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Best use of a couple of acres?


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So DH and I (and the kids) have approximately 2 acres or slightly less that is open (not occupied by the house, barn, etc.). Most of it is a gentle slope, but part is flat and makes for a nice gardening area. I'm curious as to what would be the most efficient use of the open space.

 

I am hoping at some point to get around 12-16 chickens for eggs, though maybe more for meat sometime. I think we have too many predators to want to leave them completely free range, but we could do the chicken tractor thing and move them around periodically. They seem like they wouldn't be too difficult and maybe a good starting point.

 

How about a pig or two and a cow? Not sure I really want to have a milk cow, since raw milk is currently very easy for us to get (<5 miles away, whereas the nearest grocery store is 8-10 miles), but beef might be good. How much acreage does one steer need? Could we reasonably grow enough grass/hay to feed the cow without buying corn? Can a cow reasonably share that space with a pig or two? Can the chicken tractor(s) live in that space as well, or not a good plan?

 

Maybe one of these summers, we'll actually have gardening success. It starts out well, but I get lazy in the heat. This year, we have a baby due right at the peak of harvest season, so I'm not sure I'm going to be up for a lot of canning and preserving, unfortunately. Even still, what would you plant? The usual vegetables, of course, hopefully beans for drying sometime. Could we plant wheat or other similar grains? I'm in PA, zone 5/6, frost-free from about May 19 to Sept. 23-ish.

 

This place was part of a farm at some point, so I know it can be done, but I'm slightly clueless, and though I've read some, I'd like to hear from people who have btdt.

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The Complete Book of Self-Sufficiency by John Seymour has a section on what to do with one acre. To summorize he says raise meat and dairy and by in the fed because hay and grain are cheaper to buy than meat and dairy. We have two acres (one acre is in woods). We had a dairy cow and chickens for a while. It worked nicely and the chickens could eat the left over dairy products.

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The Complete Book of Self-Sufficiency by John Seymour has a section on what to do with one acre. To summorize he says raise meat and dairy and by in the fed because hay and grain are cheaper to buy than meat and dairy. We have two acres (one acre is in woods). We had a dairy cow and chickens for a while. It worked nicely and the chickens could eat the left over dairy products.

 

Good point about buying the feed. I guess I'm a bit worried that corn is going to skyrocket, and I believe that grass is better for cows anyway, so I was curious as to how much acreage I'd need to feed a steer on just/mostly the grass that we have. Thanks; that book sounds very helpful -- I will look at the library for it!

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I would begin planting an orchard on part and get some livestock to graze the rest providing there is enough for the animal to eat. I didn't notice where you are. Where I am, an animal couldn't survive just grazing be cause there is almost no rainfall and very little vegetation so that's something to take into account.

 

I'm in south-central PA; it is a very popular area for raising pastured/grass-fed beef. I know there are several places that do not feed their steer any grain at all, so it is theoretically very possible; I'm just not sure how much acreage I'd need for that to work.

 

An orchard -- ooooh, that would be so nice! It's also very prime apple country (something like 40% of PA's apples are grown in this county), so that's definitely doable. Another long-term plan to consider. Thanks!

 

My cousin and her dh make a ton of money every Christmas for relatively little work.

 

Jeri

 

I did think about that, but there are several Christmas tree farms around here already, plus while some extra money would be nice, I'm mostly concerned about what we could do to be closer to self-sufficient. But y'know, I do like that idea, and it's very possibly something that the kids could do to make some extra money too. Thanks for putting the idea back in my head. :)

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I would start with hens and a vegetable garden, and a couple of dairy goats.

 

You might like Nigerian Dwarf goats. Ours produce very rich, sweet milk that is perfect for making cheese. They can produce 1/2 as much milk as full sized goats, but eat only 1/3 as much feed.

 

You might enjoy seeing pictures of some of ours on my daughter's website.

 

http://www.dancingdogdairy.com/

 

I would not suggest cows. They are more expensive, messier, more work and less fun. I should know. I now have 4 of them!

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Before you do too much, I would check with the zoning in your area. You might be free to just about anything you want, or you might be in an area where even 1 chicken is against the rules.

 

I would also consider if you want something that requires DAILY care---like animals. If you want to go away for a few days or a week, you will need to hire someone to come and care for them once or twice a day. That can be a pain. Things like gardens, fruit trees, etc. can get away with being left for a bit of time on their own.

 

Also, animals need care---esp. feeding and thawed water all winter long so consider your climate and how much time you want to devote to this daily. Chickens aren't much work but our horses require me to do chores 3 times a day, EVERY day, and sometimes even more in bad weather.

 

That said, we love our horses, 14 chickens, rabbits, cats, dog, etc.

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We just got a pig to raise for meat, and so far she has been fairly easy. We have a fenced 1/2 acre where we let her free range and feed her twice a day, mostly waste produce and scraps. From what I have read I could have several pigs in the same space without them being crowded. Goats also don't need much room, will eat almost anything, and can provide meat and dairy. And of course chickens are probably the easiest barnyard animal, especially for relatively small spaces. I think a cow would require a lot more land (I think I read 1-2 acres per animal to free range).

 

I think I would look at fruit trees and a garden first, then consider what animals would be best suited to the space you have left.

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That isn't enough land for a grass based cow diet. The hay you would need would be costly, and it would decimate the grass after awhile.

 

A pig or two would only need 1/2 acre or less, a mud pit, a small shelter

(from sun) and foods scrapes mixed with a bit of grain.

 

I also agree witht the blueberry or orchard idea. Semi dwarf trees are small, but yeild high.

 

Goats are good, like to eat weeds, and are fun :) They have great milk, and goat meat is tasty too.

 

Chicken tractor can be hard to deal with. Let them free-raange and lock them up good at night(they will naturally go into hen house at hight if they have water, food and perches)

 

HTH

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I have 2 Dexters, and I still like goats better, but the Dexter my oldest got for her 14th birthday calved on Christmas day. The calf is adorable!

 

I forgot about how easy pigs are. Ours just stay in a couple of strands of electric wire. I would only keep pigs if I had extra milk to feed them. I would not want to pay for feed.

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The first thing I would do would be to fence the whole thing in with some sort of field fence that would keep in poultry and dogs. That way, no matter what you put out there, you can let the dogs (livestock guardian dogs of course) run and they will guard your livestock. We have a pasture with a mixture of animals in it all together - cow, horses, 1 sheep, goats, ducks, chickens and a goose. They all get along and the dog runs with them. You won't need to worry much about your poultry if you've got the right dogs running the pasture and barnyard.

 

I agree with the goats. We have meat and dairy goats. They are very fun. A dexter is nice -we just bought one! Pigs stink! (sorry, but they do!) and are expensive to feed.

 

Here's an idea: Most people don't realize how easy it is to raise your own meat rabbits. They are inexpensive to feed (hay and grain) and are easy to butcher. The carcasses look a lot like a whole chicken and taste just like it too only all white meat! Delicious! Just a couple meat rabbit does and a buck can fill your freezer pretty fast! We would substitute rabbit for chicken in any recipe. I swear, if you didn't know, you would not be able to tell. It's very low fat and nutritious meat. (And then you use the rabbit manure for your garden!)

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A variety of fruit trees.

A vegetable garden.

Chickens.

 

I know someone in Australia with some land and they have built a large above ground garden at hip height - so that as they age they can still garden- that is enough to feed many other families as well.

They also have acres of fruit trees and some chooks.

 

I am just sharing my own dream :) I used to always want a milking cow or goat as well but am not eating dairy nowadays so not sure I would anymore. Also, I think they woul be a lot of work compared to just chooks.

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Goats.

 

Goats are efficient food to meat producers and they'll clear stuff that a cow won't. A cow will produce more milk than a family can use, but a sweet dairy goat is easy to handle and can produce a gallon of easily digestible milk per day.... Perfect. A goat will give you 2-3 babies at a time. Eat the boys, keep the girls. Dairy does retain their value. Meat goats are delicious.

 

Rabbits - another very efficient feed to meat gain.

 

Chickens - Free range and can co-exist happily with the others.

 

I love pigs.... BUT they will demolish an area and unless kept in a small pen and fed grains, they aren't highly efficient weight gainers. This from a pig farmer's daughter. (We scoffed at Dad's efficient methods and raised two gilts to "finish" in a pasture environment. We spent a fortune to try to get them to a nice backfat and weight for butchering. His way was MUCH more efficient. Plus, they destroyed the pasture area with their rooting.)

 

Just my .02.

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