Are you wanting to raise livestock on your hobby farm or homestead? I'm sure you do. Check out what we've found to be the best farm animals to raise for beginners. Raising animals for meat is a rewarding task that most homesteaders do. Today I share with you how to raise farm animals for meat and a profit.
When we found our 10 acres of land, it was time to start the homesteading dream. Excited to raise as many farm animals as we could with what little money we had left we started getting creative to raise farm animals for cheap.
The property we had purchased had a chicken coop, a three stall barn with a hay loft to fit 500 square bales and 5 horse paddocks with shelter along with the fencing for each.
So we got started with as many farm animals we could raise with our cheap budget after purchasing the land. In our first January on the homestead we figured out what animals we were interested in starting with.
Fast forward a year later we had taken our shot at raising chickens, turkeys, meat birds, rabbits, lamb, pork and a cow or two all while both working full time at our day jobs.
You might be wondering if we burnt out? Pretty close would be my honest answer. But we've learned how to manage homestead life much better since then. Read our current homestead goal plan and time management tips for homesteaders here.
Let's get to it! Here's my list of the best farm animals for beginner homesteaders.
THE BEST FARM ANIMALS TO RAISE FOR BEGINNERS
In this post I’ll be sharing with you the best farm animals to raise as a beginner homesteader that are cost effective, help you lead a more self sufficient lifestyle with little to no experience and preferably can help beginner homesteaders like you profit from your hard work as well.
With that being said, here are a few things you’ll need to consider before diving in.
HOW MUCH DOES IT COST TO RAISE FARM ANIMALS?
The very first thing to consider are farm animals for sale in your area, and the upfront cost of purchasing, transporting and getting the animal to your home. If you’re buying a calf or a lamb, the cost will obviously be higher than purchasing chicks or hens.
It's important to determine how much it will roughly cost to raise your farm animals. Some costs to think of or research before making your ultimate decision are as follows.
Upfront purchase cost
Feed- what will you have to purchase? If the animals are grazing the amount of grazing space will help you determine your flock/herd size. Consider finding free feed wherever possible.
Did you know cows love pumpkins? Be smart with your fields when it comes to grazing animals and field management. Contact your local restaurants and breweries for scraps and spent grains. Use garden scraps. Free range your chickens. Windfall fruits also make great feed.
Need for shelter– determining what you currently have to utilize, what repairs buildings might need and if you need shelter and protection for the animals you choose to raise.
CONSIDERATIONS FOR RAISING FARM ANIMALS AS A BEGINNER
What space do you have for raising farm animals and what space will each need?
What animals are you NOT afraid of? What animals do you find cute and cuddly, do you have buildings already on your property to house them? If you plan to raise animals for meat what does your family eat the most of and would benefit from?
TIME AND CHORES
Some animals require more time and care than others. It's important to determine how much time you have and the chores that are involved before you start to raise farm animals. We've created a chore chart for our barn to help us stay organized. Access it here to help you stay organized.
WHO YOU KNOW
Put the word out there that you are starting a farm. I luckily was able to adopt my mothers bosses flock of beautiful heritage bred chickens when he moved homes. Free chickens mean free eggs, and you can most likely find a free rooster out there to start your next generation of chickens.
It's also important to think of who you know that could help you in time of crisis or holiday and who the experts are in your local area. Our best bet was buying Scottish highland cows straight from our neighbour.
THE BEST FARM ANIMALS LIST TO RAISE FOR BEGINNERS
It's not a homestead or hobby farm without chickens! At least according to my grandmother.
We incubate fertilized eggs, sell chicks and enjoy eating fresh eggs as part of our regular diet. The hens are perfect mulchers and help help keep the weeds down. Check out my guide to incubating chicks or using a broody hen to raise chicks.
I’ve placed chickens in the number one spot because they are by far the gateway animals to raising farm animals for beginners. They don’t require much space and they are a multipurpose animal. Chickens are a source of eggs, meat and fertilizer.
They also act as a great help in the garden come the fall. They eat almost anything, You can feed them compost, weeds, leftovers from the garden or store bought feed. My chickens particularly love fermented scratch in the winter. Grab this guide to chicken feed for more ideas.
There are a large variety of types of chickens. choosing a chicken breed will help you figure out how many eggs you’ll get a year from each bird and their temperament.
The concerns about raising chickens is that are they loved by predators, so free ranging chickens or a coop with poor fencing will be a problem.
It wasn’t until I started raising chickens that they can also get sick and have many common chicken illnesses like mites, the cold or other diseases. Learn all about chicken illnesses here.
Ready to raise your own backyard chickens? Don’t make the common mistakes most beginner homesteaders make with the Backyard Chickens Masterclass. Sign up Here.
If raising chickens isn't for you then try raising ducks instead. Read this article if you're interested in raising ducks.
Meat rabbits are a great small livestock option for homesteaders with limited land. They are also a great option for making money raising small livestock. Learn 5 ways to make money raising meat rabbits.
Meat rabbits breed quickly, produce high quality meat and are easy to keep in rabbit hutches. Their manure can easily be captured underneath and is a a great component of healthy soil.
One consideration about raising rabbits is that they are prone to predators and selling rabbit meat has a smaller market as some people aren’t used to the idea of eating rabbits.
Goats provide dairy, meat and amazing land clearing abilities to name a few.
We raised a few goats one summer to help clear land and it worked remarkably well. Goats love to forage and will eat anything out in a pasture. They do tend to have many stomach issues and need to be dewormed a few times a year.
Another consideration about raising goats is how much they love to play, climb and tend to escape a fenced in area. Building a goat pallet playhouse is a fun option for keeping them entertained.
Read our beginner guide to raising Goats for more information about why these animals are great for small homesteads.
Lambs provide dairy, meat and wool for beginner homesteaders.
Lamb is a specialty meat that most people like to purchase straight from the farmer. You can easily get a lamb for $150 to keep the grass down on your field and at the end of the season send them in to butcher. We had success selling lamb our first year on the homestead.
We struggled to get our lambs to a good finishing weight that made the work worth it. I followed advice of having them solely grass fed. A few things that didn't go right were they were scheduled to late in the season for butcher so we had to supplement with purchased hay much longer than anticipated and the field they were on wasn't the best for hay.
For more information about getting started raising lamb, check out this article
ONCE YOU GET YOUR FEET WET CONSIDER RAISING THESE FARM ANIMALS
1. MEAT BIRDS/BROILERS
We learned that raising meat birds at the most upfront cost for feed, but was the best return on our investment as we were able to eat chicken for free for the following year! They can smell, need a large well ventilated space and proper protection.
They also don't free range well or behave like an egg laying hen so you'll need to feed them a lot of store bought feed. Check out my guide to raising chickens for meat here.
Raising chickens for meat is one way to make money from your homestead. Raising meat birds can be a lot of work to get started, but its a quick and profitable return.
We raise broilers every summer and every year our system becomes more efficient. We raise and sell enough to have enough chicken to last the year.
Cows are a great option if you have a larger property and several acres of fields too graze.
We were able to get our hands on a relatively cheap dairy steer from a local fairy farm before he was sent off to auction. If you are thinking of starting with beef cows, try starting off with two dairy steers in the spring without a large investment. BUT, dairy steers won't reach the same final weight as beef steers, so do your research to see what the final hanging weights of each option could be.
Raise a herd of beef cattle to sell. Depending on the size of property you have, you might raise a few steers for butcher or have a herd of cows and a bull. If you raise beef, consider selling beef calves once weaned from their mothers and sell them as steers or a pregnant cow.
Plan it out so they graze longer than needing hay before going to butcher. We were able to keep a half side of beef for ourselves for very little in our first year and have now figured out how to have a half side of beef in the freezer every year for free.
BEST FARM ANIMALS TO RAISE FOR BEGINNERS WHILE MAKING A PROFIT
Raising farm animals is often the first thing that new homesteaders think of when planning on generating an income from their land. Traditionally, many farmers make a profit on raising animals but the loss seems to become greater these days.
You might also be interested in checking out our massive list of ways to generate income from your property.
Theres so much to consider when raising farm animals as a beginner homesteader, I wish you well in making your decisions and know that it’s not an easy one. Really, the best way to learn what animals will work best for you, your family, your land and your goals is to get started and learn from experience.
No matter your goals, it’s all possible with a plan and a plan starts with a party. Download our free goal setting planner now to help you set attainable homesteading goals in a fun exciting way.