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Options for meat

 
Rob Sigg
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Im trying to gather info on different types of animals for meat for our small 1/3 acre lot in the country. Ive been looking at rabbits, ducks, chickens and possibly goat. Does anyone have any luck doing this on a small scale. All the info out there says you can do it but I prefer to hear from people who are actually doing it. We have 4 chickens for egg laying now, so I think we would do well with chickens for meat. Since Im not keen on getting a rooster, I would probably do mail order chicks, raise them then slaughter. But I want to hear from people. Thank you!
 
Tyler Ludens
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I raise chickens for meat, though we do buy a small quantity of other meat (some beef and turkey). We tend to eat very little meat; I slaughter one rooster a week if we don't buy other meat, and I squeeze a few meals out of that one bird plus use some of it to make dog food. If you're a big meat-eater, it will be more of a challenge to raise all your own meat. It's very different raising 50 - 100 birds versus 4 birds, in my experience. For a small amount of land such as you have, you might want to look into aquaponics, which I'm just beginning to experiment with (I haven't raised any fish yet!).
 
Morgan Morrigan
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duck is pretty oily, better see how much you like it first.

chickens good.

Guinea pigs great, if you have a good enclosure.

goats tend to eat everything except for what you want them to eat. good meat tho.

Rabbits have lots of diseases, and very sensitive to temp and breezes. High maintenance, but high availability.
 
Walter Jeffries
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I would suggest starting with chickens. They are very easy and produce daily eggs and you can harvest small amounts of meat as you like. Rabbits are another easy animal, nice fur, no eggs. Next I would suggest pigs. Get a couple of weaner feeder pigs to raise over the summer. All of these are hardy animals. Take your time, only add one type of animal a year to your homestead. Get to know its needs and master that before adding more.

You don't need a rooster unless you want fertile eggs for hatching. Hens lay with or without the rooster. I enjoy roosters but not too many. I would suggest not getting the ultra-fast growing meat birds. They are more fragile than the traditional layers. We pasture our hens all summer without having to feed them until winter.

Yes, I am "actually doing it". In addition to what we raise to feed our family we raise hundreds of pigs on pasture for sale every year plus hundreds more poultry. In addition to producing eggs and meat the animals produce manure which is invaluable in our gardens.

Cheers

-Walter
Sugar Mountain Farm
Pastured Pigs, Sheep & Kids
in the mountains of Vermont
Read about our on-farm butcher shop project:
http://SugarMtnFarm.com/butchershop
http://SugarMtnFarm.com/csa
 
Tyler Ludens
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Walter Jeffries wrote:In addition to what we raise to feed our family we raise hundreds of pigs on pasture for sale every year plus hundreds more poultry.


Not exactly "small scale"!
 
Walter Jeffries
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H Ludi Tyler wrote:
Walter Jeffries wrote:In addition to what we raise to feed our family we raise hundreds of pigs on pasture for sale every year plus hundreds more poultry.

Not exactly "small scale"!


Ah, but we started small scale, feeding our family. Turned out we were very good at it and could pay the mortgage too, and more. Farming has become our full time job and we don't have to work off-farm which is really nice. The same lessons apply to home scale which is where we started.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Walter Jeffries wrote:

Ah, but we started small scale, feeding our family.


Can one actually raise pigs on 1/3 of an acre?

 
Walter Jeffries
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Sure, 1/3rd acre is enough for a couple of pigs. Figure 10 pigs per acre so you could do two easily. You can co-graze some poultry with them too. A third of an acre is enough to do a rotational grazing system. Divide up the area you want to graze into four or more paddocks. Move the animals each week or so. It is really by the forage growth that you want to do the moving, not by the calendar. Broadcast seed clover, beets, turnips, kale and rape behind them. Bring them back to the first plot in a month and a half to two months and you'll have grown a lot of food for them. Keep the rotation going. As they get bigger they'll rotate through the same size area faster. See:

http://www.google.com/search?q=site:flashweb.com+rotational%20grazing

http://SugarMtnFarm.com/blog/2007/10/how-much-land-per-pig.html

http://SugarMtnFarm.com/blog/2005/08/keeping-a-pig-for-meat.html

However, I still recommend starting with chickens the first year and getting your feet wet with them. No rush.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Thank you for those details.

 
Walter Jeffries
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The advertisement at the bottom of this page is from some evangelical vegan group. Click on the ad and you transfer money from their bank account to Paul's bank account which then supports this discussion of raising meat animals. What irony.
 
Cj Sloane
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Walter Jeffries wrote:Sure, 1/3rd acre is enough for a couple of pigs. Figure 10 pigs per acre so you could do two easily. ...
However, I still recommend starting with chickens the first year and getting your feet wet with them. No rush.


I agree with Walter. Start with chickens.

We did pigs for the first time this year and I found them to be very personable. For the first 3 months they were in a fairly small area (16x32). Next year I'd move them after 1 or maybe 2 months. They started to seem a little bored. The cheered up when given branches to play with.

I moved them to a paddock that was maybe 1/3 acre and I think they would've been happy in a space half that size or less. I have a nice pic of the pigs at full size on my thread (click My Site below).
 
John Polk
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Take your time, only add one type of animal a year to your homestead. Get to know its needs and master that before adding more.


Walter gives good advice there. I have known people who "started" with chickens, ducks and turkeys. Several weeks later, they decided they needed a goat for milk The broke homesteader down the road saw a sucker, and unloaded a surplus steer on them. It's a good thing hubby had a nice, new sweater, else they would have ended up with a few sheep!

They knew nothing about livestock keeping, and soon felt overwhelmed. The end result was that none of their livestock did well; some died. They felt overworked because they had not passed the learning curve on anything, and were still doing everything the hard way. Too many new lessons each week.

By "mastering" one type at a time, you will be doing yourself (and the animals) a favor. You can learn a lot from books, and on the web, but there are some things you can only learn by putting on your mud boots and going out there at 2a.m. to see what the problem is.
 
Katy Whitby-last
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Rob Sigg wrote:Im trying to gather info on different types of animals for meat for our small 1/3 acre lot in the country. Ive been looking at rabbits, ducks, chickens and possibly goat. Does anyone have any luck doing this on a small scale. All the info out there says you can do it but I prefer to hear from people who are actually doing it. We have 4 chickens for egg laying now, so I think we would do well with chickens for meat. Since Im not keen on getting a rooster, I would probably do mail order chicks, raise them then slaughter. But I want to hear from people. Thank you!


If you want to concentrate on chickens I would suggest getting a cockerel. Buying in chicks is an extra expense that you can avoid. If one of your current hens is a breed likely to go broody you can avoid the cost of an incubator and brooder set up and let them rear naturally. It also means that you can play around with the breeding to get the kind of meat that you personally like. Some of the breeds have much more gamey meat and they vary tremendously as to the amount of breast meat on them. Many people I know swear by an Indian Game cockerel over a Sussex or Dorking hen, that way your hens are also good egg layers. The cockerel that we are currently using is a Dorking x Scots Grey which is a heavy bird but with quite gamey meat. He is crossed to a mix of hens : Sussex, Scots Grey and Andalusian so we get meat birds and good layers from the progeny. This is useful as layers need replacing after a few years.

We also produce ducks. In my experience you will get meat quicker from a duck than from a non-commercial breed of hen. What we have done is pick a rare breed (the Blue Swedish) that is a multi purpose bird. If we breed particularly good specimens we can sell them as breeding stock and all the others are eaten. They are quite a big bird that is fast growing.

I wouldn't think that goats are an option on such a small plot, particularly as you would need 2 as they are herd animals. You will end up buying in a lot of feed which makes it expensive and it takes a lot longer for a kid to get to a size where it is worth sending it to slaughter. Also you will only be able to kid once a year and while some will throw twins it still isn't much meat per year. You also have the issue that unless you know someone with a billy to whom you can send your goat to get her in kid you also need to buy and feed a billy and keep him separate for most of the year.
 
Katy Whitby-last
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I just had another thought - what about geese? If you let them brood their young themselves they are very easy to raise and cheap to feed as they graze grass.
 
Rob Sigg
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Thanks everyone for the input. I currently have 4 laying hens, so meat chickens is the next logical step, which we will most likely do. I think they can be ready in 12-16 weeks. I don't want to do a rooster because of all of our neighbors, so I will have to buy chicks locally. Im hoping this will give us some experience on that side of things. I really like duck and Ive read that Pekin can be ready in 8 weeks or so. I figure I could get a male/female and then eat the young, that way im only keeping 2 over the winter.

IM curious as to the pigs. What are weaner pigs? And when I say I have 1/3 acre thats everything. I have a small front yard, the sides and some of the back are all garden areas with fruit/nut trees etc. I do have a larger lawn area in the back and a small pond, like 20x8 in size. I figured ducks would do well in that area.

I came to the same conclusion on goats, I dont think we could keep 2 on our land even with a fully mature system. My wife was asking for the milk primarily.

Geese I have never had, but a farm locally sells them. Maybe I will try them sometime.
 
Tyler Ludens
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You might get more variety by buying mail order than buying locally. I've always used this hatchery http://www.mcmurrayhatchery.com though have not been thrilled with their quality lately (batches of supposed pure-bred birds including obvious mutts). If you order an assortment you can observe how they grow for you and which ones you prefer for ordering next time.

I've not ordered Ducks from McMurray because they don't have the breed I'd like to try, Muscovy. But I've order chicks from them for years and they seem to ship well, with no fatalities or injuries.

 
Cj Sloane
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Rob Sigg wrote:IM curious as to the pigs. What are weaner pigs? And when I say I have 1/3 acre thats everything.


Baby Pigs that have been weaned and ready for sale. 1/3 of an acre may not be enough unless you'd be happy with a "roaster pig" (not full size) or maybe if you only do 1 pig (but I get the impression they're happier in pairs. Unless that was just to get them to eat more (competing with the other pig).
 
Leila Rich
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Muscovies are friendly, really quiet and very fast growers. And they're very tasty.
Be warned though, their combined hang-out and toilet will inevitably be right where you need to walk the most!
I've just spent time with some hybrid meat birds and they creeped me out a bit. They were absolutely starving, all the time. They didn't have access to free choice feed, but I imagine they would gorge themselves if given the chance.
They were nearly twice the size of the New Hampshire chicks of the same age, on the same feed though...
 
kent smith
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Robb, I saw that you are here in PA. we are outside of meadville so if you are in the area we would be glad to have you visit. We have more land than what you are using, but we have had good results with a couple of things. I would suggest trying to raise some chicken broilers in moveable pens. We do this for part of our meat supply. part of what i like about using moveable pens is the simplicity of no fencing and that each day the chickens are on new grass. It keeps the damage to the grass down and spreads the manure evenly over your land. I buy 50 cornish cross meat birds each summer for butchering. I prefer to do them all at once to save time but on a smaller scale you could easily do 25 at a time. I built a brooder out of some scrap lumber and a hanging heat lamp for nearly nothing. raising them is the summer when the temps are warm means that they only need to be in the brooder for 2 weeks then I put them out in the moveable pen. I will start the pen close to the house or shop so that if we have a cold night the first week I can run an extension cord out to the pen with the brooders heat lamp. when they are 8 weeks old they are ready to butcher. We over ended up butchering 45 broilers and had over 250 pounds of dressed broilers in the freezer. The biggest down side is having to buy feed. because these bird grow so fast a 18% protein feed is needed the first several weeks, but it can be leaned down with ground corn the last weeks to save feed costs. Using the same brooder and pen we also raise some turkeys after the chickens are done. We still have some turkeys left out in the shed we use as a barn since our freezer is full. One advantage to the turkeys is that they will get a much higher amount of feed from the grass. This is the first year in decades that I have had hogs so I am still in the learning curve. I modified some cattle panels to use as a protable, moveable pen for them which is working very well. part of our raising hogs is that we wanted to use them to break up the decade old sod where we want to expand our garden and to prepare areas for grape and berry patchs. they do a great job of rooting up the ground if I do not over feed them which is hard to do this time of the year. they get excited when it is time to move their pen to the next area to root. I would be hesitant to suggest keeping hogs in a small pen on a small lot. we used to keep rabbits, however we did not enjoy the meat as well as we do the chickens and we had issues with keeping them confined to a small hutch, I am really sold on moveable pens and fresh graizing for all animals. Years ago when my daughter was a baby she could not drink cows milk and we kept dairy goats. at that time I woud stake them our on a tether to clear some of the overgrown areas we had back when we lived in oregon. It worked well too. I think that it pays to look at keeping things simple and looking back in history for examples that worked on small holdings. I have always liked the john seymore book I was given back in the 70s as and example of keeping things simple on a small scale.
kent
 
Cj Sloane
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kent smith wrote:...we kept dairy goats. at that time I woud stake them our on a tether to clear some of the overgrown areas we had back when we lived in oregon. It worked well too.


I had no luck with tethering goats at all. Within an hour they would completely hog-tie themselves. I do successfully tether my ram.
 
Rob Sigg
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I looked at muscovies, but I really dont want anything thats going to fly. I have the pond area, so might as well use it I think.

Kent, we are on opposite sides of PA unfortunately, or else Id make a field trip! I assume your feed rate is high because of the cornish breed? If I used Barred Rock, wouldnt it be a lower rate, but take longer? Im ok if it takes longer.

I thought about tethering the goat as well, but that would leave it defenseless in our open yard. I really would need some kind of sturdy fencing and shelter for it at all times. We get foxes, dogs and varmints running through our yard all the time. Sigh...maybe someday!
 
Walter Jeffries
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Rob Sigg wrote:I looked at muscovies, but I really dont want anything thats going to fly.


They do fly quite well. We didn't have any trouble with that though as they were homed to our place.
 
Abe Connally
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chickens have been a lot more effort than rabbits for us. Constant predator and heat issues, mainly.

Rabbits are easy, and cheap to get started. We've got about 10 does and 2 bucks, and we are producing 250+ kg of meat a year with 15 minutes a day. I can butcher 4-5 rabbits in the same time it takes to butcher a chicken.

But earthworms have got to be the best livestock. Really low maintenance!

You can clip the wings on those muscovies and keep them in...
 
Katy Whitby-last
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Abe Connally wrote:

But earthworms have got to be the best livestock. Really low maintenance!

..


For their personal meat production? It would take a lot of worms to make a burger
 
Abe Connally
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For their personal meat production? It would take a lot of worms to make a burger

It takes 2 lbs of earthworms to produce 1 lb of fish, or 3 lbs of muscovy duck, or 4 lbs of pork....
 
Lacia Lynne Bailey
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Abe Connally wrote:
For their personal meat production? It would take a lot of worms to make a burger

It takes 2 lbs of earthworms to produce 1 lb of fish, or 3 lbs of muscovy duck, or 4 lbs of pork....


You get more pounds of duck or pork than the lbs of earthworms they eat? Do you have a source on that? I'm very curious!
 
Lacia Lynne Bailey
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Rob Sigg wrote:... I thought about tethering the goat as well, but that would leave it defenseless in our open yard...We get foxes, dogs !


Yes, please do not tether goats! They can tangle and break and/or damage legs. That risk can be reduced by running them on a high-line, but as you say, they are still subject to attacks by loose dogs etc.
 
Fred Morgan
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Interesting, here in Costa Rica, everyone tethers their goat from what I see, by the side of the road. Of course, the dogs are small here, and the goats have horns, big ones. The goats actually look pretty scary to me...

I use sheep personally, but I would love to have a couple of goats, maybe some year I will do it. I probably will go for milk sheep first.

Perhaps partially it is if goats are tethered from the first, they will have little problems dealing with it - but trying to tether an older animals probably will be a problem.

We tether horses, cattle, etc all the time too. Very important how you do it, or you can end up with a dead animal. Generally speaking, it is done while someone is nearby.
 
Ernie Wisner
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I would shy off from rabbits unless you are going to augment your diet with a bunch of other stuff. not much nutrition in rabbit and the skins dont sell worth beans nowadays. I like rabbit but after raising them for a dozen years I can tell you its easy to raise chickens and the food properties are better. I do like a good rabbit dinner on occasion. Geese are good, ducks are good, on 1/3rd acr pigs are good as long as they have the run. the problem most folks have on that small a patch is the food soon becomes pets, unless it something humans have a bit of a difficult time relating to. like chickens and ducks.
 
Rob Sigg
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Thanks everyone for the replies. I think at this point Im going to go with duck, most likely Pekin for a variety of reasons. I would still like to hear from everyone on their experience with ducks, especially Pekin.
 
Brad Davies
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Lacia Lynne Bailey wrote:
Abe Connally wrote:
For their personal meat production? It would take a lot of worms to make a burger

It takes 2 lbs of earthworms to produce 1 lb of fish, or 3 lbs of muscovy duck, or 4 lbs of pork....


You get more pounds of duck or pork than the lbs of earthworms they eat? Do you have a source on that? I'm very curious!


I can't speak for Abe, but I think he means 1lb fish = 2lbs worms, 1lb Muscovy = 3lbs worms, 1lb pork = 4lbs worms.
 
Abe Connally
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yes, that is what I meant!
 
                
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You mention the space but how close are your neighbors? Do you need to worry about local ordinances and noise?

You might want to look at Japanese Quail, pigeon and tilapia or maybe all three in addition to some other critters. Looking forward to hearing what you decide.
 
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