Good Basic Planning For Raising Meat Animals

David Trammel's picture

If you are thinking about raising your own animals for meat, then Melissa K. Norris over on Modern Homesteading walks you through her experiences in providing your family with a year's supply of meat.

"How We Raise A Year's Worth of Meat & Never Buy Meat from the Grocery Store Again"

Some observations.

1) They raise separate chickens for eggs and for meat. They raise their meat chickens for a short period of time in the Spring, then freeze them. This cuts down on having to butcher in the heat of Summer.

2) Observations on pig breeds are good. Length of time/food cost to full butcher size, versus docileness of pigs. Timestamp at 4:15.

3) She does not currently have goats or sheep, but she has had them. Timestamp at 8:00

4) Cattle. Timestamp at 9:00

5) Interesting, they also supplement their meat supply with crabs and fish. Factor in wild sources if you have them.

6) GOOD FENCING! Very important no matter what animal you raise.

7) Cattle vs Pigs. Surprise, cattle are probably cheaper and easier pound for effort. Timestamp 14:15

Also worth watching by Melissa, "How to Store a Year's Worth of Meat"

Ken's picture

I seldom watch videos and never listen to podcasts. If it's not in print, I just do without. I am hard of hearing, mostly thanks to Dad's .357 Blackhawk, chainsaws and operating heavy equipment, all with no hearing protection, the end result being, if there are no subtitles, I don't watch it because there is no point. This is my way of explaining why I have the audacity to comment without having seen the subject video. Mea culpa.

I grew up on a North Idaho cattle ranch, raised various types of livestock in 4-H and FFA and have spent many years breeding and raising small stock (rabbits and chickens) on my island farm. We also have 4 mustangs adopted from the wild (though they aren't for eating ;-) and I think it's fair to say that I have a measure of experience with a variety of livestock, large and small. I also have hunted and fished my whole life. (I hope to address the ethics of hunting in another, more specific post)

Over the course of (nearly) six decades, my thinking about the treatment of animals has evolved a long way from the way I was raised, and light years away from the soul-destroying horrors of industrial corporate agri-business methods. I won't eat 'Misery Meat', as I call it. Not because I think the actual meat is that horrible for humans to ingest, although the animals are unavoidably unhealthy and frequently are slaughtered and handled in egregiously unsanitary conditions by exploited workers. No, I won't eat it because I cannot bear the thought of contributing to the misery those animals suffered during their brief, wretched lives. I think it is literally damaging to our souls to participate at any level in those systems. No being should be made to suffer needlessly. Suffering is of course unavoidable, just ask the Buddha, but to create it for the purposes of profit is simply monstrous.

And no, I'm not a vegan nor, I hope, a hypocrite. I accept that the gift of life (for us all) comes with death at the end. That physical death, while inevitable and frequently far less than pleasant - especially for prey species - is not the problem. The problem is in the quality of the LIFE of most domesticated species. I include humans in that group as well; we might not be being raised for slaughter (I hope) but plenty of us are definitely being exploited for labor and have miserable lives and even more miserable deaths.

I had to quit raising rabbits because I just couldn't give them anything approaching the quality of life a wild rabbit experiences. Their deaths at my hands were undoubtedly more merciful than being grabbed by an owl and torn apart, but even the most miserable death in the wild is better than spending your entire life in a wire cage, separated from your fellow beings, forced to breed with a partner you do not select nor can refuse, having your offspring taken away at a young age for slaughter, etc. To be fair to myself, I treated my rabbits with compassion and care, they had the best of food and shelter, they did not suffer needlessly and their deaths were instantaneous and happened while they were relaxed and calm. But they never really LIVED. Not like the wild rabbit that came to visit them, who ran and played and jumped and had a life of his own, the vast majority of which I can only begin to guess at. So I quit raising rabbits. I miss having excellent quality affordable meat in the freezer but not enough to raise rabbits again. UNLESS I can figure out a way for them to have a better life.

The chickens are another story, but this is already too long of a screed, so I will simply say that my flock of free-ranging chickens had a pretty good life and I have no doubts that I will raise more at some point. BUT only when I have built a raccoon-proof coop for them.

I do think it is possible to raise cattle, sheep, goats and pigs in a respectful, holistic fashion on pasture and to process them yourself in a manner that is both respectful of their being and good for the quality of the meat. But it needs to be done mindfully and with respect for both the quality of their lives and their deaths. A solitary hog stuck in a small pen that is a filthy mud hole is a far cry from a mixed group of pigs living on pasture. A beef steer stuck in a pen for his short, corpulent life is not the same as an animal that ranges with a herd on pasture.

I hope the people that did that video that I can't watch are treating their animals with the kind of respect that those animals deserve.