Baby steps. Never rush into anything. This wisdom is never more important when it come comes to livestock. Do your homework. Remember, this is another life for which you will be responsible. The nice part is that the Internet is abundant with resources. There are also a plethora of books that you can turn to for information. A good source is Storey’s Guides. I also would suggest sites like MotherEarthNews.com, CommunityChickens.com and HobbyFarms.com. The point is that you want to have as much background before moving forward.
Another consideration is your neighborhood. Be sure that your neighbors are on board with your plans. The last thing you want to do is to get started only to find a lawsuit. Check with your local government offices to be sure that you have the proper permits, if required. You might need a building permit to build that coop or barn.
Okay, so, here at PineCroft, we have been doing research to see which direction we want to expand next. So far I have investigated bees, chickens, and started looking into goats, before we met alpacas. How fast can you run out of land? That is why having a plan is important. If you are limited on space, maybe just having a few chickens will suffice. Chickens are great as they provide eggs, but also their poop is great in gardens. They are also great for controlling ticks and other insects. Word has it that they make great pets too. Just remember that taking on this life, you become responsible for it. There are many predators that want those chickens. In our area, the hawks are really aggressive. We also have foxes and coyotes. So be aware and take the extra steps to protect your chickens.
Another option we have been looking at is bees. Bees are another beneficial creature as they not only provide honey and beeswax, but that garden and orchard you spent so much time starting, they pollinate those. Once again, I admonish you to do your research and check with neighbors before a foray into bees. There are a lot of people that are allergic to bees, so be careful. One tip, when you set up your hives, keep a water source near them so they aren’t wondering over to your neighbors pool to drink up. If you don’t want to get into honeybees, you could set up habitat for Mason Bees.
These were the two options we were originally looking at, but as they say life is what happens while you are making plans. All of this takes money, which is good, because it keeps me from rushing forward and gives me time to do research. One thing we want to do is to move the back fence back to the tree line. The last owners had all ready cleared the area to put up a barn. However, over the past five years, it became overgrown. When we put up the initial fence, it was just to give the dogs a big yard to run around in. That left a large section to go wild. We managed to maintain a path back into the woods, but over time and storms, trees came down and I haven’t gotten back there to clear the debris. Someone suggested we get goats.
Goats, unlike sheep, are not grazers. Goats forage. This is why many people use them to clear brush. There are even some places that will rent goats for a period, just for this purpose. There are many types of goats. If you are short of space, maybe some pygmy goats might be an option. Goats provide a lot more besides clearing the land. There is a growing demand for chevon, goat meat. You could also get into milking your goats and making your own goat cheese. The only concern is what happens when you run out of brush. Once again, do your homework so that you are aware of all their needs and issues.
Well, that was the plan. Funny how life happens while you are busy making plans. So Cindy and I celebrated our eleventh year together. We headed out to Martha’s Vineyard for few days. It was my first time to the island. We looked for things to see and do. One option was to visit Island Alpaca.
We soon fell in love with these beautiful animals. In just two days, we learned a great deal. Alpacas are interesting animals. They are also surprisingly easy to raise. However, you do need a little more room than raising chickens or bees. You would need a shelter for them. They eat a little hay and some grain. They eat less hay than cattle. While you cannot milk them like goats, you can shear them like sheep for their fleece. Their fleece is in demand as it is better than wool. This is in part because they do not have lanolin in their fleece so they are hypoallergenic. The finer the fleece, measured in mils, the higher the price that can be demanded. They are very gentle creatures and easy on the land. They like to graze, and do not rip the grass as sheep do. Cindy and I had the opportunity to help feed the alpacas. Afterwards we walked Mozart and Bentley. Needless to say, Cindy fell in love.
Alpacas are social animals, so the minimum you should get is two. Since male and females should be kept separate, either two males or two females. As I said, the more you look into things, the more land you may find you need. It can be addicting.
In the end, do your homework. When you think you have studied enough and think you have it down and ready to go. Study some more. Contact your local extension office. Check with local vets to see if they can handle the animals you are bringing in. In other words, do the homework and ensure that all the support mechanisms, from food supplies, medications, vets, and regulations and permitting are in place before you plunk down your dollars to bring live animals to work for you. Unless you can give your heart and soul to the animals you bring in, please don’t take the step. Their lives depend on you.
My heart to your heart, one heart, one spirit.