How Many Animals Can I Have?

A black calf

How Many Animals Can I Have?

homestead helpers and guardians
A Anatolian and Akbash cross watching his livestock.

Hey All,

One of the things that I’ve been periodically seeing, is that figuring out how many animals your homestead can support can be so hard. So, since I am not the expert in this area, I asked George McLaughlin about it. He wanted to share this with you all. This is part two of our two blog posts on the topic. If you haven’t read part one, you can find that here: How Many Animals Can I Have Per Acre?

How many animals per acre, part 2

A goat with horns
A Goat

Some articles start with how many tons of forage your place produces and then how many animals you can put on it. Well, I have yet to meet anyone who can tell me how many tons of forage their place produces. That said, some articles claim that, given that production of forage, 20 acres could support 11 head of cattle during the summer. If you had 10 acres, you wouldn’t want more than 3 cows who have calves because then you would have 6 head of cattle on 10 acres during the summer.

Over the years, we have watched many people come and go in homesteading. One of the typical mistakes people make is to put too many animals on their land. Then, their land ends up looking like a dust bowl, animals get sick, the new homesteaders get overwhelmed financially, physically and emotionally, and then they quit. We have yet to see anyone who starts small and builds things gradually just up and quit or have some huge financial disaster. People who have raised livestock their whole lives and really know their animals, can buy what they can afford and roll. However, new homesteaders typically are unfamiliar with the country life. Buying a few of whatever they are interested in and learning the ins and outs of that animal before adding more and different ones is what is wise for someone new. That way, the effects of mistakes remain small, financially and otherwise. Typically, one looks to have the most animals during the summer months when there is the most forage. The animals go in the freezer or to market in the fall. During the winter months, one should have fewer livestock until spring when babies come. So goes the cycle.

A calf
A calf

So, how much is too much? What are the signs that your pasture is over grazed? Everything is eaten down to the nub. What you thought was forage turns out to be inedible, noxious weeds, your animals are getting ribby or aren’t growing very fast.

How long does it take for a pasture to recover from being over grazed? That probably depends on how long it was overgrazed. It might take a year, or it might take a couple of years along with some seeding and fertilizing.

The key is to be conservative, especially while you’re getting to know your land and animals.”

Hopefully, between our two blog posts, you were able to get an idea of how to know how many animals you can run on your land. If you have any questions, feel free to leave us a comment either here or on Facebook at our Homesteadingedu Facebook page.

Until next time,

Homestead In Health Ya’ll!

Emily

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