If you’re new to homesteading, you might be wondering which livestock to get first. That is the topic of this video from the Youtube channel, Homesteady.
He breaks down the livestock into three tiers: beginners, medium level, and expert. We’ll start with the easy tier.
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Easy Tier Livestock:
This category is for people who have zero experience and are not sure if animals will fit into their lifestyle. These animals are easy to:
Chickens are the best option for your first livestock.
- Can start small
- Order online, quick arrival
- Can feed slop from meal leftovers, resulting in more chicks and eggs
- Easily sell chickens on craigslist in as little as a week, if needed
- Not too dirty or disease prone
- Tend to be hearty and thrive without difficulty
- Meat chickens can be harvested in 8-weeks
Ducks share many similarities with chickens but have a few cons to consider.
- Produce more eggs than chickens
- Grow more meat with less food
- Tend to do better in bad weather
- Tend to be messy
- Butchering them can be tough
Rabbits are one of the best self-sufficient options to choose for a first livestock.
- Easy to have a doe and buck breed
- They are inexpensive, making them easily replaceable
- Possible to make mistakes in breeding
If you have a pond or body of water, fish yield a high reward with minimal effort.
- Simple Care
- Unending source of protein
Worms can be added to any homestead.
- Feed kitchen scraps
- Worm casings can add nutrition to gardens
- Great chicken feed/fishing bait
- Not a fun option
Medium Tier Livestock:
Medium tier is for people who like owning livestock and are ready to try something more complicated.
1. Mini Jersey Cows
The best middle-tier option for livestock is the Mini Jersey Cow due to their docility and ease in managing, with high reward.
- Stays in simple fence
- Eat grass
- Great milk production with flexible milking schedule
- If cows birth a bull, it’s a great meat source
- Not dangerous
- Easy to artificially inseminate
Maybe surprising to see pigs early in the line-up, but all you need is good fencing and steady feed.
- Grow with solid fencing
- Good meat
- Pigs survive until butchered
- Can get worms
- Can get sick
Bees are not always conventionally thought of as livestock but should be considered.
- Require minimal attention
- Seasonally self-feed
- You can lose an entire hive
4. Turkeys, Quail, Guinea Fowl, Pigeons and other fowl
Not as easy or domesticated as chickens and ducks, but a great mid-level choice.
- Each variety has pros
- More difficult than chickens
- Less domesticated
Expert Tier Livestock:
For people who have experience with livestock and are ready to take on breeding, difficult veterinary procedures and escape artists.
1. Nigerian Dwarf Goats
Nigerian Dwarf goats have a leg up on other goat varieties. Dairy goats are the most challenging, they’re a wild animal that has been domesticated. Meat goats can be hardy.
- Hardier than regular dairy goats
- Small, easy to fence
- Will forage on poisonous plants
Although there can be benefits to having sheep, they are a difficult animal to manage on the homestead.
- Hard to fence
- Worm issues due to intense grazing
3. Beef Bulls/Dairy Cows
Full-size cattle are an investment of resources, time and energy. It’s a challenging animal to raise, best for the expert homesteader.
- Large meat/milk source
- Harder to contain
- Require commitment (3+ years)
- Dairy cows need to be milked 2x per day
1. Horses, Camelids, Donkeys
There are many benefits to these larger animals but they require expert attention and care.
- Large to accommodate
- Unique veterinary needs
Every person can benefit from livestock. It will make you a better person, teach you about yourself, sustainability, they’ll work your land and enrich your homestead.
For a much more detailed discussion of these animals, be sure to watch the video. Also, take note of the additional resources for each of these animals found at the end of the video.