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    5 Best Dual-Purpose Livestock For Small Homesteads

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    5 Best Dual-Purpose Livestock For Small Homesteads

    Farmers and homesteaders with large properties rarely have to compromise when making their livestock choices. They usually have plenty of room to try out different breeds and types of animals and crops. Those with less space to use are forced to be very picky and deliberate about what to raise and grow. This is where dual or even triple-purpose animals are needed. 

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    There are many benefits to raising multiple-purpose livestock:

    • Less space or acreage is required for maximum yields and benefits. 
    • Most dual-purpose breeds are also heirloom breeds. This means they were initially bred as a homestead animal and valued for their hardiness, health, and vigor.
    • Dual-purpose animals usually provide a good balance of products or services:
      • Eggs and meat (poultry)
      • Meat, milk, and oxen (cattle)
      • Fiber, milk, meat, and packing (goats/sheep)
    • Longevity is another trait common in dual-purpose animals. Many of these animals will be productive long past the time many single-purpose livestock breeds are done.
    • The majority of dual-purpose breeds are very efficient and thrifty when it comes to feed-to-meat (or egg) ratios. This is compared to specialized livestock that requires costly amounts of particular feed to produce one commodity at high rates. In addition, most heirloom breeds do well foraging or in a pasture setting that might not benefit some of the animals with special feed requirements.
    • The money generated from dual-purpose livestock can be one of the most significant benefits to a small homesteader. It is possible to produce several different streams of income from the same animals over and over.

    To be fair, there are a few possible disadvantages to keep in mind when considering dual-purpose animals over specialized breeds:

    • Single-purpose or specialized breeds excel at their “one thing” – higher milk output, superior egg-laying abilities, or excellent meat production. Dual-purpose livestock has a more balanced output or result.  
    • Many of the dual-purpose animals are also heirloom breeds listed on the conservation lists as rare or endangered. Therefore, it may be challenging to find a reputable local source.
    • Slower growth is often something that uninformed growers complain about with heritage or heirloom breeds. However, considering that single-use or specialized animals “burn out” quicker, this is a desired trait for the small homestead interested in longevity.

    Below is a list of some of the best dual-purpose livestock for small homesteads

    5 Best Dual-Purpose Livestock for Small Homesteads

    1. Dexter Cattle

    Herd of Dexter Cows

    There are many popular breeds of cattle that are suitable for a small homestead. One of those breeds that are making a huge comeback is the Dexter. This gentle breed originated in Ireland as the perfect backyard cow, with most homes having one behind their house. They are a hardy breed that does well foraging, on pasture, or being fed hay and grain for more marbled meat.

    Their small stature (about one-half the size of a Holstein cow) belies their impressive strength and even temperament. Known for their excellent milk and meat production, Dexters are also helpful as an ox pulling the plow or wagon on small acreages. 

    2. Nubian Goats

    Nubian Goat Male and Kid

    The milk of the Nubian goat is prized for its high butterfat content and sweet flavor. The fact that milk production tends to last longer than many other breeds is also a plus. Nubians are a hardy breed that can adapt to almost any climate. They are quite affectionate, which makes them a great backyard addition for the family homesteader with children.

    Nubians are excellent mothers and can be prolific breeders, with 2-3 kids being normal. Be advised, though, there is a possibility of up to 5 kids at a time. This is a larger goat breed, which increases their popularity for meat production. They are easy to train to halter and, due to that size, can also be used as a pack animal.

    3. Guinea Hogs

    Guinea Hog Emerging from Barn

    Also called American Guinea hogs or Pineywoods Guineas, this thrifty little black pig is perfect for adding to any small homestead. Once on the rare and endangered list, this heirloom hog breed is gaining a new following as people discover how versatile they are. As a result, chefs across the country are on the lookout for their meat and lard. 

    Guinea hogs thrive on foraging in pastures or wooded areas. In the past, they were expected to find their own food, which they did quite handily. They are an efficient, smaller-sized animal (about 250 pounds for a grown boar) with a lovely temperament. They are also known to have large, healthy litters without much assistance. For those new to raising pigs, Guinea hogs make an excellent introduction. 

    4. Sussex Chicken

    White Sussex Chicken Outside

    This hardy breed of chicken has been popular in England for a few hundred years and has gained a considerable fanbase here in America. With their striking appearance, you could almost consider these birds a triple threat: eggs, meat, and yard art. Sussex chickens come in several colorations, with light, speckled, and red varieties the most popular. 

    Sussex hens can easily surpass 250 medium-sized tan eggs in a year. They are a thrifty breed that also provides excellent meat. The birds are confident foragers and can become quite friendly and easy to handle. As a result, many poultry shows end up with Sussex chickens as the blue ribbon winners.

    5. Icelandic Sheep

    Icelandic Sheep Eating Grass

    Icelandics are one of the oldest sheep breeds in the world, with records dating back centuries in their homeland of Iceland. These mid-sized animals are raised and valued for three commodities: wool, meat, and milk. Spinners and fiber artists seek out the luxuriously soft, silky, colorful wool that comes in a wide variety of colors and is often spotted. 

    Known to be among the best of the foragers, Icelandics are very hardy and efficient. They have a robust immune system and cold tolerance. Ewes are easy breeders and often produce triplets or quads. Lambs reach market weight in under six months without the need for extra grains.

    Which Dual-Purpose Breed Will You Choose?

    These are just a few of the many dual-purpose livestock breeds available to small homesteads . With their renewed popularity and obvious benefits, it shouldn’t be hard to find some for sale near you. So which of these animals will you be adding to your homestead?

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