Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Small area livestock for meat

OK this is a very controversial subject so turn your head or browse a few other blogs while we talk about livestock for meat. 

There are a lot of ways to provide your family with meat.  You can go to the market and buy it prepackaged and ready to cook, you can even buy it already cooked and just pop it in the microwave.  Those are options and choices we all make on a daily basis.  I grew up on small and large farms and ranches.  Livestock and even wild meats were all a source of food protein that no one would have ever thought it odd to eat.  I luckily and happily ate anything my parents and grandparents put in front of me.  I was to say the least not a picky child.  (Not that it would have been tolerated anyway). 

Today people tend to look at livestock as something like a pet.  PETA has instilled this thought that it is inhumane to eat animal protein.  One only has to look at the workings of PETA to understand them.  They have NOT given money to any shelter, animal conservatory or program.  They have in fact given money to finance lawyers representing those people who have bombed university labs that used rats for testing purposes and killed human beings in the process. They have given money for legal fees of persons arrested for assault and battery (throwing paint and physically hitting women and men wearing what they thought was real fur)   PETA is promoting a way of life that is vegetarianism and no other agenda that I can see. 

I personally feel that God gave us humans dominion over the animals to use them to our needs.  Clothing, food, footwear, homes etc.  He charges us with their upkeep and their humane treatment right to the second death claims them.  When we have raised happy, cared for animals to provide ourselves with food and other items' then we have accomplished what God has set before us. Our animals have accomplished the job God has set before them. 

Here we do not name our future dinner.  If there is a name assigned to the particular animal as a way of differentiating between it and another animal then it is a name like Chops, T-Bone, Taco or a milk heifer might be called Buttermilk or Biscuit..  Many people have made pets out of livestock and that is their prerogative but our rabbits were for eating, our chickens are for eggs and eating, our ducks are for eggs and eating and our goats are for eating and breeding.  Once a lady at the feed store was getting some rabbit food as was I.  When I asked for " 200 lbs of Meat Rabbit pellets "  she almost threw up.  She very angrily said to me that she was glad she wasn't one of my rabbits.  I told her "rabbits are livestock and they have provided food for the human race for thousands of years".  I felt badly that she had to face that fact but it is true. 

Rabbits are probably the easiest livestock to raise as food for your family.  One buck (male) and 2 does (females) can provide your family with rabbit dinners once a week for a year.  They are easy to raise and easy to butcher.  My own grand kids were a bit reticent about eating them so grandpa told the littlest ones that it was a special 4 legged chicken so everyone could have a drumstick.  The older ones didn't want to eat the cute little bunnies so I just made a recipe that was a rabbit simmered in gravy and didn't tell them.  They all loved it so I told them what they had eaten and reminded them that they "loved" it.  It has never been a problem again. 


Rabbits require a few things for successful breeding and raising.  We did not raise litters in the summer as there seemed to be a higher failure rate for birthing.  Rabbits do not tolerate heat well but they tolerate extreme cold very well as long as their needs are met.  Our rabbitry was a large one with 32 breeders.  Summers required a canopy around the rabbits so I bought one of those big canopies that people use to park their cars in, I also had misters hung inside the frame works to keep it cool inside.  On extreme days of over 100F I also put 2 liter bottles I had filled with water and froze inside the individual cages so the rabbits could lay against them.  Even with all that I would sometimes end up with a  dead rabbit.  One year we even hooked up an old swamp cooler to keep them cool.  Winter months they had to be protected from rain but cold was not a problem.  Males and females have to be separated or there will be fighting.  The female will only tolerate the male for so long..LOL!  When the female has her kits she will only go to them to feed them.  Usually that is once a day.  If it is hot she will move them to the front of the box and if it is cold she will move them to the back of the box and she will pull more of her hair to cover them with.   In just a few weeks the kits will jump out of the box and she will jump on top of the box to get away from them.  At about 4 weeks they can be weaned and then put in a separated cage with females in one side and males in the other.  They should be ready to butcher in just a few months.

Chickens are also easy, you can buy day old chicks directly from a hatchery or from your local feed store.  I have hens that sit on eggs and hatch them but the hen raised chicks have a higher mortality rate than the ones I raise.  Sometimes I take the chicks away from the hen and put them into a home made brooder till they are ready to turn out into the coop. There are breeds that are great egg layers and breeds that are strictly meat birds.  Some are both meat and egg.  I like to keep a few of both on hand. I keep them in coops where they have enough room to chase bugs, run around and be chickens.  I do not put them in small cages where they can't do anything but eat and lay eggs.  I find that cruel.

                                                                  Chicken Coop

Goats for meat and milk is as old as civilized man.  Goats are easy birthers often having 2-4 kids at a time and they can produce kids twice a year.  It takes 5 months from conception to birth, 2-3 months to wean and they are often pregnant before weaning.  They convert feed to meat easily and are easy browsers.  They like a little of this and a little of that.  A young male kid is called a buckling, a young female kid is called a doeling by the way and they begin trying to breed as young as 2 weeks.  You will see them mounting each other before their belly buttons fall of.  This is why it is imperative to have them weaned and the bucklings separated from the dams (mothers) and the doelings by 3 months of age or you will have them impregnating their dams and or their siblings. 

Goats need quality food, which means good nutritious browse and or a good quality alfalfa to gain weight.  The more muscle the more meat so it's also important to give them plenty of water, plenty of room to exercise and good food.  Goat meat also called Chevon, tastes like a mild deer meat or some say lamb.  I find it like a combination of the two.  It is lower in calories than white chicken meat, lower in cholesterol than beef, chicken  pork or rabbit and very lean.  You can make a wonderful sausage from it, jerky, salami and of course all the regular cuts of meat like chops, stew and roasts.

Meat Goats - These are Boers

Milk goats have some different requirements but not many.  The milk will take on the taste of the food so you don't want to feed them something strong like cabbage!  You need to milk them twice a day or some people do only milk once a day.  Milk goats will put out as much milk as they have to in order to keep up with the demand of milking.  Some goats have a 'goaty' tasting milk and other goats milk tastes like whole cows milk.  Different breeds of goats produce different amounts of milk and with different percentages of fat content.  I personally like the Saanen's.  I like their personality and the milk out put is huge.  We got close to 2 gallons a day from our girl.  I froze it in 2 liter bottles for later use as goats milk freezes very well, I also made cheeses from it.  (Both soft and hard cheese)

Milk Goats
Goat Cheeses

 You may find you only need a little milk and want to have a dwarf variety.  You might get a big breed like a Nubian or a Togg but whatever you get remember goats are very hands on and not like the cartoon goat that stands on top of the garbage heap and eats tin cans and mouldy hay (which can kill a goat quickly) .  Another thing you can do with goat milk is soap!  Goats milk soap is one of the nicests things you can do for yourself and it isn't that hard to make. 

 There are other types of small farm livestock like ducks, geese, pigeons, etc and all will provide food one way or another for your family.  I have hit on the major small farm meat producers for those that have just an acre or two.  With an acre or two you can feed your family very well from what you grow and what you raise, and a lot more healthily than store bought, hybrid raised food.