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Looking for meat options

 
Roman Campbell
Posts: 52
Location: Blanchard, LA...zone 8b
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I'm currently trying to develop my 4 acres into a homestead. I almost have my chicken coop built for egg layers (RIR) and constructing my barn/shop. In the meantime I'm planning out what type of livestock to supply me and my wife with meat. I considered having a couple of cows but I have no experience keeping livestock and don't think I should start with cows plus I don't believe 4 acres in enough. I've considered Boer goats as a possible meat supplier but I also think hair sheep would be a great option. The other problem I'm facing is my 4 acres is primarily wooded, don't goat and sheep need pasture to feed on? Can goats or sheep be kept in pens or do they need to have a lot of space to roam? Also looking into quail and rabbits.
 
patrick canidae
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Your climate is hot, wet and humid. Boer goats love to die in hot, wet and humid. I would want hair sheep or gulf coast natives. They will browse as well as graze, but can't live on nothing. Cut down some timber and allow sprouts to grow, and toss out alsike clover or other acid tolerant legume. If you have the vine that ate the south, they eat the hell out of it too. Perimeter fence your property. Ruminants are made to graze, and it is inefficient and greatly increases morbidity and mortality when trying to turn them into confinement animals.

Rabbits die from heat. They are probably the most efficient converter of forage to meat, but too damn hard to keep in a hot, wet buggy environment for my taste.

You could also get protein in the form of wine cap mushrooms. The easiest mushroom for me to grow, simple and low cost to establish, and could give you a reason to rent a tree chipper and shred some limbs and bushes to make room for forage growth while building perennial mushroom beds. https://youtu.be/o4KnMDaUi2o We literally had over 100 pounds of mushrooms our first spring.
 
Kyrt Ryder
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Location: Graham, Washington [Zone 7b, 47.041 Latitude] 41inches average annual rainfall, cool summer drought
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For starters, have you considered going with a dual-purpose with decent egg laying rather than a dedicated egg layer?

Like a Delaware or an Orpington? The objective is to get the birds to hatch their own young, eat the males [and excess females] while replacing your layers.
 
Roman Campbell
Posts: 52
Location: Blanchard, LA...zone 8b
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No I haven't looked into a dual purpose bird, sounds like a good idea. We eat quite a bit of chicken so id guess we'd have to keep a constant supply of eggs incubating. Well I guess that answers my question about Boer goats or sheep. Guess I'll go with sheep. Would 1 male and 2 females be ideal? Hopefully keeping the females pregnant and raising the kids for food. How much space would they need? Thinking of fencing an acre on the dense woody part of my property, that would give them plenty to eat and cleanup for me, just don't want to spend endless amounts on feed as that would defeat the purpose.
 
patrick canidae
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https://www.premier1supplies.com/fencing.php?mode=detail&fence_id=87

You need to rotate your sheep. No more than 7 days on the same piece. Small paddocks and frequent moves. Electronet is the friend of the small grazier! Buy a young yearling ram, breed for 30 days, then kill him and eat him. Save feed for productive females and reared offspring. Buy a limb saw and drop small limbs of palatable tree species for the sheep. Chip the defoliated limbs to make compost or mushroom beds.
 
Kyrt Ryder
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Location: Graham, Washington [Zone 7b, 47.041 Latitude] 41inches average annual rainfall, cool summer drought
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Roman Campbell wrote:Guess I'll go with sheep. Would 1 male and 2 females be ideal?

That's what I started out with, though long-term the plan is to keep the females and eat the males [and interbred female offspring that come later after saving the females] until building up a sizeable flock of Ewes, then either eat or- if the meat is no longer fit for human consumption- convert into pork the Ram and replace him with a new one from a different area.

As for the amount of land, this depends HEAVILY on the soil of the land and the state of its current vegetation. Best thing you can do is start small but stock them dense in portable fencing moved daily and see how much you have left after your first season.

EDIT: as for small single-meal livestock [as an alternative to rabbits which really don't handle your heat] you might want to look into Cui [aka Guinea Pigs.] They're a semi-tropical [fairly high elevation at tropical/near-tropical latitude] animal, but there's a guy who has a self-sufficient herd living in his yard in Missouri that shelter under his porch in freezing weather. If you have the nerve to use them for meat, they're a pretty interesting option. There are a couple threads on these boards about raising them for meat.
 
Roman Campbell
Posts: 52
Location: Blanchard, LA...zone 8b
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Has far as eating the males go, and this may seem like a dumb question but keep the buck that is doing the breeding right? Or do I eat him and just raise a new buck each time? After doing more research I believe I'm gonna go with Boer goats. Seems like they'll do better in my wooded areas in keeping themselves fed and heard they're good at creating pasture. As far as fencing an area off, what is recommended, like an acre or could I go a little smaller or would I need more? I was also curious where y'all buy your goats from, I've searched craigslist in my area looking for Boer goats and a lot time it'll say Boer goats for sale but looking at the pictures they are not. How can I be sure I'm getting a purebred Boer goat?
 
Dana Jones
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I also have a small acreage that is heavily wooded. I studied goats and sheep extensively before deciding on sheep. Then I studied sheep breeds and decided on hair breeds. After more study, I decided on Dorper as #1 choice and Katahdin as #2 choice. I found a great deal on 4 bred ewes that are half Dorper, half Katahdin, bred to a Katahdin ram. I currently have 2 sets of twins on the ground. I am in east Texas, hot, hot, did I mention hot? LOL

I planted winter rye and oats for winter graze on the few clear strips I have. The property is unbelievably thick with greenbriars. I can't wait for spring when the briars leaf out so the sheep can strip them. When they get down to the hard thorny stems, I'll mow with the tractor. I was told not to "clean up" for the sheep, as they would clear the land for me. When they reach the point of eating the trees I want to save (they strip off the bark and the tree dies) I will make wire cages around the trees. In just the short time I have had the ewes, they have trimmed up the pastures I have them in. We fenced using 2"x4"x48" non climb horse wire in 200' rolls with 7' T-posts, adding 2 strands of barb wire at the top to make a 5' tall fence.

Buying 2 ewes or does and 1 ram or buck would be a good way to go. Keep the female offspring, sell or eat the male off spring. Breed the original females back to the original male, then sell or eat him. Buy a new one. Use him to breed the female offspring, the original females and the second batch of female offspring. You can breed father to daughter, but I wouldn't inbreed any further than that. Get the number of females you want to keep, get the best flock sire you can and you are in the sheep/goat business.

Clear out some trees, but don't strip the shade trees out. Each pasture needs a shady spot so they can get relief from the summer sun. You might want to look into planting pumpkins and winter squash for winter feed. It would be a welcome fresh treat from the monotony of hay.
 
Roman Campbell
Posts: 52
Location: Blanchard, LA...zone 8b
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I appreciate that in-depth explanation of what you do. Any particular reason you went with sheep? I live in NW Louisiana so our climates are pretty much the same. Do you supplementally feed your goats or do they eat enough from where you put them?
 
Dana Jones
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I went with sheep because goats are escape artists. Sheep stay in the fence. Both have their pros and cons. I just like the sheep, I like lamb and already have customers waiting on lamb. We are practically neighbors. I live in the Tyler, Tx area, we are connected by Interstate 20, LOL. One of my ewes had a lamb yesterday, that makes 3 ewe and 2 ram lambs. The rams got cut today, so they will grow out and go to slaughter. The 3 ewe lambs added to the ewes we bought now makes me 7 ewes. It sure doesn't take long to make a flock!

That said, I am thinking about a milk goat, but only if I can convince a couple of neighbors to "share" with me. I don't want to be tied down to 7 day a week milking. But if a neighbor will take her for a few days, care for her and milk her, then we both win. That way, if either of us go out of town, the goat still gets milked. I am favoring the lamancha breed as they are reported to have the creamiest milk. I would butcher the kids for meat, but I still won't give up my sheep. We'll see how it goes with the milk goat....... We were buying from a raw milk dairy, but they just went up to $12 a gallon. Buying milk from the grocery store, but it has NO taste. I am ruined, can't stand store milk, can't justify $12 milk.

 
Roman Campbell
Posts: 52
Location: Blanchard, LA...zone 8b
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Those are very good points. Well if I decide on sheep is there anyway I could buy some from you if you have any when I'm ready? I work at the coal mine in hallsville, tx so I'm out that way all the time. Just gotta finish up my barn and need to setup some fencing. Speaking of fencing, you might have already gone over this, but I have 4 acres, for a small flock, would I need to let them have all 4 or just a portion? I have a lot of wooded areas, do they need pasture? Do you supplemental feed? Or do they get by with what they eat in pasture/wood?

Edit: saw your explanation for type of fencing just wondering about how much space.
 
Kyrt Ryder
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Location: Graham, Washington [Zone 7b, 47.041 Latitude] 41inches average annual rainfall, cool summer drought
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You never let domesticated animals [or deer with no predator pressure] have access to an entire acreage, no matter how few animals you're running on it. Eventually it *will* get overgrazed.

You need to carve the pasture up into paddocks [I recommend paddocks sized for no more than a week at most, though there are people out there who size paddocks for a month] and rotate the animals through them to give the ground time for the forage to regrow and to break up parasite lifecycles.

It's not a bad idea to introduce a secondary animal into the rotation to 'clean up' parasites the other may have left behind. Geese [being grass eaters that are far easier to manage than cows] might be a good option for you.
 
Dana Jones
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Roman, I won't have any for sale for awhile. I am keeping the three ewe lambs I just had and the 2 ram lambs were castrated today. I will be glad to share with you the place I bought them from when you are ready for them. They came off a ranch between Canton and Athens. They were well cared for and I was impressed with the quality of sheep I bought. If you gave her notice, you might could buy bred ewes like I got.

I give them free choice Bermuda grass hay. They get a little feed each day and they browse and graze. I have a LOT of work to do on my pastures, so will have to offer them hay until I get the pastures right. Still have another stretch of fence to put up before I am done.
 
Kris schulenburg
Posts: 112
Location: Henry County Ky Zone 6
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Did you consider milking the sheep? I had a Hair sheep ewe that gave almost as much as my dairy crosses. Depending how tame they are, if you separate them from the lambs for 8-12 hours you may get enough to make it worthwhile . It freezes well so we commit to milking once a day for six weeks and the lambs take care of the rest. Sheep are harder to milk by hand but might be worth the experiment
 
Thomas Partridge
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Location: Zone 7a
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Have you looked into another type of poultry - muscovy ducks?

Muscovies aren't as messy as regular ducks so they do a little better with the chickens and their taste is very similar to roast beef. If you keep two kinds of poultry you can specialize each type. You could breed the chickens for egg production alone while breeding the muscovies for meat production alone. The dual purpose breeds are great if you are only keeping one kind of poultry, but with two species specialized you get the best of both worlds.
 
Katy Whitby-last
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Location: North East Scotland
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Dana Jones wrote:I went with sheep because goats are escape artists. Sheep stay in the fence.


That very much depends on the particular sheep and goats. My goats have never escaped. My new tup on the other hand has jumped out twice.
 
Scott Strough
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Location: Oklahoma
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Another option is Florida Cracker Cattle. That breed does well in your zone, being closely related to piney woods (and longhorns) cattle. But with some advantages. They are not too "wild" like piney woods cattle. They also tend to not want to stay near water (alligator and other predators over generations trained them to stay away) so they are unlikely to want to overgraze and muddy up the watering hole. They eat more browse than other cattle breeds. They are very small and very fast growing, with cow calves becoming sexually mature while still nursing! They have little to no problems calving. They are highly resistant to parasites and diseases. And their meat is better tasting and more tender than piney woods or longhorns. Also their body shape and style is smaller and more compact.

As far as multi paddock grazing. I suspect to get the productivity you need you would need to design your system where the animals move at least once every 3 days or less. Every day is best. That also makes for a tamer cow too.

As far as rabbits go, there is a breed of meat rabbits especially bred for the heat. I can't think of it right now, but as soon as I next talk to my brother in Florida, I will try to remember to ask him.
 
Dana Jones
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Kris, my sheep were not tame. I now have two eating out of my hand, but the other two are extremely flighty. I thought about it, but right now they are too flighty. Maybe I can make the ewe lambs tame and milk them when they lamb. What did you do with the sheep milk?
 
Kyrt Ryder
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Location: Graham, Washington [Zone 7b, 47.041 Latitude] 41inches average annual rainfall, cool summer drought
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Sheep milk is amazing. High butterfat, thick and creamy. Makes amazing cheese and yogurt and butter.
 
Alice Tagloff
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Location: Newfoundland
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If what your looking for is more protein, people have mentioned raising ducks, they provide both eggs and meat. But have you considered Turkey's? People do keep domesticated turkey's, and they do happen to provide eggs tho it seems to be an acquired taste.
 
Kris schulenburg
Posts: 112
Location: Henry County Ky Zone 6
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Dana, you can use it like cows milk but it has 2x the solids of cows milk or goats milk. Makes about 2lbs of cheese per gallon to cows 1 pond per gallon. Makes great yogurt and I am hoping to get better at cheese when the girls freshen in April. I can keep you posted if you want.
 
Alice Tagloff
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Has anyone here considered water/river buffalo? Not Bison, but water buffalo like from asia?
I'm told they have better milk, take less pasture than cows, and lesser grade/quality feed. They apparently make the best fresh mozzarella from the milk. And that they don't require human aide when birthing.
 
Dana Jones
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Kris I would be delighted is you would keep me posted on milking your sheep. Would you start another thread and PM me with a link? I would really appreciate it. I love my sheep, am having so much joy and enjoyment from them. Milking them would be an experience.
 
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