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Adding animals to your homestead comes with a host of problems, decisions, and costs that you might not be willing to take on. So why do you need animals on your homestead? Do the benefits of homestead animals outweigh the hassles? The plain fact of the matter is – no one can answer these questions but you. There are pros and cons to raising your own livestock on your homestead, and they do provide some benefits. Goats mow down the weeds, pest control, and eggs are gifts from chickens.
Rabbits give us fertilizer.
Ducks hunt slugs.
Geese act as flock guardians.
But do you need them? The end goal of homesteading is self-sufficiency, and many people realize that this will lead to slaughtering and butchering their livestock in most cases. It may come early on, before they’ve made a single animal purchase. It may come later when all of a sudden your whole flock of hens stops laying because it’s time to molt. Now you’re paying for a bunch of fluffy-butted bums to eat expensive chicken feed without doing their part and laying you eggs. So can you have an animal-free homestead and still be self-sufficient? The folks over at Northern Homestead would argue, yes, you absolutely can.
It’s the realization of butchering that makes people wonder if it’s worth it. Maybe it would be better to have an animal-free homestead.
The ability to harden your heart and make a logical decision rather than an emotional decision about your livestock isn’t easy for most of us. I know that I have limits with it; for example, I know I will never be able to butcher my animals myself. In fact, I fully intend to try and barter an agreement with someone once our homestead is set up – I’ll provide the birds if they do the butchering.
I know I could never raise goats with the intention of butchering them for meat. There was a time I couldn’t have done it with poultry either, but we have been blessed here at our home in the PNW with a neighbor that frequently hosts cows for herdshare. We’ve learned not to get attached to those cattle. There have been many generations of ‘Chuck Roast’ and ‘Steak’ up on the hill by our house.
Know Your Limits
Tackling the butchering and slaughtering issue is one of the biggest reasons people lean away from livestock on their homestead. The way many people have to approach dealing with livestock as opposed to animals can be very different, and folks, like my mother, can never bring themselves to make that distinction.
For my mother, eating a goat is the same as eating a dog. She would never do it. She’s always appalled anew when I tell her that my husband and I have eaten goat when we go out for curry. For her, the idea of raising goats as livestock instead of pets would be impossible. While we could never have an animal-free homestead, we will also probably never use our animals as food.
Homestead animals – do you need them? No. Your homestead can thrive and flourish without them. There are plenty of people who source their meat off the farm and ignore it when their chickens go through the free-loading molt. They are just as happy as those homesteaders who have their own livestock supply that will fill their freezers in the wintertime.
Remember, your homestead is your dream – not anyone else’s.