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Are you wanting to raise livestock on your hobby farm or homestead? I’m sure you do. Check out what we’ve found to be the best farm animals to raise for beginners. Raising animals for meat is a rewarding task that most homesteaders do. Today I share with you how to raise farm animals for meat and a profit.
When we found our 10 acres of land, it was time to start the homesteading dream. Excited to raise as many farm animals as we could with what little money we had left we started getting creative to raise farm animals for cheap.
The property we had purchased had a chicken coop, a three stall barn with a hay loft to fit 500 square bales and 5 horse paddocks with shelter along with the fencing for each.
So we got started with as many farm animals we could raise with our cheap budget after purchasing the land. In our first January on the homestead we figured out what animals we were interested in starting with and a year later we had taken our shot at raising chickens, turkeys, meat birds, rabbits, lamb, pork and a cow or two all while both working full time at our day jobs.
You might be wondering if we burnt out? Pretty close would be my honest answer. But we’ve learned how to manage homestead life much better since then. Read our current homestead goal plan and time management tips for homesteaders here.
Let’s get to it! Here’s my list of the best farm animals for beginner homesteaders.
THINGS TO CONSIDER WHEN CHOOSING THE BEST FARM ANIMALS TO RAISE
It’s important to determine how much it will roughly cost to raise your farm animals. Some costs to think of or research before making your ultimate decision are as follows.
Upfront purchase cost
Feed- what will you have to purchase? If the animals are grazing the amount of grazing space will help you determine your flock/herd size. Consider finding free feed wherever possible.
Did you know cows love pumpkins? Be smart with your fields when it comes to grazing animals and field management. Contact your local restaurants and breweries for scraps and spent grains. Use garden scraps. Free range your chickens. Windfall fruits make great feed
Need for shelter– determining what you currently have to utilize, what repairs buildings might need and if you need shelter and protection for the animals you choose to raise.
What animals are you NOT afraid of? What animals do you find cute and cuddly, do you have buildings already on your property to house them? If you plan to raise animals for meat what does your family eat the most of and would benefit from?
TIME AND CHORES
Some animals require more time and care than others. It’s important to determine how much time you have and the chores that are involved before you start to raise farm animals. We’ve created a chore chart for our barn to help us stay organized. Access it here to help you stay organized.
WHO YOU KNOW
Put the word out there that you are starting a farm. I luckily was able to adopt my mothers bosses flock of beautiful heritage bred chickens when he moved homes. Free chickens mean free eggs, and you can most likely find a free rooster out there to start your next generation of chickens.
It’s also important to think of who you know that could help you in time of crisis or holiday and who the experts are in your local area. Our best bet was buying Scottish highland cows straight from our neighbour.
6 BEST FARM ANIMALS TO RAISE FOR BEGINNERS
FLOCK OF LAYING HENS
It’s not a homestead or hobby farm without chickens! fAt least according to my grandmother. We incubate fertilized eggs, sell chicks and enjoy eating fresh eggs as part of our regular diet. The hens are perfect mulchers and help help keep the weeds down. Check out my guide to incubating chicks or using a broody hen to raise chicks.
If raising chickens isn’t for you then try raising ducks instead. Read this article if you’re interested in raising ducks.
Meat rabbits are a great small livestock option for homesteaders with limited land. They are also a great option for making money raising small livestock. Tiffany shares 5 ways to make money raising meat rabbits.
We learned that raising meat birds at the most upfront cost for feed, but was the best return on our investment as we were able to eat chicken for free for the following year! They can smell, need a large well ventilated space and proper protection. They also don’t free range well or behave like an egg laying hen so you’ll need to feed them a lot of store bought feed. Check out my guide to raising chickens for meat here.
Raising chickens for meat is one way to make money from your homestead. Raising meat birds can be a lot of work to get started, but its a quick and profitable return. We raise broilers every summer and every year our system becomes more efficient. We raise and sell enough to have enough chicken to last the year.
Cows are a great option if you have a larger property and several acres of fields too graze.
We were able to get our hands on a relatively cheap dairy steer from a local fairy farm before he was sent off to auction. If you are thinking of starting with beef cows, try starting off with two dairy steers in the spring without a large investment. BUT, dairy steers won’t reach the same final weight as beef steers, so do your research to see what the final hanging weights of each option could be.
Raise a herd of beef cattle to sell. Depending on the size of property you have, you might raise a few steers for butcher or have a herd of cows and a bull. If you raise beef, consider selling beef calves once weaned from their mothers and sell them as steers or a pregnant cow.
Plan it out so they graze longer than needing hay before going to butcher. We were able to keep a half side of beef for ourselves for very little in our first year and have now figured out how to have a half side of beef in the freezer every year for free. Read more about raising beef cattle here.
Lambs provide dairy, meat and wool for beginner homesteaders.
Lamb is a specialty meat that most people like to purchase straight from the farmer. You can easily get a lamb for $150 to keep the grass down on your field and at the end of the season send them in to butcher. We had success selling lamb our first year on the homestead.
We struggled to get our lambs to a good finishing weight that made the work worth it. I followed advice of having them solely grass fed. A few things that didn’t go right were they were scheduled to late in the season for butcher so we had to supplement with purchased hay much longer than anticipated and the field they were on wasn’t the best for hay.
For more information about getting started raising lamb, check out this article
Goats provide dairy, meat and amazing land clearing abilities to name a few. Read our beginner guide to raising Goats for more information about why these animals are great for small homesteads.
BEST FARM ANIMALS TO RAISE FOR BEGINNERS WHILE MAKING A PROFIT
Raising farm animals is often the first thing that new homesteaders think of when planning on generating an income from their land. Traditionally, many farmers make a profit on raising animals but the loss seems to become greater these days.
You might also be interested in checking out our massive list of ways to generate income from your property.