Raising animals with another family or two is a great option for those of us who don’t have the space! And if you join in with what they are already raising, you can help the farmer out in the midst of his busy life schedule!
But one word of warning: should you be sharing the work-load, choose a farmer who lives close to home! After a month’s time making a 20 drive to toss hay to the cows and check water levels, your enthusiasm will diminish due to the ever-emptying gas tank and the extra time spent after work! Choose wisely and realistically.
When buying animals for meat production hogs or birds are often first choice. They require no more than 3-4 months of commitment and are a great ‘trial’ critter.
Joining a farmer’s doings makes it simpler as they (usually) have the know-how and set up. However, there are times when someone has land without the setup. Just to be crazy, let’s discuss what it takes to set up on a friend/neighbor’s land, buy the animals and what ought to be discussed beforehand.
Regardless of the animal type or use, discuss the following:
- What does each person desire from the critters? Discuss before starting anything as it will make a vast difference in breeds, amount bought, setup and system. Collectively, do you want
- one time meat production or reproducing animals?
- heritage or modern breeds?
- all natural meat/eggs/etc?
If you have no experience with the livestock desired, talk to a local homesteader who does. Inform the of the animal’s purpose. They will be able to outline the particulars of keeping that animal in your area (ex: predators to be aware of, disease, parasites, etc), plus the necessary setup for the critter’s safe keeping.
- Discuss the lifestyle you wish animal/s to have:
- free-range or contained?
- will you feed organic, non-gmo feed or typical feed store grains?
- what will you do with sick animals?
- will you allow antibiotics and shots?
- if raising for meat, how will you go about the butchering process?
- Each person ought to do their own research while one person ought to make certain the group is aware of the animals need which includes:
- adequate space in pen/barn/grazing area
- height of fencing/sturdiness of fence
- amounts and cost of food/minerals/etc
- adequate shelter from heat or cold
- Designate someone to research and present the group with cost of necessary items for:
- set up for feed and water
- straw/shavings for floor
- If starting from scratch on someone’s land, discuss who will cover set up costs and what to do if anyone backs out of animal raising?
- Does the landowner pay for/keep setup and in exchange is exempt from feed costs for the first while?
- Does the group contribute in easily separable categories-house/shed material, fencing/wire, feeder and water system?
- Are all costs evenly split between the members?
- Land: whose land is being used and are there requirements about neatness? If in a populated area, always check with the local township before purchasing or preparing for an animal.
Setting Up: do you hire someone or set up as a group? What is the time requirement and among yourselves, do you have the skills necessary?
- Discuss and set up a schedule for animal care. Decide on guidelines necessary for smooth group functionality. They could include:
- dividing profits: pre-determine so no one feels gypped in the end.
- barn cleaning on a rotation schedule
- consequences for those who fail to fulfill their duty (ex: losing part of their share)
- communication plan in situation where caregiver is ‘unavoidably’ detained.
This is easily done with beef cows, meat goats or sheep, hogs, ducks, turkeys, etc. Have you ever done this with another family? What were the positives and negatives (from either side?)