Animals are the most efficient way of producing high-quality food on your own land. They produce more food than plants if given equal amounts of space so any smallholder should consider having at least one type of animal on their property if they want to become self-sufficient.
Below you will find a quick cheat sheet of livestock available to the smallholder, their uses and the pros and cons of having them. Find more detailed info about each animal under the Livestock tab.
Before choosing a breed of livestock, I highly recommend you visit American Livestock Breeds Conservancy , domestic animals can also go extinct if people find there is no need for them. This website has information about many breeds that are threatened or endangered and that might consider adding to your farm.
uses: meat, eggs, tick control
pros: low maintenance
cons: can be noisy
Recommended Breeds: Buff Orpington(dual-purpose), Cornish Cross(meat), Rhode Island Red(eggs)
uses: meat, eggs, slug/bug control, possibly down
pros: very hardy, excellent for rainy areas
cons, require water deep enough to dip their heads in and they will make a mess of this water and the surrounding area.
Recommended Breeds: Khaki Campbell (eggs), Pekin (meat)
uses: meat, eggs, down, grazing, watchdogs
pros: don’t require as much water as ducks, will alert you to strangers, keep weeds and grasses down.
cons: can be very loud, males can be aggressive towards people, will make a mess with water just like ducks
Recommended Breeds: Embden(meat), White China(eggs)
meat and eggs
pros: small, efficient egg producers, mature quickly, require little space
cons: will not hatch their own chicks so an incubator is required.
uses: meat, milk/cheese, pets, weed control
pros: smaller and hardier than cows when used as a dairy or meat alternative, make good pets have a lot of personality, goat milk is a good alternative for those who can’t tolerate cow’s milk
cons: require very secure fencing(physical or electric), bucks can be smelly and obnoxious, can be loud depending on breed and on the individual goat.
Recommended Breeds: Boer(meat), Saanen(milk), Nigerian Dwarf (Milk)
uses: meat, milk/cheese, grazing, fiber
pros: can be very low maintenance if there is space to graze, don’t require as secure fencing as goats
cons: more inclined to be ‘wild’ without regular human contact.
Recommended Breeds: Katahdin(meat), Icelandic(Triple Purpose), Shetland(fiber), Finnsheep(meat/fiber)
uses: honey, beeswax, pollination
pros: only animals that produce honey, they are fascinating to watch
cons: beestings, there can be a steep learning curve, equipment can be expensive
Recommended Breeds: While there is only oen breed of honeybee there are many strains and one must choose a strain based on their location. Find more info here.