You may recall my original post regarding the top 5 picks (I know, technically six) for starter animals on a small homestead. I realized that there should be an addendum to that, so here it is. First, a bit extra regarding rabbits and chickens, then a bit on bringing home the bacon.
Two aspects of rabbits as livestock came to mind after posting. Firstly, is rabbit manure. This is one of the only forms of manure that is entirely safe to put strait into the garden without aging in any way. It is something like an instant boost of fertilizer that you can produce year round as a free resource for your meat production.
Another useful trait in some breeds is that they have long hair. Long haired rabbits do need more care, but produce fiber in a volume that wouldn’t be possible for a very small homestead any other way. Best of all is how soft the yarn produced from this hair can be. Top that off with how much people are willing to pay for one of these fuzzball rabbits and you have an easy source of high production for low inputs. The only down side to fiber rabbits is that they are not the best for meat production.
Geoff Lawton has worked on a method for producing chickens with absolutely no feed inputs. It does require you to produce a large amount of kitchen scrap regularly, but this may not be a problem for some. If you are one of those who is able to produce a lot of compost from your kitchen and yard scraps, this might be a great idea for you. It does most of the composting work through the chickens themselves and ends with a high quality compost for your fields. I suggest you check out the video on his site. It requires you to add a name and email to watch, but they aren’t particularly spammy and don\t give your email to anyone else.
Bacon, ham, bacon, pork chops, bacon, loins, bacon, sausage and oh, did I mention bacon? You are probably best off with a very small farm or homestead just buying these from someone else at first. When you have the space and inclination, there are lots of options. The most obvious of these is just to buy a local piglet and raise it to slaughter. If you wish to raise one yourself, may I suggest a heritage breed. Probably something with the word red or black in the name. Several breeds are extremely docile and self-sufficient. Other varieties graze rather than root and will save you a lot of lawn damage wherever you put them. Out of the former category, I suggest an old breed known as the Large Black. They are docile and affectionate. Personality aside, they are good at foraging if need be, great mothers who don’t turn mean just because they have piglets and are much less prone to sunburn issues that plague modern pigs. If you want a grazing variety, there are a number of them out there. Kune Kune are one I have thought always stood out, but I have very little direct experience with any of the grazing varieties to speak with authority.
Final Thought on Starter Livestock
If you hate goat milk and just can’t find a variety that suits you, but still want to produce your own milk, aim for a smaller breed of heritage cow. Heritage Jersey Cattle (not the same as modern jersey cattle) produce far less than their supercharged modern kin, but still produce enough to keep you active with milk, yogurt, cheese, butter and maybe some left to make soap. Just remember that cattle produce much more and require more space. They can also be harder to work with on your own due to size. I hope that I have offered a few more insights into starting out and what to focus on. If nothing else, I might have offered a look at things you hadn’t previously considered. Good luck in your selections.