Adding large animals to a homestead is exciting because they allow you to work the land for a higher return.
In our beginner days we started with cows and I wasn’t very excited until the day our lady gave birth to her first calf. There’s nothing quite as wonderful as the scent of a new baby calf.
We started with Heritage Dexter cows; they worked perfect for small acreage. Our breeding pair was very docile and later we added another female.
The ratio for this breed is one cow per 1/2 acre.
Rotational grazing was implemented from the beginning to optimize our efforts for healthier cows and maintain quality pastures by reducing soil erosion.
Many farmers who raise cattle for profit implement rotational grazing to increase their return margin in addition to the other benefits.
There are several reasons to consider raising cattle on your homestead and it’s important to choose a breed that meets your needs and is adequate for the amount of available pasture.
Cows For Milk or Beef
- The Purpose of Milk
- The Purpose of Beef
- The Purpose of breeding to sell = income!
We chose the Dexter’s because they’re a dual purpose breed and can be raised for all three. Our focus was beef and that meat was fantastic!
Our cows were grass fed leaving us with perfect marbleized beef. If Cows are what you desire make sure to take the following steps before you leap.
- Figure out how much pasture land you have available and fence it.
- Decide your purpose for raising.
- Research breeds.
Once you decide on a breed read everything you can so you’re educated on your investment. When you’re ready – move forward.
Draft or Riding Horses
Another option for large animals would be a horse; they can be used for riding or drafting. If you plan to grow large crops and can’t afford a tractor, consider a pair of trained draft horses to work for you.
It would be important to do your research and consider the cost of keeping large horses to see if this would be a good option. Horses can also be used for pleasure and work riding.
If you decide to raise cows on a large scale you can use horses to herd cattle.
For awhile we had a pair of miniature ponies, they required the same amount of care as a large horse but on a smaller expense scale.
They can also be used for draft work such as pulling carts and plowing fields with the proper equipment.
Miniature ponies can make great companions and will often follow and take direction if you have a good relationship with them.
Training is required for well behaved ponies and always beware if someone wants to give you a horse or miniature pony. Ask questions first and consult with someone who has horse experience if you’re not sure.
Llamas For Fiber, Guard animals and Meat
Most people raise llamas for the purpose of guard animals and fiber. This llama was our first; his name was Kevin and was quite a character.
We purchased him to protect our cows because they were 6 months old when they arrived and still rather small.
Some folks also raise llamas for meat, this is not something we practiced but it is an option and I’m told their meat is lean.
The final option that I wanted to share would be buffalo. The nearest Buffalo in our area would be Lakota Ranch in Greenville; this is about an hour east of Dallas.
Buffalo are large animals and would require a lot of research as far as animals per acre, handling, fencing, butchering and overall commitment.
Buffalo meat is lean and the flavor is fantastic making a healthy alternative to beef.
This avenue would be expensive to get started and I would recommend visiting and possibly doing an apprenticeship with an existing buffalo rancher before getting started.
Adding large animals to the homestead is a bold way to begin your journey. Make sure to research first so when situations arise you’re prepared to handle them.
Large animals are fun but they’re also a lot of work and keep in mind that ongoing fence repair is a part of the process.
They can be expensive if you over stock pasture land and end up feeding hay year round.
Looking back at our large animal journey there were many highs and lows; we learned a lot. Robert and I seem to enjoy smaller to medium size livestock because there’s less fence repair.