Our monthly budget is just $50/month or $600/year and our livestock includes: four beef steers, one milk cow, one pregnant heifer, one horse, two guard dogs, three barn cats, about 60 chickens and ducks and four feeder pigs.
So now you're shaking your head, how can we possibly feed all that livestock on just $50/month?!
It's an age old technique used by farmers/homesteaders/good neighbors for centuries. Rather than exchanging money for goods, we exchange labor or goods for other goods. For hay and grain specifically, Keith trades his labor for feed with another farmer friend of ours. So many hours of work equals so many bales of hay/straw or bushels of grain. In addition, if Keith if cleaning out a barn or other storage building of our friend he is often given the old hay/straw/corn cobs on the floor of that building, which we use for bedding or composting.
The fact that we do not feed grain to our steers, cows, or horse, also keeps costs down. Only the chickens and ducks get grain in the winter while in summer they forage for themselves: lots of bugs, ticks, small snakes, mice for them to dine upon. As we only raise hogs through the summer, our grain costs for them occur only April through August.
We own seven acres and about six of them are in pasture, this means we are not buying or bartering for hay from April through October. Soon, our pregnant heifer will calve (in April) and then we'll decide which of the two milk cows to keep, we don't need both so the other will be sold. Of the four steers, one goes to the locker in June, leaving three smaller ones to raise for beef over the next two years.
We'll be taking many of the extra ducks/roosters to the animal swap/sale in Kankakee in spring reducing our livestock numbers even more. As the numbers decrease we plan to grow our own hay for the winter which would limit Keith's time working off our farm for feed .
In April we'll bring home four 8 week old piglets and raise them on pasture, grain and milk until they are locker size at the end of August. We'll keep the meat from one and sell the other three. They will also get a good amount of extra garden produce, old eggs, apples that have fallen to the ground and the occasional duckling protein snack they grab when mama ducklings get distracted, on their Smartphones I suspect.
The dogs and cats get generic dog/cat food as well as table scraps/freezer meat/bones/older lard we've had stored. They are working farm animals and they eat like such. They are not above eating rabbits/ racoons/moles/mice/birds as well. But they never go after chicks or ducklings, they learned at a very early age, that was not acceptable.
Ashland though, the German Shepard, does like to chase the ducks just to make them fly. he is annoying that way.
Animal illness is rare and when it occurs we prevent and treat with diatomaceous earth and powdered garlic. having our animals out on pasture (muddy as it is right now) and not confined in building, makes for healthier stock. We do have a great vet who comes for emergencies, but it is a rare event.
The horse, you might have guessed, is pure luxury. I suggested to Keith we sell her, I don't ride her enough to validate the hay expense in my mind, but Keith knows I love her so we came up with this plan. If I do not ride here regularly this summer, (or teach her to pull heavy items about the farm) she goes away in the fall. A fair deal I think.
So, spill your guts. If you have pets/livestock, how do you keep your feed and vet costs at manageable levels? How do you validate their presence? Are they for pleasure or must they earn their keep either in the work they do or the food they produce for you to eat?