Prepping for SHTF is a never ending process. Unless money is not an issue, chances are people have to divide their efforts between various projects.
Over the past few weeks I have been posting about what my project for 2013 should be. Should it be rabbits, honey bees, both, or maybe even something else?
The question from there needs to be, what project is going to provide my family with the greatest return on our investment?
Which farm animals are the best able to live off the land, have the best food to output ratio, produce the most food for the amount of room they take up.
Cattle: Lets start with the one farm animal that everyone knows in one way or another. Most people eat cheese, butter, steaks, brisket, hamburger,,,, and so on.
The cow is a universally recognized farm animal, but what is it really good for during a long term SHTF situation?
If you butcher a 1,000 pound cow, then you have to have a way to preserve the meat. Do you have a smoker, and a pressure cooker large enough to process a whole cow?
During the middle ages, cows were not a preferred livestock. Which was mainly because they are so large it takes great effort to preserve the meat.
Cows can produce a lot of milk, which in turn is used to make butter and cheese.
Then there is the amount of grazing field a cow requires. If you want a herd of cattle, do you have the room to take care of them? Do you have a fenced in field large enough to left the cattle graze? Do you have a barn large enough so the cattle can be protected from bad weather?
Pigs: Pork cops, bacon, salted pork,,,, everyone knows pork in one way or another.
In one year, a cow will give birth to one calf.
In one year a sow can have 2 litters, with maybe 6 piglets in each litter. Some sows can become sexually mature within 6 months. This means a single sow can produce anywhere from 20 – 30 piglets in a year, through the original sows grandchildren.
Would you rather have a single calf, or 20 – 30 piglets?
Those 20 – 30 piglets a year can make good barter material, or just butcher and put them on the pit.
Unlike cattle, pigs are omnivores and will eat just about anything.
Goats: During the middle ages goats were valued for their small size, milk and their ability to eat just about anything.
Goats are not as productive as pigs. But on the other hand, goat milk has been used as a food staple for thousands of years.
Goats are friendly and easy to handle, and lets face it, they are cleaner then pigs.
Goat milk does not contain a lot of nutrients human infants need. When giving infants goats milk, it will be necessary to supplement the milk with iron and various vitamins.
Rabbits: Everyone should know what a rabbit is, and what child does not love to hold or pet a rabbit?
What do we get from rabbits? We get more rabbits and we get meat.
Rabbits do not take up a lot of room, they reproduce like crazy and eat different kinds of grasses and leaves.
Chickens: Fried chicken, chicken gumbo, grilled chicken, boiled eggs, scrambled eggs, fried eggs, roast chicken,,,, to name a few examples.
Chicken meat is an excellent source of protein.
Eggs are an good source of fats, protein and amino acids. Eggs can be stored for several days, maybe even weeks without refrigeration.
To test an egg to see if it is good, place the egg in a bowl of water, if the egg sinks it is good. If the egg floats, it is not good.
To keep your chickens comfortable all they need is a roost, a place to lay their eggs, walls to block drafty winds, and a roof to keep the rain off of them.
Depending on the chicken breed, time of year, and the quality of the feed, expect anywhere from 175 – 250 eggs a year.
Related Article – Best chicken breed for SHTF
One of the major drawback to chickens is that just about every predator out there eats them, everything from the family dog to a hawk, coyote, fox, mink,,, and so on. To protect your flock you will need a safe and secure chicken coop and chicken pen.
If the chickens free range,they will have to be protected from stay dogs, coyotes and even the family dog.
Depending on the situation, each answer is going to be different. Different types of livestock handles terrain, food sources and climate differently.
Cattle, due to the space requirements of cattle, I think I am going to shy away from cows. Yes they would provide a lot of milk, but I do not have a way to process hundreds of pounds of meat at one time.
Goats, I am thinking about getting some goats just for the milk and cheese. I might too kindhearted to kill, butcher and eat the goats. Goat meat is tasty when cooked right, so its not a matter of taste. In a SHTF situation, killing a goat (or any other livestock) to feed my family would not be an issue.
Pigs, I do not know if I want to deal with the stench and the filth of pigs.
Rabbits, are on the board, but not only for their meat, but also for their manure. Part of my long term survival plan calls for a self-sustaining SHTF garden. To keep the garden going year after year, I will need a source of good manure for fertilizer.
Chickens, when my wife and I started on our livestock inventory, we started with 13 hens. With the current egg production of 13 hens at around 7 – 10 eggs a day, my ideal flock size would be about 20 hens, give or take a couple. 20 hens should give my family and I a surplus of eggs for selling and bartering.
For my wife and I, at this point in our lives, chickens were the best option. In a few months we are looking at moving further away from the city limits. After we get moved, then plans for other livestock will be put on the board.
If I had to butcher a goat, or butcher a pig, I wanted a way to cook the whole thing.
Butcher 2 or 3 chickens, there would be no problem cooking them on my pit.
Why did I mention cooking? Its one thing to be able to have the animal, its another thing to be able to utilize the meat after its butchered. Here in southeast Texas, when you shoot a deer, or a rabbit, you are going to need to do something with it. The day time temps in the winter time do not stay below freezing for very long.
If I were to butcher a cow, even in the middle of November or December, I would only have a few hours to deal with the meat before it started to spoil.
If I was up north where the day time temps stay below freezing for days, or weeks on end, then processing that cow may not be an issue.
Its mainly due to the heat and having to process such a large animal is why I would stay away from large livestock, such as cattle.
Now a goat on the other hand, butcher it, put half in jars for the pressure cooker and put half on the pit.