Raising animals with another family or two is a great option for those of us who don’t have the space! And if you join in with what they are already raising it can make the transition easier for everyone!
But one word of warning: should you be sharing the work-load, choose a farmer who lives close to home! After a month’s time making a 20 drive to toss hay to the cows and check water levels, your enthusiasm will diminish due to the ever-emptying gas tank and the extra time spent after work! Choose wisely and realistically.
When buying animals for meat production, rabbits, hogs or birds are often first choice. Because they mature quickly, they require no more than 3-4 months of commitment and are a great ‘trial’ critter. Joining a farmer’s doings makes it simpler as they (usually) have the know-how and set up.
However, there are times when someone has land without the setup, but would be willing to join in on your efforts. For those who fall into that category, let’s discuss what it takes to prepare. As always, clear communication is the key! Regardless of the animal type or use, be sure to discuss the following:
What does each person desire from the critters? Discuss before starting anything as it will make a vast difference in breeds, amount bought, setup and system. Collectively, do you wish for:
- one time meat/egg production or reproducing animals?
- heritage or modern breeds?
- all natural meat/eggs/etc?
If no one in the partnership has experience with the livestock desired, talk to someone who does.
A local feed store is often the best place to begin, as owners usually known the animal breeders/farmers in the area. Get hold of someone’s phone number and have a heart-to-heart chat with ’em. Inform them of what you want from the animal. They will be able to outline the particulars of keeping them, and even better, the particulars for your area (ex: predators to be aware of, disease, parasites, etc), plus the necessary setup for the critter’s safe keeping.
Within the ownership group, you also ought to discuss the lifestyle you wish the animals to have:
- free-range or contained?
- will you feed organic, non-gmo feed or typical feed store grains?
- what will you do with sick animals?
- will you allow antibiotics and shots?
- if raising for meat, how will you go about the butchering process?
Each person ought to do their own research while one person ought to make certain the group is aware of the animal’s needs which includes the following:
- adequate space in pen/barn/grazing area
- height of fencing/sturdiness of fence
- amounts and cost of food/minerals/etc per month
- adequate shelter from heat or cold
That same someone ought to research and present the group with cost of necessary items for:
- set up for feed and water
- straw/shavings for floor
If starting from scratch on someone’s land, discuss who will cover set up costs and what to do if anyone backs out of animal raising?
- Does the landowner pay for/keep setup and in exchange is exempt from feed costs for the first while?
- Does the group contribute in easily separable categories-house/shed material, fencing/wire, feeder and water system?
- Are all costs evenly split between the members?
Land: can you raise animals on the land and does the owner have requirements about neatness?
If in a populated area, always check with the local township before purchasing or preparing for an animal. If you are within town or city limits, you may be limited or even unable to keep birds or rabbits. What about the one whose land you are building on? Their land=their right to require a place that is neat and well kept.
Constructing: do you hire someone or build houses/fences/pens as a group?
What is the time requirement and among yourselves, do you have the skills necessary? While DIYing is no doubt cheaper, if you don’t know what you are doing, it may be worth hiring on.
Discuss and set up a schedule for animal care. Collectively decide on necessary guidelines for smooth group functionality. They could include:
- dividing profits: pre-determine this so no one feels gypped in the end.
- barn cleaning on a rotation schedule
- consequences for those who fail to fulfill their duty (ex: losing part of their week’s/month’s share or making up for days lost)
- communication plan in situation where caregiver is ‘unavoidably’ detained.
This is easily done with beef cows, meat goats or sheep, hogs, ducks, turkeys, etc. Have you ever done this with another family? What were the positives and negatives (from either side?)