By Renata Finch
Keeping and caring for homestead animals is one of the joys of homesteading. A good animal will give you endless pleasure, great food, and live with you for the rest of its life. If it is a breeding animal, it may be with you for many years. It will often become part of your family. Choosing homestead animals and the right animal breeds are important decisions. There are many factors that must be considered before you decide to get an animal.
Considerations for Homestead Animals
Before you decide which kind homestead animals you will get, you have to consider your family needs, what kind of livestock your land can support, and if you have sufficient animal housing. Do you have enough diverse pasture to fulfill the animal’s dietary needs? Or will you need to purchase food for the animal and can your homestead afford to do so? Can you cut hay and store it for drier times? Can you grow your own grain for stock feed?
Only you know your homestead and it is important that before you choose to bring in an animal, you really consider carefully what your land can support. Sometimes it is better to wait and make improvements to the pasture and/or buildings before getting livestock.
Choosing The Right Kind Of Animal
You also need to consider what kind of animals to choose for your homestead. There are often different types of homestead animals that can fulfill your needs and choosing the right one is important for properly managing your homestead. We also all have personal preferences and, often, dreams of certain kinds of animals on our land. Even as a young girl I wanted a milk cow called Bessy. While my family were suburb dwellers this was not an option, but once my husband and I moved to our little patch of earth, I was able to get my cow (and yes, I called her Bessy).
However, what is right for my situation, may not work for you. Is it better to choose a goat or cow for milk? An alpaca or dog for stock protection? Chicken or duck for eggs? Each answer is unique to your own homestead, situation, and personal preferences. What is right for one homestead, may be completely wrong for another.
Choosing The Right Animal Breeds
Once you decide on what kind of homestead animals you are going to get, you must consider which breed will be right for your family. It is important to thoroughly research the different breeds and look at all the options available. I find it invaluable to talk to people who have been raising this particular type of animal. These people will often be able to steer you clear of problems and point you towards the animal that will provide the very best quality of product for your requirements.
Also, consider what is being raised on nearby homesteads. Your neighbors have often made mistakes before and it is helpful to learn from those rather than make the same mistakes yourself.
Choosing Farm Animals For Kids
Another factor is choosing an animal with the right temperament for your homestead, and particularly choosing farm animals for kids. Having aggressive animals around children is both dangerous and scary. It can be helpful to get a baby animal and hand-raise it. While the animal is young they are quite malleable and, as long as you know what you want them do and have the time to teach them, they will become an asset to your homestead. There is still a natural tendency to certain behaviors, but generally they will be young enough to teach them how you want them to act.
If you are choosing mature animals, try to spend some time around them before you make the purchase. Many people spend a lot of money on animals that are not right for their situation. If you are choosing a milking cow, it is helpful to see her being milked before you make the purchase. It is imperative that she is affectionate enough to allow you to touch her. It is good if she has a quiet temperament.
Finally, you need to consider your animal’s housing needs. If you need to spend a lot of money building animal housing to get them through winter, then you need to sit down and look at your finances before you make the purchase and ensure you can budget for that.
Enjoy The Experience!
Once you have made the decision on what animal you are going to get, choose to enjoy the experience. No animal is perfect and they will all find some kind of mischief to get into at some point. Walking over fences, going under fences, visiting neighbors, getting into the wrong pen, opening gates, breaking shelters, knocking things over, getting into feed—many things can occur with even the best homestead animal. It is imperative that you face animal keeping as you do all things homesteading—with a good sense of humor!
Renata is a happy wife and homeschooling mama to four precious children (including identical twins). She spends her days surrounded by beauty on their small farm. She journals her homesteading, homeschooling, and homemaking adventures at Sunnyside Farm Fun.