Saturday, August 14, 2010

Raising Livestock - What is realistic?

Welcome to another episode of the Be Prepared Channel. Well we have been busy with our farm purchase and plans. We are still under contract on our farmstead so I thought we would share a little about that and to talk about raising your own livestock as part of your preparedness plan.

Latest Farmstead News:
Well we are still under contract for our farm. There were some areas that had been identified in our inspection report with the house that the sellers have rectified. The well and septic inspections came back with some issues that the sellers are working to get resolved. I have the plumber working on fixing some other things on the property such as a water hydrant near the barn and replacing the pressure tank that appears to be weak and could cause problems down the road. So we have the plumber working on that. I found out this week that farm insurance is different than homeowners policies alone. So I am shopping for an insurance company that does farm coverage. Otherwise it appears that things are on track. I decided to blog the farm specific business on a separate blog so that we don't bore you with the farm specific business:

Food plan - raising livestock?
As part of our sustainable food plan we need to ask ourselves what we plan to do when the freezer is empty, and the store shelves are bare? And what meat that is available is too expensive to buy... Then what do we do? Raise our own meat.

Now if your a vegetarian you may be at an advantage in your food plan to a certain degree because it can be easier to accommodate growing vegetables depending on where you live and how much space you have, however it may be a little more complex in trying to ensure that you get adequate vitamins, minerals, fats, and proteins with a vegetarian diet on a year around basis. To sustainably support 1 person on a vegetarian diet from a garden you need approximately 4000sf of garden bed space. This is for 1 person, and will allow you to adequately rotate garden beds to allow soil to rest and to rebuild the soil. This means approximately 1200 sf of land in in production at any given time. Now multiply this by the number of people you are caring for... So 4 people in a household would be 16000 ft of garden space with 4800 sf of space in production at any given time. So the space needs are still not small even if on a vegetarian diet.

When you cannot get fresh veggies year around this can make things a bit more challenging. Now in a post TSHTF world we are talking about a stores don't have things on shelves, your food no longer safely or reliably makes the trek the 1500+ miles to your dinner plate you have to change your eating habits and consider what you need to do to ensure you have food. So that means we will be forced to eat things that we have stored, and those things which are in season that you can grow. I have family members who are vegetarian, but I don't think they have really contemplated how their diets will change if they could not buy what they want year around at the stores. So now is the time to think this through and how can you make this sustainable and ensure that you have adequately considered the space needed even if your a vegetarian? What about your water needs to water plants? What is your water collection and storage plan? So by all means vegetarians don't get a free pass... They just don't have to calculate the complexity of animals into the equation.

I am not a vegetarian, so I welcome meat in my diet and in my food plan. However to make this work we need to think through some of the ways we can do this. Of course we can freeze meat and store it. However if the grid goes down and the gas for your generator is gone that freezer may not be too helpful. The power requirements to run a freezer on solar and wind can be quite high so you would need to anticipate that load on your RE system now. You can preserve meat by canning it. This is an option, but honestly this is good as a fall back plan, but nutrition is lost in any food preservation plan such as dehydrating, freezing, or canning. The best source of nutrition is fresh food when you have it. Having your own supply of fresh meat will likely mean you have a relationship with a local farmer, or your raising it yourself.

Depending on your situation and where you live, the land space you have, and the natural resources available to you there are different possibilities.

Small space, in town or city:

Larger space, small farm

Some things to consider in your plan for livestock:
Do these animals require special feed, grain, or supplies that you do not have in your storage plan or cannot grow or supply from your land? Chickens require grain in addition to grass and insects. Rabbits do not do well on a strictly graze diet as many varieties have not be subjected to a graze type diet. You should seek out growers who have specialized in animals and breeds that have that ability to live on grass and natural occurring forage. So any livestock you consider think about the year around feeding, watering and shelter requirements. Carefully consider your space and how you can maintain a sustainable environment without external inputs of feed and water. This will be critical in order to understand what you can or cannot do or afford at your location and with your resources.

Space and food requirements
Part of this equation is being able to humanely raise meat for consumption. This means the animals in your care should be able to express themselves as animals, a chicken should be able to live like a chicken, a cow like a cow, and a pig like a pig. So make sure you calculate the space these animals need adequately. The feed requirements for these animals can be overwhelming if you have to buy and store it. For example the amount of food and water to raise a cow is enough to make you do a double take. 12 gallons of water a day, 30 lbs of dry matter, and of course a cow needs a lot of space. So carefully consider your real options with the space you have, the types of things you will be able to provide these animals to sustain them, or if you need to buy and store foods for them remember to put those things in your storage plan.

By raising some of your own livestock you will be able to keep fresh meat at your homestead year around. You don't have to worry about preserving the food, refrigeration, canning, or freezing when the animals are still alive and you can harvest them as you need them. With smaller animals such as poultry and rabbits you can harvest them as you need them further reducing the need to find a way to preserve it. This is far more complex with larger livestock such as pork, sheep, cattle which are far too large to consume quickly so you have to have a way to preserve these foods once you harvest them. For many of us having access to fresh foods will be the key to moving beyond a bunker mentality of just surviving and into living life. We need to adequately plan our food plan to take advantage of fresh foods when we have them available to us. We should consider our options when it comes to meat and how we can ensure that these items can continue to be available to us.

I will be doing an installment this coming spring highlighting our food plan as we begin expanding our farm into livestock. We will show the pros and cons of each type of animal we choose and how they can fit into your food plan as well. I hope you will find this interesting and helpful in determining what you can do with your own preps.

God Bless,

No comments:

Post a Comment