Choosing animals for your backyard farm | Living the Country Life

Choosing animals for your backyard farm

Whether you’re thinking cattle, goats, sheep or chickens, it's important to learn about the spacial and nutritional requirements for each species. Here are some quick facts to help you decide how you want to start or add to your backyard farm.
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    Choosing a species for your backyard farm

    Looking to start or add to your backyard farm? Not sure which species would be the best fit for you? Knowing spacial and nutritional needs of livestock can help to determine which species would be the best fit for you.

    “With some research and preparation, you can begin raising animals in your backyard,” says Julian (Skip) Olson, DVM, technical services manager for Milk Products. “Whether you’re planning on starting with a small flock of chickens or raising larger livestock – such as goats, sheep or cattle – it is important to consider space requirements and nutritional needs of each animal.”

    Check out these quick facts to help you decide which animal will create the perfect backyard fit for you.

    Date Published: February 20, 2017
    Date Updated: February 20, 2017
  • Chickens

    A common entry animal in backyard farming is chicken. This is because they require a small amount of space and are easy to care for.

    Here are some general space guidelines:

    • Newly hatched chicks will need half a square foot of space each
    • At six weeks, provide 1-2 square feet of free space per bird
    • Adult birds will require at least 4 square feet of indoor space and 5-10 square feet of outdoor space each
    • Account for additional space in case you add more birds to your flock later 

    “If you plan to purchase chicks, be sure that you can offer them a controlled environment from the start – preferably in a dedicated enclosed space called a brooder,” says Olson. “The brooder should have adequate temperature control, ventilation and light.”

    Date Published: February 20, 2017
    Date Updated: February 20, 2017
  • Goats

    Another favorite backyard farm animal would be goats. With their fun personalities and efficient source of meat and milk, goats can make for a great addition to your backyard farm.
    “Goats are very curious animals – make sure to have a strong fence around your outdoor area to keep goats in and predators away,” says Olson. “If you decide to breed or milk your goats, you should dedicate an enclosed area for milking or kidding.”
    Goats should be housed in a shed or barn, with access to the outdoors. Ideally, each goat should have at least 20-25 square feet of indoor space, 0.2-0.3 acres of pasture with an exercise area of 50 square feet.
    “If kidding is in your future, be sure to have a quality colostrum replacer on hand to support your kids’ immune system within the first 12-18 hours of life,” says Olson. “If you raise kids without the doe or if the doe does not produce enough milk to feed her kids, feed a quality kid milk replacer, ideally containing 25-26 percent protein and 20-25 percent fat.”

    Date Published: February 20, 2017
    Date Updated: February 20, 2017
  • Sheep

    Just like goats, you can raise sheep in a shed or barn with access to an outdoor area. They should each have 15 to 20 square feet.
    “Sheep are grazers,” says Olson. “If you plan to raise a flock, adequate pasture is essential. A general rule is four sheep per acre. Pastures can include a mixture of grasses, legumes, brush and trees.”
    If you are welcoming new lambs into the world, help ensure a strong start with a quality colostrum replacer to support immunity within the first 6-12 hours of life. If feeding a milk replacer, look for a replacer with around 23 percent protein and 30 percent fat.

    Date Published: February 20, 2017
    Date Updated: February 20, 2017
  • Cattle

    Cattle require the most space, and are recommended for people who have experience raising small livestock.
    “Although cattle are social animals, it is best to house newborn calves in individual housing until they are weaned,” says Olson. “Calf hutches made of sturdy plastic or fiberglass are a popular choice for housing calves outdoors. A calf housed in a barn or shed will need 30-40 square feet of space.”
    As calves are weaned and continue to grow, their space requirements will increase. If you decide to purchase calves born on another farm, be sure to have a high-quality milk replacer on-hand to support optimal calf growth and health. A milk replacer containing 20 percent protein and 20 percent fat should provide ample nutrition if fed according to the label on the bag or tag.

    Date Published: February 20, 2017
    Date Updated: February 20, 2017

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