Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Whittling Down the Livestock Numbers

In 1993, the year Keith and I married, we owned one steer, one horse, a few pet goats, a handful of chickens. Over the next twenty-two years we added milk cows for our state licensed dairy, which led to many more steers for our own meat and extra to sell to others. At our largest Keith was milking forty cows and we raised about twenty steer each year. We phased out the goats and added hogs, raising sixty to a hundred of them every year.  The chickens were joined by ducks, guineas, and peacocks. More fowl than we could ever count. Barn cats were everywhere. I added more horses and at one time we had four. We opened a retail store on our farm where we sold raw milk, eggs, frozen pork and beef and then expanded our sales to four grocery stores and ten Chicago area restaurants.

We were often so exhausted supplying decent certified organic food to everyone else, we ate only ate fast food and processed food for weeks at a time because who had the energy to cook?

Talk about insanity.

Then we got smart, sold the big farm and moved here. Over the last two years on The Poor Farm we have steadily sold off our livestock leaving just enough--we hope--to feed ourselves and a handful of family members who appreciate what we produce here.

So, as of today we are down to four steers, two milk cows, one heifer calf, three hogs, two dogs, three cats, three ducks, fourteen ducklings (as of yesterday)  two roosters, one horse  and EXACTLY twenty-nine hens. Last week we had many more poultry but we cleaned house by putting an ad on Craigslist, and selling ten redundant roosters and fifteen ducks.

It's beginning to feel like we might have control of this livestock thing.

The steers are a variety of ages. One goes to the locker in a couple weeks, two will go in 2018 and one more in 2019.

Of the two milk cows, Mucca and Liz, we've decided to keep Liz . She is older but so gentle and loveable I can't bear to part with her. Mucca has been listed on Facebook and Craigslist and we hope to have her sold soon. She's done well after calving for the first time a couple weeks ago but we don't need that much milk and can't afford to feed both of them. Besides, we just love Liz a little more.  We may keep Mucca's heifer calf as a possible replacement for Liz in three or so years.

Mucca's Craigslist Photo $1500 or best offer.

Keith demonstrating Mucca's gentle nature

Liz babysitting Mucca's calf

The hogs are vacationing with us for the summer only. In October they all go to the locker. One and a half of them will return to our freezer, while the rest of the meat has already been sold. Next summer we'll do the same, buy two or three feeder pigs, feed them for six months then eat them, selling any extra. This means no hog chores in the cold winter months!

Keith and I are a bit at odds regarding the number of chickens/ducks we need to keep for eggs and pest control. He wants more in order to keep bugs/flies and mosquitoes at bay but I want less as tired of chasing them out of garden, mulch beds etc...The breed we have, crested cream leg bars, are good for egg laying but not for eating. Too small. We'll order some broilers soon to butcher specifically in the fall like we do every year. Probably thirty or so.

The three cats are static, one neutered male, one neutered female, one Tom cat with no one to breed. Sucks for him but he uses his pent up energy to catch mice and moles!

The two dogs (one great Pyrenees and one Shepard/Huskie mix) are livestock guard dogs and will remain here till they die. We could not run the farm without them.

Fannie and our cat Tiger

The horse, Ennis, is purely for pleasure, but since I've done very little pleasure riding the last two years, her gig may be up as well. Keith says we should keep her, he knows how much I love to have a horse, but I say if  she isn't ridden this year BY ME, she goes bye-bye in the fall too. No, we won't eat her, likely I'll give her away to some young person whose always wanted a horse. But the to start riding again. Wish me (and her) luck.




  1. Is it really two years since you moved? It hardly seems possible. Animals are all well and good, but they occupy a lot of time (and money).

    1. Yes, two years ago in April that we moved here and into the awful camper. In October we'll be in the Looney Bin two years. And still we're not smart enough to farm WITHOUT livestock!

  2. Go to the locker? Don't tell me . . . that doesn't mean . . .
    Do they scream NOOOOOOOOO on the way there?


    1. They do not. We entice them into the trailer with great food, they have a lovely ride through the country in a well bedded environment and they are handed over to a humane group at our processing plant.

  3. Hi Donna :))

    What a great post! I didn't know how hard you guys worked/lived before the Poor Farm. Wow...but you still have so many animals. I understand the need to downsize though. But I do hope that you can ride again! Your dogs are gorgeous! And I love the last photo of your home. :)

    1. Thanks Rain. Sometimes I only see all the things that still have to be done here. Taking pictures helps me see the beauty that is already here.

  4. I say keep the horse, I've found the expense of the horse is waaaay cheaper than therapy!

  5. What a great place you've created. Good work!! And that calf in the wheelbarrow? Well now that's just cuteness overload.

    Love the picture at the end too of the house in the setting sun. Peaceful.

    1. Thank you 1st man. We are getting there. Another thirty years or so and this place will be awesome! Of course I'll be 88 by then, and too blind to see it.

  6. What ? No partridge in the pear tree?? Love the photo of Fannie and Tiger. Aren't Pyr's just the bomb? She looks like and older girl is she? Ennis is lovely but you are correct your thinking. If you aren't riding her then off she goes. To both your benefit and hers. A young girl with horse crazy is waiting somewhere I am sure. Nice job!


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