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Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Utility Livestock and Fun Livestock ... Fighting for a balance

I struggle with balance in this lifestyle!!! Its so hard to find the fun sometimes on the homestead (job site!!!!) The main gardening season can be brutal but its so very rewarding because the health benefits of growing all our own organic vegetables and grain corn are the most important thing here and have improved our health the most! So I'll take that brutal work and love it!
But..
One thing that brings me the most struggle is the animals.
I love animals/livestock!
But I can't just keep a bunch of animals cause I love'em! Our subsistence farm model requires the animal be useful as possible... And as low input as possible.
I must learn to love the ones that are most suited , most needed and most productive for our land and natural resources.
Sometimes there's no fun in that...
But other times...
Take chickens...I love chickens!!!!
Chickens eat a lot... don't lay well through the winter and if you free range their eggs can be impossible to find some times....They are just not very economical... Especially the duel purpose heritage breeds that have been primarily bred for shows..They are annoyingly hard to manage if you free range! Flying into gardens.. and outside of the guardians fence lines, only to get killed off by a passing coyote ....
For a year I gave up chickens in favor of ducks ..ducks lay by 10 am and the mallard type breeds can't fly!  Plus Excellent eggs and meat! They eat less than the chickens I used to have ..only by alittle.
But I sure did miss chickens..... When selling all my high maintenance dairy animals and fiber animals I found I had time for a 'fun' animal! So yay! I'll get some silkie chickens!! Just 5 for fun ! (I have way more now!)
They have turned out to be the lowest input chickens I ever had.. Super easy to manage! Produce great eggs on a fraction of other breeds I had.. early maturing layers (my utility silkies started laying around 4 1/2 months! And the meat , which is unique... Some of the best we ever had.
Now the silkies are a really low input 'fun' animal on the farm! ahhhhh.... balance :-)
Some of y'all may have read my articles on our livestock guardian disasters....ya know...my dislike for livestock guardian dogs (but my appreciation for a good one!)
But even with a so called good one....I don't enjoy them.. 
 I do enjoy well behaved Llamas!! So after my first and only guard llama disaster 5 years ago I worked up my courage to try another one...
and ... its a fun animal!!! Llamas are beautiful and much more of a multi purpose animal than an lgd. Not only used for a guard.. I can get fiber from them, use their manure for my garden.. I can train her to wear a pack and take her with me on wild mushroom hikes...
can't do none of that with a guardian dog!
yes! another good utility livestock 'fun' animal!!!
Oh my geese!!!! Heres a winner winner! If you've  read other posts you know I adore the geese!! Meat, large seasonal eggs, down , manure for gardens.. So entertaining! 
 I enjoy geese immensely!!! they are wonderful (the best!) livestock ever imo!
I could watch them all day! Incredibly useful to our farm and fun to keep.
I freely admit I hated raising meat rabbits... and my husband will also admit, he hated them too!
I also did not care for other breeds of fiber rabbits I tried (already did a post on that)
.... but these adorable... sweet.... calm English angoras and english angora crosses :-) I so love them!!!
When I got into fiber rabbits I was told not to get English or English cross... that the grooming was way to much work!!
Since I"m a very busy farmer I listened.... but because the french and german rabbits I tried where rowdy they really took twice as long for me to groom than a sweet English.
I need to raise my own fiber! After spinning awhile, Its just not as fun if I can't throw some of my own farm raised stuff into my yarns!
These guys.... very nice balance!
Outside of the grooming which I love with these rabbits.. I use their nicely piled up manure for my gardens and Ofcourse their fiber! If I should have to cull .. We do like rabbit meat. Very multipurpose here!
Bonus!  Because they are smaller than other angoras and meat rabbits I have no problem foraging and growing most all their food! Making them extremely affordable to raise. 

If you farm you know it's not all fun.. Far from it! 
 The goats we need for weed control & milk.. also a good meat and manure source! Sure they are cute and Fun to watch but they are so much work.. It's hard for me to find a lot of balance/fun with them! They are probably our highest input animals.. Especially from a management stand point. They have horrible parasite issues, birthing issues are common, mastitis and just in general not the hardest livestock out there for the southeast! The climb on fences, head butt things.. scream for me like a 2 year old wanting to be feed every single time they see me!!! Always trying to break into the feed room... oh I could go on about the management of goats!! 
I don't think cows, yaks, camels or water buffalo are a dairy option for us...I tried dairy sheep and they did horrible here!
so goats it is! For as long as I can stand the adorable trouble makers! haha!

The muscovies are hands down the most amazing mothers! Sometimes hatching out 3 clutches a year! Very self sufficient and can feed themselves if you have the resources... Very good meat producers ,, decent seasonal egg production. Plus,, They are quirky and fun to watch! Friendly!! Beautiful!   
But a management nightmare!!! They fly!!
They fly very very well.... This is Not good. They are also escape artist finding any hole in the fence to squeeze through.. And even with a clipped wing I have watched them climb over a 4 foot fence..
Oh yes,  I don't really like pigs.... our AGH pigs are nice though compared to the other commercial and heritage breeds!!! No giant hateful pigs here! 
I do like what they give us!!! Rich red meat and lots of snow white lard! Lard has taken our sufficiently to a whole other level! I love it!
I'd rather have it than the meat... though the meat is incrediable... Being able to use the lard for so many things makes them a very useful animal! And very low input really.., atleast this breed is!
I've personally always had a thing for Kune Kune... and Kune Kune crosses!
They are abit different I've read ... But...

will they be a fun animal on the farm..... thats a hard one!
They sure are cute though!
Got a deposit on this girl.. Can't wait to bring her home !
Don't know that pigs ' can' be fun for me but our AGH lard pigs are sure low input and useful .
Working to find balance on our farm will probably always be a challenge! 
For now... I'm up for it ;-)

God Bless! 

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