bolewicz at netzero dot net
It's hard those first few weeks of feeding every two or three hours round the clock, but it's great entertainment for visitors.
Oh, what could go wrong?
Cold dead cria, touched her eye and got no response. Stood over her for a few minutes, saying "Shoot, shoot, shoot." Picked her up, she moved her head! Too unresponsive for usual measures - to the vet!
Daisy in hard labor, cervix not dilated, horse vet says "Let her push for a few days." Nope. C-section to produce a single large ram lamb.
Neck X-ray. Don't know what happened, but he survived for 5 more months until something else must have happened.
Please don't reproduce these photos without permission.
Are You Ready For Livestock?
How to Keep Livestock and Make Money
Adapted from an article by Sue Weaver, Hobby Farms Magazine
A farm without livestock? Unthinkable! A flock of happy chickens, pigs to market, fiber producing sheep or alpacas— they’re part of most city dwellers’ escape-to-the-good-life plan.
Meanwhile, established hobby farmers dream of raising profitable, mortgage-lifting poultry or livestock. But what?
There are countless hobby-farm livestock options to choose from, but which (if any) are right for you?
Are You Livestock Ready?
Before launching any animal-related enterprise, be certain you are willing to accept its demands. Not everyone is cut out to keep livestock. Before jumping into a livestock venture, ask yourself these questions:
• Are you willing to be on call for your livestock 24/7, 365 days a year?
Will you dutifully camp in the barn when horses are foaling?
Will you roll out of bed at 2 a.m. to feed a bottle lamb? Are you able to retrieve escaped cattle and repair their flattened fences under a sizzling noonday sun, missing that long-anticipated televised ball game? Animals rarely get hungry, sick, loose or injured at convenient times.
• Is a livestock sitter available when you need one?
If not, would you forego dinner invitations, overnight trips and well-deserved vacations to care for your livestock? Keeping livestock invariably ties you down. Neighbor kids or a vet tech are good options for vacation care.
• Can you weather the inevitable livestock keeper’s lows? How will you react when your favorite broodmare shatters her leg or a weasel slaughters a slew of your prized chickens?
Animals die and injure themselves and each other. Evaluate whether you can handle these stressors.
• If keeping livestock for profit, are you capable of selling the animals?
Could you send the steer to slaughter or could you sell the foal you love? Are you willing to pull out the stops to market your wares and continually monitor market trends to stay on the cutting edge? Do you have the means to advertise and market your business, maintain a farm website, and haul your livestock to expos, demonstrations, shows and sales?
If not, think “pets and hobby farm,” not “producion,” and don’t become a breeder.
• Can you afford to support your animals when things go awry?
This is a big one. Markets falter. Disease can rip through your herd. Expect the unexpected when keeping livestock. The endeavor can be a pricey proposition. You need to ensure you have the financial resources to see yours through bumpy times.
• What is your motive for keeping livestock?
Do want means of producing offspring to raise or to sell? Are you simply wanting to raise livestock as pets? If you keep livestock to claim a lower cost agriculture land tax assessment, your venture must eventually turn a profit. How much profit is enough? And would you be content if you lost money or your animals simply paid their way?
Basic Livestock Owner Requirements
1. Like the animal—and the people involved.
Whether you decide to keep one animal or 100, you should genuinely enjoy working with the livestock species you select.
You must also like the people associated with it. When you are buying, selling, co-op marketing or showing, you’ll be dealing with the people involved on an ongoing basis.
2. Ensure the livestock species you choose is suited to your climate. You could breed yak in South Texas and hair sheep in northern Minnesota—but why? Panting yak and shivering sheep are unhappy campers. Talk to area livestock keepers and choose a livestock species adapted to the weather where you live.
3. Choose a livestock species compatible with your
temperament and physical capabilities. Loud, abrupt or timid individuals rarely resonate with flighty, reactive poultry and livestock. “Do-it-my-way-or-else” humans and headstrong, aggressive animals are bound to clash.
Assess your mindset carefully and choose a compatible species. It’ll save a heap of upset for all concerned. Interacting with many animal species requires considerable brawn. Don’t take on a bird or beast you physically can’t handle. It’ll be frustrating and dangerous if you do.
4. Prepare adequate facilities before bringing livestock home. If you don’t already have the necessary livestock facilities available on your farm, make sure you have enough land, financial resources and know-how to make the necessary improvements. Also make sure you can obtain the necessarily building permits to make the changes. If you need chutes and squeezes, raceways or 7-foot bull-tight fences, build them or choose a different species. Factoring in injuries, losses and breakouts; it’s the safe and economical thing to do.
5. Take care of the livestock-keeping legalities before purchasing animals.
Acquire any licenses and owner/breeder permits required by federal, state and local authorities, and make certain your property is zoned for the sort of livestock you plan to keep.
6. Discuss your livestock venture with area veterinarians.
Are veterinarians in your qualified to treat the kind of animals you choose to keep, whether it be chickens, bison, alpacas, deer or something else? Are the vets willing to treat your animals? If not, are you willing (and able) to transport sick or injured animals to a specialty practice and to learn to perform routine maintenance procedures yourself?
Our nearby horse vet would treat sheep, but not alpacas. Luckily, a veterinary practice 30 minutes away had a strong interest in alpacas.
7. Decide whether you want your venture to be self-
For this to happen, you must market the commodity you produce. Make certain you know your target species to the "Nth" degree:
Visit successful breeders and producers and ask a world of questions.
Subscribe to periodicals, read books, and conduct online research. See our Resources page.
Meet with county cooperative extension agents and consult with experts at your state veterinary college.
8. Educate yourself to perfection before you buy.
Don’t charge into any livestock enterprise on the basis of hearsay.
Making Livestock Profitable
Ask a host of established hobby and small scale farmers and most will agree, there is little (if any) money to be made in commercial livestock. Feeder cattle, market hog and standard lamb-and-wool operations are faltering; however, there are ways you can turn a profit raising farmyard standbys. Many hobby farmers find success in two ways:
• Niche Marketing
Raise a livestock species that you can market to a specific demographic. You can try raising goat kids or lambs for a specific ethnic community, or raise organic or grassfed meats.
• Value-added Marketing
Instead of raising animals for market, raise them to sell their byproducts. You can raise sheep or goat for cheese or yogurt or free-range chickens for eggs.
We were successful marketing half or whole lamb, custom cut to the buyer's specifications. It took a few years to build up the customer base, mostly by word of mouth or by posting on our small local stores' bulletin boards.
One tip: don't underprice your products; they're probably better than what's in the grocery store or the craft store, and many people are willing to pay a good price for what you've produced.
Check out these resources:
Texas A&M Factsheet: Niche Marketing
Oregon State University small farms
Alpaca Owners Association: Alpacas as a Business
More Things to Consider Part 1, Part 2, Part 3
Shelter - a 3 or 3½ sided run-in shed is fine in most climates, though the humans will be
happier working in a barn.
Space - enough room to take a run and stretch their legs.
Good fences - secure enough to keep dogs,
coyotes, and other predators out; it's not as
hard to keep the alpacas in (as long as you
remember to close the gates!).
Food - they prefer grass, but a good grass hay should be available also; a field of tall grass that looks good to us may be over-mature with little nutrition and not very tasty.
Water - clean and always available.
Vitamins & minerals - as a block or loose, or
supplemental pellets, or both.
Companionship - at least one other alpaca
(even a llama is not the same for them); 3 or
more feels more like a herd and therefore safer.
Shearing - once a year as well as toe-trimming, vaccinations, deworming when necessary.
Do not deworm on a schedule; run a fecal sample (or have your vet do one) to determine whether or not you actually have parasites.
You may have seen those cute videos on Facebook. But while we sometimes talk about "pet alpacas", as cuddly as they seem, they are not really pets in the same sense as a dog is a pet.
Most of them don't like to be petted or even touched. There are exceptions, but you should be very wary of a "friendly" young male. When he becomes an adult, he may not understand the difference between humans and alpacas -
he may treat you as another young male, which means pushing, chest butting, or even biting.
It's important that your alpaca respects your space and comes only as close as is respectful. This doesn't mean you have to go in for heavy-handed dominance, however.
It also does not mean that you have to be wary around adult males, as you must be with stallions, rams, bucks, or bulls. I can walk up to my male alpacas, while they are breeding, put my arm around their necks, and pull them
Alpacas' major defense is running away; if they're very angry, they will spit; they may kick, especially if they're surprised from behind; they may bite each other. But it's very unusual for them to do any damage to a human.
It's easy to halter train them. With further training, you can put them through an obstacle course; you can even teach them "tricks" like putting trash into a waste can or fetching their halters.
A good resource on training, handling, and overcoming problems is Marty McGee Bennett's book and website Camelidynamics.
Other sources of info are:
OSU (Oregon) Extension Service
Clackamas County, 503-655-8635.
Washington County, 503-725-2110.
4-H in Oregon
NCAT Sustainable Agricultural Project
Toenails need to be trimmed several times
Getting our act together and taking it on the road.
Spinning at the State Fair