A new kind of post
Goats VS Cows on the small scale farmstead
Up until last summer we only had goats. I love my goats. Ken on the other hand is less than impressed with them. To me they are sweet, curious, fun and clean. I was not prepared for how different a cow would be. To me they smell worse. Some other things I didn't really expect: they aren't as clean, they drool, they have tongues like sand paper, they have no problem laying in their own poop. My goats have always been pretty easy to care for. Their stalls needing a clean out every couple of weeks or so depending on how much time they spend inside. The cow stall MUST be mucked out EVERY day or she will wallow in her own poo. With the goats there was a nice little pad of dry hay that developed by the hay feeder and they had well worn trails around the yard. The heavy cow has turned the area around the feeder and those trails to a muddy mucky mess. The goats are much, much easier on the ground but much harder on your trees as they love to strip the bark off, especially in the spring and fall. The shear quantity of the cows wet poo and all her pee oh my gosh it is just crazy. The goat poop is dry and they don't pee nearly as much and will often leave the barn to pee rather than pee in their stalls. The one good thing is the cow seems to have picked one corner of her stall that she likes to pee in. If that were not the case I have no idea how I would keep any clean dry bedding in her stall. The two big advantages to having a cow will be the extra milk and cream that can be used in more ways than the goats milk. Also, dealing with a single calf that is meant to be beef as apposed to triplets and twins from each doe that will then have to be re-homed or butchered (not much meat). Our cow Peaches had her calf in January it was supposed to be sexed bull calf semen but instead she had a large heifer calf who we named Apples. We were hoping for an easy first calving for both our cow and ys but no such luck. The calf was huge and we had to help pull her. Milking has been a HUGE challenge with the cow, The goats were so simple. With the goats I would just take them from their stall to the milk stand one at a time. Then I could give them a little grain and get to milking. If they gave me trouble I could tie their legs. When they were done I could put them outside or back into the stall no big deal. With the cow because we don;t have a large enough milking area she has to be milked in her stall. That means mucking it out first. She is also a major kicker so I've been having to milk her one handed while holding the bucket in the other hand. I do one teat at a time and milk into a smaller bucket that I then dump into a bigger bucket. Not only does she kick with her back legs but she will use her front feet to kick up debre at me and into the bucket. She also smacks me in the face with her tail which is extra fun when it has poop on it. Oh, here's another one, it's a lot easier to lead train a goat and your less likely to be drug screaming through the woods. This hasn't happened yet but it's often in the back of my mind. She is a big girl and that size and strength has to be respected. I have to say though she is almost as sweet as the goats and the longer we have her the more we are forming bonds. Her baby Apples is supper sweet and the kids have decided they are going to train her to be a riding cow. Yes, they rode the goats but they are too heavy now for that. I should also mention that the cow consumes WAY more hay than the goats so if you have to haul your hay from a distance like we do this can be a big factor.
In summary my personal recommendation for the small homestead, farmstead or off grid farm I would recommend goats as apposed to cattle. I would however suggest that you plan well for what you will do with all those extra goat kids. Buy good quality, clean tested registered stock if you plan to sell the kids. Be responsible when re-homing, many re-homed goats are used as bait for fighting dogs. If you want to eat them consider a boar or other meat type buck so that the kids will have more meat on them and be more worth your time to butcher.
Taking a Life
This has always been a hard one for me and something that I think about very often. It is a sad reality of farming with any kind of Livestock. If you plan to have them for meat you will have to face the deed. Even when you don't plan on eating them there will still come a time at some point in your farming life that you will have to make the choice to put an animal down. Lets face it just like children you can't watch them all the time. Just like children you can't stop them from getting hurt or sick no matter how well you care for them things just happen. The more animals you have the higher the likely hood that something will happen. For an example my son's favorite laying hen. He went in to close the chickens up for the night and came out screaming for help. His hen was walking around with her guts hanging out of her vent. We can only guess that she most likely had a prolapse while laying an egg and the other hens pecked and pulled at it pulling her insides out. Needless to say their was nothing we could do but put her down. It was heart wrenching and my son mourned the loss of his friend. There are options if you have meat animals. If you leave near a slaughter house you may have the option of taking your animals to them to be processed. There are also mobile butchers in some areas that will come to your property and do the deed for you. Most often though folks choose to take care of this process themselves as we do. In our family Ken is usually in charge of slaughter and we all work together to clean and process. There have been many occasions however when Ken was not available and I have had to put an animal down myself. Luckily so far it has only been birds. I still find the act of taking a life to be very hard. However you do it don't ever loose site of the fact that these are living things. They feel stress and fear and don't want to die. It is important to not loose respect for their sacrifice and to treat them with compassion and dignity right up to the end. The process should be as stress free as possible, fast and humane. The approach may vary from animal to animal. Do your research on the best approach for the animal you will be dispatching. I highly recommend looking into The Farmstead Meatsmith for pigs. Also be away of your other animals and how they may react to what is going on. Some animals are more sensitive than others.
In summary prepare, do your research, and treat your animals with respect and compassion.
I hope my thoughts on these topics get your wheels spinning. If you are interested in my thoughts or experiences on some other aspect of small off grid farming let me know. We are learning as we go so these are just my thoughts, experiences and opinions. Please do your own research on topics of interest using these as a jumping off point. I'm just hoping they will give you something to consider, maybe spark an idea that you hadn't thought of yet.
All the Best my friends,
Matthew 13:31 Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and sowed in his field:Matthew 13:32 Which indeed is the least of all seeds: but when it is grown, it is the greatest among herbs, and becometh a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches thereof.