For us, raising meat was really important. My husband is a “meat and potatoes” kind of person, and won’t touch vegetables willingly.
After killing myself in our garden our first summer, I realized my efforts would be better spent raising a year’s worth of meat instead.
That’s not to say growing vegetables isn’t a priority for us, but I’m much better with animals, and since meat makes up a bulk of our diet, I wanted to focus more on my strengths.
There’s that rule about 80/20 (80% of the rewards come from 20% of our efforts), right?
How to start homesteading today with livestock
When it comes to acquiring homestead livestock, my single, most important piece of advice is to be patient.
Join Facebook groups in your area, especially those pertaining to farms and livestock – invariably, people need to get rid of their animals.
Assuming you can have livestock in your area, you can easily get them for free and start homesteading today.
Of course, you still need to ensure the animals are healthy and won’t infect your other animals, but largely, we’ve had very good experiences, and met people locally that are living a similar homesteading lifestyle.
If you don’t have a lot of money, this is one way to start your homesteading journey.
Five of our rabbits came from a family that did not want them anymore. They were all healthy animals.
We’ve also gotten chickens and pigs from families that did not want them anymore.
The only thing is you can’t be that picky about breeds (if the animal is not healthy, however, pass on it). So, if raising a certain breed of chickens or rabbits is for you, then you might have to purchase them.
But, that being said, if you join Facebook groups in your area, you can usually source the breeds you want for little cost. We did pay for some of our rabbits, and we got beautiful pedigreed bucks for $12 each.
It’s also worth the wait to be patient to get exactly what you want.
I waited a year until a goat like Dahlia (the breeds I wanted and in milk) was available at the right price. Although the wait was agonizing, it was worth it because I got exactly the goat I wanted for very little.
You can usually buy goats when they are young, too, and spend much less than you would if they were full-grown. In my area, bucklings are as little as $50, and doelings are around $150.
When it comes to pigs, consider feeder pigs to start homesteading today. In my area, you can get a weaned piglet for as little as $40 (less if you purchase more than one, usually).
Feeding it regularly as you continue homesteading, you will have a good size animal in just a few months – and homegrown pork!
When it comes to butchering, you can do it at home (which is free) or you can send them to a butcher in your area.
To learn to butcher, I recommend this book. It’s thorough and takes the well-being of the animal into consideration.
Before diving head first into breeding pigs, I recommend starting with some feeder pigs for your first couple years homesteading.
Our first set of pigs came with some interesting quirks, such as killing chickens and not wanting to breed.
Raising pigs isn’t for everyone, so if you want to start homesteading today but aren’t sure of the long term commitment to raising piglets, then feeder pigs are for you.
A lot of homesteaders enjoy raising pigs in warm weather then taking the winter off from feeding a lot of livestock, when it can get more expensive.
We were also able to acquire Coturnix quail for as little as $3 each, and they were mature at 6 weeks old (to harvest and laying).
I highly recommend sourcing quail close to you. I’ve ordered both quail and chicken eggs to incubate and hatch at home, and I’ve rarely had success with mail-order hatching eggs.
You will be happier buying poultry that’s already hatched, and you’ll be able to harvest eggs and meat sooner.
It’s about the small wins when you’re starting to homestead.
What if you don’t have much space?
If you want to start homesteading today with livestock, but don’t have much space, then I recommend going with quail or chickens and rabbits.
You can keep many, many quail in a small space (they only need 1 square foot of space each).