regularly in order to get milk. You then have to do something with the babies. Generally, you want at least two goats - both for companionship (they're herd animals), and so that you can have one in milk and one resting/pregnant at any given time. That means somewhere between 2 and 8 babies a year to deal with one way or another (goats can have up to 4 babies per litter). If you are picky about only selling to people who won't eat them, you may find yourself in a difficult place.
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#6 of 13 Old 07-13-2014, 02:21 PM
 
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Originally Posted by ocelotmom View Post
Keep in mind with goats (or anything dairy) that you have to breed them regularly in order to get milk. You then have to do something with the babies. Generally, you want at least two goats - both for companionship (they're herd animals), and so that you can have one in milk and one resting/pregnant at any given time. That means somewhere between 2 and 8 babies a year to deal with one way or another (goats can have up to 4 babies per litter). If you are picky about only selling to people who won't eat them, you may find yourself in a difficult place.
This is very true and a great point. If you have issues with killing any animals it'd be extremely difficult for you to keep any form of livestock. Space, feed and other resources have to be managed when dealing with livestock and if old/unhealthy/less productive animals are being kept instead of removed as needed it's going to greatly increase the amount of resources you use to care for them when they're being replaced with more efficient livestock but the old ones kept as well. If there are true issues with killing livestock I honestly wouldn't have them especially if you don't eat meat and are moving more towards veganism. If you move to fully vegan then even dairy products and eggs lose their value. Keeping livestock for income sources is going to be an issue if using them for food would be a problem for you as that's what most people want them for. If I was vegan with issues with animal slaughter I would honestly avoid keeping ANY livestock. Rabbits may be a livestock option if you truly want one. The fiber rabbits can be used to sell the fiber without eating them plus they have a higher resale value as pets instead of livestock. This is especially true with the fiber bunnies as most meat producers won't take on the additional grooming chores just to have meat.

You could use your resources to plant a larger garden, get greenhouses and a nice orchard. If you'd like income from your property there are other ways to do this than livestock. Veggies and fruits can be sold. There is also the option of something like timber or Christmas tree farms if they'd be popular in your area and you're okay with that. Check for local co-ops or farmer's markets to see what is missing. We have a food co-op here that only carries what they can find locally (or semi-locally in this area at least). Finding out what they don't have or get enough of can help. It may be possible to partner with them to grow a certain item for them.
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#7 of 13 Old 07-13-2014, 07:24 PM
 
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Horses are lovely, and you can get them fairly cheap from people who can't afford them anymore. They cost a ton, and don't really bring in income. They also have limits as transportation. They dont do well on roads with vehicular traffic, and the vet care will make gas look cheap. If you can run a herd of alpacas or sheep, you might be able to make money on fiber... but it's not a trivial effort. Go to a couple sheep and wool festivals and talk to buyers and farmers before you commit.

If you're vegetarian, I would seriously consider forgoing livestock. You don't have to have animals just because you have the aacreage for them.
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#8 of 13 Old 07-13-2014, 08:05 PM
 
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I'm vegetarian and I love having animals around. I'm not making money on it but it's why I live in the country. I think having animals that kids can connect to will help guide their vegetarian decisions. If "chicken" makes you think pet or nugget you're gonna process that differently. We have chickens, sheep, goats, horse, pony, rabbits, had a llama.
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#9 of 13 Old 07-13-2014, 08:17 PM
 
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If you want pets (and can afford them), owning land in a rural area can facilitate that.

If you want a herd that will earn you money, but you aren't going to eat your animals or sell them for food, that is much more difficult to arrange.

Horses, in particular, are a money-losing proposition. They need food, foot care, and dental care, and veterinary care for emergencies is often very costly. Horses also need JOBS. If you own a horse, you should plan to work it AT LEAST 3-5 times weekly. Horses get neurotic when they go too long without work and can become difficult to handle, develop vices, or hurt themselves. If you love horses, have some experience with them, and can't imagine a better way to spend 15-20 hours a week than mucking out stalls and riding your fence line, horse ownership might be a good choice. But horses will not bring in money.

Chickens can be cute, but if you're not going to eat the eggs or the chickens, and you're not going to sell them for meat, you will not turn a profit on them.

Raising animals for fiber is very labor intensive.

If you want a safety net, I think the suggestion about raising more vegetables is a good one.
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#10 of 13 Old 07-13-2014, 10:57 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Smart ladies. Thanks for all the replies. Some of which I hadn't even thought of! I'll look into the work it takes for fiber and a bigger vegetable garden. But, we'll keep the dog and chickens (we don't have them yet).

Thanks for the info on horses. I really did wonder if people had them for something more than (possible) transportation or working the land/farming. And, I don't think their horses do either right now... just pets.

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#11 of 13 Old 07-13-2014, 11:23 PM
 
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Glad some of the ideas may help you. I'd definitely check out the rabbits for fiber animals if you're considering that. I've looked at fiber animals and they all require shearing - which I can't do and sounds difficult to learn lol. The rabbit's fiber can be harvested by brushing although of course there is still a lot of work involved with grooming care and dealing with the fiber you harvest. It seemed like an easier way to have fiber animals to me at least. DD has almost talked me into getting them for her.

Another idea I had - hobby farm and field trip tours! Our local schools are big into taking the kids to things like seasonal pumpkin patches for field trips. Of course caring for the animals and such is a big undertaking and there's a lot of infrastructure to add to accommodate field trips but it seemed like a good money maker if done right and you're going to have the animals anyways. The ones we've been to had a variety of animals but usually one-three of each type. Some could be petted but most couldn't. There were little trails around to view animals and fields/gardens. A playground, portapotty's with handwashing stations. Usually a hay ride and maybe even a food cart of some sort for lunch items that could be bought. With our field trip we usually paid about $5-10 each (with lots of kids, chaperones and parents attending!) plus feed cups could be bought for .50-1.00. Food items ranged in price but were simple offerings and a large portion of the attendees used the service. One even had a zipline the kids could ride that was $2 (?) for a ticket. Another had a small train the kids could hop on and charged $1 for it. I'd say when we went we usually had about 100-200 people attending spending an average of $10 per person. We were often one of 2-3 groups attending at one time as well. The kids got to pick out a pumpkin to take home as well. I've seen other similar places that do other farm tours, educational programs and even the pumpkin patches as a seasonal thing with other produce being an attraction at other times of the year such as melons or berries. Sorry that was a long recap but just wanted to share some of the things we saw done at the places and prices for info on what it may or may not bring in if you considered it.

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#12 of 13 Old 07-14-2014, 07:27 AM
 
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Yep. Agritourism is where it's at. We make most of our money on pumpkins and the entertainment that goes along with it.
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#13 of 13 Old 07-15-2014, 04:22 PM
 
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If you simply must have livestock but don't want to eat them (or sell to potential eaters) I'd probably recommend sheep of some sort.

They are pretty good for inexperienced livestock folks (although they do have a tendency to die in the dumbest ways and that's from experience) and they're pretty easy to fence in and keep most predators out. You could even get a guardian dog if predators turn out to be a problem. or donkey, they're ornery enough I hear but i also hear are often ornery with their sheep as well...

Goats, while perhaps smarter and more personable are also much more difficult to build fence for: if water can fit through your goat will find a way too... for sheep, and temporary fencing, use electro-net and a quality, strong charger. (premier1supplies.com!) If you're building permanent fencing, we use 42" woven wire I think. you could put a line or two of hi-tensile electric wire on top also for predators.

If you pick out a heritage style breed of sheep, they're often great wool producers and you can potentially earn a little bit of a higher price point if you have quality wool if you're unique. Think Jacob, Navajo, icelandic, or other wool producing or dual purpose breeds. We've found that our Jacobs do just fine on pasture that is pretty sub-par like all canary reed grass or a ton of weeds. They'll even browse pretty regularly whereas our rambouillet can be pretty whiney.

You could also eventually get into breeding your specialty sheep to sell as breeding animals. The animals you sell (if good quality) will likely have many productive years before being eaten (sorry, it's a practical use for an old gal who has worked hard. an honorable end in my opinon) The other side of that coin is that you will always have animals that simply are not good for breeding and you'll have to find a suitable use for them. some of those may not even be great for wool either...

As far as feeding, you may end up with a big hay expense if you cannot graze them. (those smaller, more primitive types of breeds will do find without grain too!) There are a number of folks who talk about year-round grazing (in the snow too) but it takes a long time to figure out the ideal system for your land and animals.

Otherwise, I like the PP who mentioned putting your extra money, time and space into vegetables and orchard if you can. there is a lot you can do with season extension for vegetables and lots of varieties of orchard trees that are suitable to longer winters.

lots of options out there so don't feel rushed to jump right in either. you can always rent your extra land to a neighbor until you figure it out. perhaps you could even trade them rent in part for livestock lessons. nothing beats having a knowledgeable neighbor willing to help you out when you are facing a newer challenge!

best of luck!

Farming mama to DD1 (10/18/07), DD2 (10/3/09) who are always DS born 8.21.14 and wife to loving hubby (6/23/2007).
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