The first farm animals we raised were chickens. They are fairly easy to raise, contain and maintain. Once we were comfortable with chickens we decided to try our luck at sheep. We were able to obtain a flock from a neighbor that we could ask many questions before we brought the sheep home. We also read as much as we could to increase our success and decrease the problems for the sheep. Back then, reading was strictly done in books because the internet was not available yet. Hmmm.....it's been a few years.
We learned so much from our sheep. We went through several different flocks. We sheared them, washed and carded the wool and even learned how to spin on a spinning wheel - kinda. We raised wethers for butcher and had the hides tanned. It was a tremendous learning experience.
After a few years, we decided we were ready to try goats. We wanted the milk, butter and cheese that they could provide so we changed animals. It didn't take long before we realized that we just liked goats better than sheep and the dairy products were an added bonus.
Now we are more serious about our herd - which does we keep and why. We want good milk producers that are also good moms. We started here with 12 does and have gradually bred and sold them until we have four now. Only one of them was part of the original herd - One Stripe. Two of the others are her daughters - Velvet and Copper. The fourth doe, Ivory, is the daughter of one of our original does that we kept until this spring. All of these does
were kept for their ability to milk, or in Ivory's case, because of her mother's production. Since we kept two of One Stripe's daughters, it does present a challenge with breeding and keeping new stock. We will probably sell Velvet this year and keep a doe from Ivory, or buy an unrelated doe. We bought an unrelated doe last year to add new blood to the herd, but she did not meet the expectations we had for an additional doe. There are always decisions to be made that will hopefully increase the performance of the herd.
We thought about milk cows for years and decided they were just too big for us to handle. And another aspect of our choice is the size of the carcass when it comes to butchering. We now do all of our own butchering
and a cow is just too much meat. When times get hard and there is no electricity for freezers and refrigeration, a goat carcass is much more manageable when it comes to preserving the meat, whether by canning or drying. We consider our wethers to be meat on the hoof until the time comes to process them. It is another form of food storage for us. That's why we give our wether's names like Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner.
When we moved here, we got in touch with a local agriculture teacher who set us up with a beef and a hog. He even hauled them to the butcher for us. We bought two freezers and got them partially filled as soon as the meat was ready. This is the last beef we bought. Since then we have fed out a few pigs for butcher. But I just don't like pigs. They ended up going to the butcher at a rather small size because I was finished messing with them. The butcher even laughed at how small they were.
We have close neighbors that raise beef and if we ever
need or want any, it would be easy to obtain. There is a family at church that
raises excellent pork. So we have access to good, homegrown meat if we choose.
Choosing the right livestock for your family and situation is a very personal thing. There is no right or wrong. We make our decisions based on what we see coming in the future and how we can manage what we have when that time comes.We enjoy the harvest our animals provide everyday. They teach us responsible stewardship and reward us everyday.
Until next time - Fern