I have spent a considerable amount of time researching what animals I want on my homestead. I have changed my mind a dozen times or more, sometimes per day. The following decisions are only accurate as of today and do not constitute a binding decision on the part of this blog owner. With that said, here is the list of animals I would like to raise.
1. I have been back and forth about whether I wanted sheep. I have heard great things about sheep and I have heard awful things. I had all but decided to forgo sheep even though I am a knitter and would love to have my own wool, until one cool morning in early October. Right here in the hotel parking lot I got to meet some of these beautiful sheep! I was completely taken by them. I love their diminutive size, and sweet, curious demeanor. I love that they can be rooed instead of sheared. They game me a sample of the wool, which is fantastic in my non-expert opinion and a gift of a felted Soay sheep doll which has found a home in our living room. Finally, I have found my sheepish match and am looking forward to learning to spin wool from the little Soay's in my pasture!
2. One of the first things I knew for sure was that I wanted a milk cow. I have looked into several different breeds of cow and have nearly set my heart on a Dexter. I love that they are considered to be a tri- purpose breed so I can use them for milk, meat and muscle power. Due to the rareness factor of this breed I will most likely need to have a bull for breeding purposes but I am not sure what to do with him the rest of the time. Are bulls good for muscle work? Anyway, another reason that I chose this breed is because of their size (small) and the fact that I will not have so much milk that I cannot keep up. We don't need THAT much for the two of us and if some day we do need more, I would rather just get a second Dexter cow than trade my girl in for a bigger model.
3. I want a Pony! :D It is every girls dream to have a pony and I could use the muscle around the farm. This one is up in the air a bit though. I have in the past considered getting a full size horse or even a draft horse since a large part of what I want it for is work, but I also want to ride. However, I have limited experience riding horses and drafts and I am definitely not experienced enough to be riding on my own. Which brought me to the pony idea. With a pony I get a valuable farm worker of the equine persuasion without the temptation of riding. I am leaning toward a Haflinger because of it's draft animal ancestry.
4. Pork will be necessary at the homestead (if I can convince The Lineman who hates them). Both for the meat and for their ability to "clear" land. I have no idea what kind of pigs I would want. Since I would be raising spring pigs rather than breeding I could realistically try out a few different breeds to see what I liked.
5. I am also thinking about meat goats. I have never had goat meat so that would be the first thing to consider before buying them. I want to be self sufficient and goat would help to diversify our food. Since I would have plenty of meat animals I could realistically keep what we would need and sell the rest or give it to a local family in need. (this would be true of all of our surplus meats and produce) Again, would have to try before I buy as I don't want to raise an animal I am unwilling to eat.
6. Rabbits. No particular breed ideas yet but The Lineman insists that rabbit is delicious and I am willing to try anything once. These will be tough for me as they are so cute and cuddly that having them for dinner may prove to be my undoing. We shall see. I believe in this way of life. I believe in raising animals humanely, naturally, and as organically as possible. I believe it is important to eat the food that you raise yourself. Again, we shall see.
7. And finally, ducks, geese, turkeys and chickens! This category is a must for me. I love fresh eggs from pastured birds. I have not picked breeds for this one because it's going to depend on where we settle. Different birds do better in different climates. I am so looking forward to a thanksgiving bird that I raised myself! Or roasted chicken that was still clucking that morning. Ummmm.... that's the good stuff!
Now, as I expressed at the beginning of this post, this list is by no means final. Most likely I will not be able to have all of these animals at once and that is ok. I want to do as much as I can but not to the point of having no time to enjoy the fruits of my labors. If I cannot raise it myself I will either source it local or do without. It is not that big of a problem. We will be supplementing our meat stores with wild game as well and I doubt that we will be starving! I have tried to be practical in my choices and every animal we bring onto our homestead will have multiple purposes for being there.
Except the bull.
He may cause me to rethink my cow choice entirely.