One thing a homesteader learns quickly is that keeping livestock is very different than having a pet. Don’t get me wrong, I’m very fond of all my animals. They can be personable, amusing, and even affectionate. However; they also must serve their purpose, which is generally to feed us in some manner. Sometimes this purpose costs that animal it’s life. There’s no hiding from this cycle, in all it’s terrible beauty, when one participates in one’s own food production. The hard fact is, we cannot afford to keep unproductive or inappropriate animals on a homestead, especially one as tiny as ours.
This year’s most obvious footprint is our change in livestock. While there are a few familiar faces, we have said goodbye to some old friends and hello to some new. Beau, the pony, has gone to a new home. Tucker, our horse, has taken his place in the paddock. His job is to clean up the hay that the finicky goats won’t eat and turn it into material for our compost pile and the new wood-burning stove. He also supplies us with transportation and “horsepower” should we need it.
Rosey, the Kinder goat, had a lovely baby we named Petunia. However, she didn’t produce nearly enough milk for our much increased need since Tony’s daughter, Madalyn came to live with us. So Rosey, Petunia, and Iris went to a new home in Ohio. Whisper, the Lamancha, joined us a couple of months ago. We found her at the local auction, anemic from parasite overload, extremely thin, and with her feet badly in need of attention. We definitely took a risk, but her confirmation is good, she has gained weight, her feet are straightening out with regular care, and we’re about to do a blood test to see if she’s bred. She may stay or not, but we decided to give her a chance. We also purchased a second Lamancha doe we call Hush. She is registered, in milk, and bred to a registered buck. She is likely to stay. Both girls are very quiet and sweet.
Our chicken flock increased a little this year. One of our hens hatched 13 baby chicks and we kept three of the nicest hens. We sent one of our older hens and all the rest of the chicks to the auction. This left us with a flock of 6 hens along with our rooster, Herman. We learned a lot about allowing the hen to raise chicks this year, and have altered our chicken house to make it easier next year. We may replace the older hens and will definitely have to replace Herman as he is starting to get more aggressive in his old age.
Our livestock provides so much for us and we are grateful to them all. They are not pets, but they are treated with affection if they want it, respect if they don’t, and given the best care we can manage. We must eat, just like any other creature on this planet, and we have chosen to look at the realities of that right in the face. Sometimes it’s fun, sometimes it’s sad, it is always hard work, but we think it is the right thing to do.