If you are like I am and only own 7 acres, you will find that it may become a challenge to feed livestock. There are many ways to get around having to buy feed and/or hay year-round for your livestock. For those of you that have good quality flat land that happens to be mostly pasture, you’ll be able to support a few head of sheep or goats (I prefer sheep) and raise your own beef.
The first step is to decide what you would like to raise, how many, and whether you have the space and/or facilities for what you want. Barns don’t have to be super expensive to be efficient and suitable for the livestock. Your main problem may turn out to be whether it fits into your neighborhood and the ‘look’ your neighbors want. Hopefully, you didn’t buy acreage in such a neighborhood, but if you did there are ways to work around that too.
That said, you don’t have to have your yard looking like it belongs to the Beverly Hillbillys (before they moved to California) in order to cut costs while putting your homestead together. I promote recycling and reusing materials and there are places to locate some of the materials you may need in order to build shelters, habitats, or barns without breaking the bank.
This is also the case for feeding your livestock. I do not have enough acreage in sufficient condition to provide enough pasture for the stock I wanted to raise. However, I have a neighbor right down the road with 13 acres and no livestock. It was their desire to eventually raise their own beef, but at the time I approached them, they still didn’t have plans to purchase stock.
My solution was simple. I have livestock that can provide more beef than my household needs and very little pasture. They have plenty of forage on sufficient acreage to fully support my small herd of Dexter cattle. The solution turned out in this manner. I can use the pasture rent free as long as I maintain the fences and pasture in exchange for an amount of beef we agreed upon each time I butcher. The water is provided by means of one small pond and their well. I provided the water troughs, trough floats and hoses while they cover the cost for the electricity for the well pump.
Since the pasture had not been used for two years, there was a stockpile of forage. Once I moved the herd into one of the pastures, my need to provide additional hay stopped. In October I traded a yearling dairy calf for round bales of hay but I didn’t need to start setting it out for the cattle until December when the first snow came. Because of this added space with little to no cost and I have been able to cut hundreds off of my feed bill.
If you have enough acreage to divide the pasture into sections, even if they are only one to two acre segments, you will be able to intensify the grazing to maximize your forage. If you work out an agreement on some pasture, you can still use a solar box and movable fencing to separate it into sections. Try to stockpile some forage in a pasture for the livestock to eat on into the winter to delay the necessity to hay. Every little bit helps and the goal is to minimize the investment while maximizing your gain.
If you have questions on intensive grazing management or on stockpiling forage, please feel free to contact me.