Deciding to keep livestock is a major decision that impacts your own life as well as the lives of animals. The following will explore a few things you should know if you’re considering taking on livestock.
Different Counties Have Different Bylaws
You probably won’t be surprised to learn that different townships and counties have widely different bylaws. The first thing you need to do if you’re thinking about keeping livestock is to look up what you’re legally allowed to have in your area.
There may be restrictions that take into account the amount of land you have, the size of a structure required for a given number of animals, or licensing requirements.
If the livestock is going to contribute to your meals or anyone else’s meals, there might also be health and safety requirements you need to meet.
If this first step is overwhelming (which can happen if you live in a policy-happy township), reach out to your municipal government and ask for a clearer breakdown.
You might also want to talk to someone local who manages livestock as they will likely give you some tips on dealing with the inevitable bureaucracy that comes with food production in the modern era.
Understand You Will Be On Call 24/7
Livestock is time-consuming. And, as happens in many fields, it’s always the days you need to be away from home that the animals need you. Animals get sick, lost, hurt, or loose.
You might have to spend the night in the barn when animals are in labor. You might have to chase down escaped animals on the hottest days of the year.
If you are considering this undertaking alone or with a small family, it’s a good idea to figure out livestock sitters ahead of purchasing the livestock.
Dinners, vacations, holiday parties, and other events might require you to leave someone behind or call in a friend to care for the animals in your absence.
It’s Going To Be More Emotional Than You Expect
You might have some notion of animals and how they relate to humans and how conscious you think they are. Getting livestock will likely change this.
In particular, most people develop a stronger awareness of animal consciousness. You might discover that animals have emotional experiences that are much more similar to humans than you previously thought.
A really common response to raising livestock is to become horrified by the minimum standards for animal care outlined by the law.
It’s very likely that you’re going to want to go above and beyond for these creatures, spending more money (perhaps even needing more land) to ensure that the quality of their lives is decent.
It’s also likely that you, your partner, or your children will have a harder time than expected coping with selling animals or slaughtering them.
Take The Organic Conversation Seriously
The medical research released in recent years is extremely clear when it comes to organic, grass-fed, and grass-finished animal products. It’s just as clear when it comes to the hormones and antibiotics that are rampant in animal products.
There’s a very strong possibility that the laws surrounding pesticides and additives are going to change. Even if the laws don’t change, consumers are; 45% of consumers are actively looking for organic products. This is expected to continue to grow.
Make sure to learn about the organic certification process. If you can’t afford to raise the livestock organically, or the profit margins you’re comfortable with disappear when you crunch the numbers, you need to think seriously about whether livestock raising is a financial possibility for you.
It’s very possible you’re going to be legally required to meet stricter standards in the near future.
Things Will Go Wrong
Things will go wrong, and it’s going to cost you money. The economy goes through cycles, metabolic diseases in animals spread through herds, wacky weather occasionally increases the price of animal feed, laws change and make things more complicated—any work that involves nature is unpredictable.
Yes, you can prepare yourself by learning as much as possible, but knowing that things aren’t going to go according to plan and knowing that this will likely cost you money can help reduce feelings of frustration and disappointment later.
Different Livestock Suit Different People And Places
Animals have climates they’ve evolved to thrive in. Limit your possible livestock to only those creatures who are suited to your location. Beyond this, learn about animal temperaments. Some animals will drive a ‘do-it-my-way’ sort of person to near insanity; others simply ignore timid folks.
Be honest about your own temperament and which animal species would work well with that. You also want to think about what you can physically handle.
Again, deciding to bring livestock into your life is a major decision. It’s okay to take your time as you think it through and conduct research. If you interview any people who have livestock, be sure to ask them what the daily schedule is like. It’s a big-time commitment!
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