You're about to buy a house in the country with a few acres and are looking forward to starting a small hobby farm. You've never raised livestock, but it's been your American Dream to enjoy the lifestyle. How do you get started?
It's important to accept the fact that almost every farm undergoes an eternal evolution. It is extremely rare for a new owner to be perfectly content with their new farm and never change a thing. You will never run out of ideas for improving what you have. You may decide to switch from farming pigs to raising meat goats, wood fence to T-posts with electric fencing wire, or one multi-purpose barn to multiple outbuildings for different purposes. This process is just one of the benefits of the rural lifestyle.
For most folks, economics and knowledge are the limiting factors. A good place to learn about both is your local Southern States dealer. Often, we're the first to hear about the tribulations your neighbors experienced—and we have the experts to share on-the-farm experiences of our own.
Speaking of neighbors; get out and meet them. In rural areas, neighbors are not just the friendliest folks you'll ever meet, but they can be your greatest ally. Rural neighbors are quick to help each other out and are an excellent source of information for what does and does not work.
Your initial concern is to provide food, water, and shelter for your animals & livestock. Although the first two items can be imported, the land is one of the most important as it provides
If you are going to start off with grazing animals (e.g., horses, cattle, and sheep), you will need a perimeter fence.
You don't want your livestock wandering into the next county and your neighbor doesn't want your goats eating his garden. While a barbed wire fence may be appropriate for cattle, it would be extremely dangerous for horses. Affordable solutions for equine fencing, like Polytape Fencing is more appropriate. Likewise, what may be respected by a horse could be demolished by your cattle. Feel free to browse our site or contact us to find out more about choosing the right fence for your hobby farm.
Another important consideration to make about land is soil quality, texture, and contour. Contact us to review your property and ask the following questions or to discuss the following services:
Shelter is imperative for all livestock. Although most of the larger species don't require insulated, heated facilities during the winter, adequate protection from the elements can be provided with run-in shelters which have three sides and a roof. However, in the event of health and reproductive issues, improved facilities could become essential. Many ranchers even have brought a newborn calf into their home for bottle feeding by the fireplace.
Keep in mind that a herd of horses can easily consume 100 gallons of water per day during the summer. Add household usage to that amount, the potential for a prolonged power outage or well failure, and you may find yourself hauling hundreds of gallons water each day. Always be prepared for emergencies for not just your family, but for your charges as well. If you have a hobby farm, have a Barn Emergency Plan.
The primary diet of grazing animals is forage. Ideally, your hobby farm’s pasture would satisfy the majority of their nutritional requirements, but, often that may be impractical and require purchasing hay or forage. If you presume that your livestock will consume 2% of their body weight in feed each day, and adjust for losses, just three horses will require one ton of hay each month. Calculate how many animals your pasture will support here.
If suitable storage facilities are not immediately available, pallets and secured tarps may adequately protect hay bales. Another option is to provide round bales if you have the means to load them into a round bale feeder.
Eventually, a tractor with implements will be added to your wish list of farming equipment—no matter how small your hobby farm. A new tractor with a few implements can easily exceed $50,000. Since requirements, individual preferences, and usage varies from farm to farm, consider buying used equipment until you have a firm grasp of what you will require.
Maintaining the health of your livestock is a high priority. Once you've selected a veterinarian, established rapport, and provided directions to your farm, ask your doctor for a list of what first aid supplies you should have on hand. Most of these livestock health products are available online or at your local Southern States dealer.
Other Considerations When Starting A Small Farm
Starting a hobby farm may seem daunting, but the challenges are very enjoyable for the entire family and will provide lasting memories, if you take it one step at a time. Plan your farm for at least five years out, but don't etch it in stone. Slow down and enjoy each step of the way. A good rule of thumb for a novice is to never add more than one species of livestock per year.