Choosing Livestock for your Smallholding

So you have finally been able to move to that smallholding that you have been saving up for and now you want to get some livestock.

There are a few factors to think about before you decide what you are going to start with and patience now will pay off handsomely, rather than rushing into a situation that you have not properly prepared for.

Keeping livestock is a commitment. Are you sure that you have enough money to buy, house, feed and maintain animals in good condition? Do you have the time? Are you prepared for the effect on your lifestyle that keep animals will have? (Like, you’re out at a really enjoyable social occasion, but you have to leave early because you’ve got to put the sheep away.)

Are you and members of your family strong enough physically and emotionally to handle livestock? Can you afford to employ help?

Your animals will need to be penned at night

Think about the resources that you have already and what you will need to keep livestock. Your animals will need to be brought in at night for security purposes. Do you have pens or stables in which to house them?

How much grazing do you have? Most of us underestimate how much quality grazing we should have, even for a handful of sheep. Not only do we need to have grass for the animals to eat, but we also need to be able to rotate them amongst a number of paddocks, in order to allow the pasture to rest and recover.

This will not be animal proof!

This makes one think of fencing and gates. Will you be able to keep the animals in and keep predators out? Above all, do not buy an animal on impulse and then take it home and have to rig up something using baler twine and pallets! You tell yourself, “It’s just for now,” but very often it will land up becoming a permanent arrangement ~ that is until the animal breaks it, gets out and is found contentedly eating your prize cabbages.

Can you give them constant access to water? This entails piping and troughs in your pastures.

Perhaps the most important question is how much do you know about keeping livestock? Yes, we have all learnt as we have gone along, but it would be so much more efficient if you got some knowledge and experience before you bought anything. Find successful smallholders in your area and ask if you can spend time on their plots, observing good practice, asking questions and making notes.

Find out about training that is offered. The ARC, Ekurhuleni Agricultural College or Dicla Training Centre, for example, provide practical, hands on workshops and courses.

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