Homesteading is the concept of becoming self-sufficient and making the most of your land. The motivation for many is to achieve a simpler life; one of those joys is growing and making your own food.
Under the original Homestead Act, 10% of U.S. land was passed from the government into the hands of private individuals. As a result, the majority improved their land and launched the journey to prosperity that enriched their lands and their lives.
So, how do you begin creating free-range food on your homestead? Here’s everything you need to know.
How Many Acres Do You Need?
The most common question homesteaders ask is how much land they need to become truly self-sufficient. But, unfortunately, the answer usually isn’t as straightforward as many people would like to think.
How much land you need depends on your goals and how self-sufficient you want to be on your homestead. Urban homesteads may have nothing more than a simple garden in which to grow vegetables, but rural homesteads have more options.
Can you be self-sufficient on a single acre? Yes, you can, but it will require making use of all available space and living with restrictions on the animals you can have and the things you can grow.
How Many Acres Do I Need for Vegetables?
With a dedication to extreme efficiency, ¼ of an acre may be enough to cover the vegetable needs of a small family. A single acre filled with vegetables could conceivably feed an entire family of eight to sixteen over the course of a year.
How Many Acres to Raise Free-Range Animals?
Livestock is a different story. Achieving free-range meat on your homestead will require far more space than for vegetables.
Larger animals like cattle will require 50 acres or more to roam. An estimated single adult cow will need four acres of land per month to survive. Factor this into the whole herd, and you can see how many free-range animals may be unsuitable for your homestead.
You’ll also need to consider separating areas where your animals will graze and where they will live. There are some smart hacks for cutting down on how much space you need. For example, if you’re raising chickens, you could use a mobile range coop to maximize the use of your land.
Smaller homesteads just can’t accommodate anything more than chickens and vegetables. So while you may be able to house a goat or a pig, cows and other forms of red meat will need to be off the menu if you’re looking to become totally self-sufficient.
Make a Plan
You will need to make a plan based on how much land you have and how much effort you want to put into this aspect of homesteading.
For example, which animals do you want? How many chickens do you want? How much experience do you have?
These aspects of your plan will go into making a more successful homestead. Don’t worry if you don’t know all the answers immediately because you can always update your plan later.
One of the most exciting parts of raising free-range meat, eggs, milk, and cheese is being able to expand your herd from within. To get started, you’ll need some starter animals.
Learn about the breeds of pigs and the types of chickens available to you. Talk to other homesteaders about their experiences with certain animal mixes.
Try not to be too ambitious if this is your first time. It takes more time to look after animals and raise them to slaughter than you think.
Map Out Your Free Range Area
Demark any areas of your homestead that you plan on using for your animals. You will need sufficient space so your animals can freely roam around and maintain their free-range status.
There should be designated living quarters, feeding areas, and roaming areas. Try to keep all these areas interconnected so that you don’t need to worry about transporting your animals around every time you let them out of their coops.
Ensure you have proper fencing around the areas your animals will be roaming in, or you risk dealing with the unpleasant prospect of chasing down trainees.
Teach and Train Your Animals
Raising any animal free range is not a matter of purchasing a few goats and letting them out into a field. You need to ensure that the next generation of your herd is assured, meaning you need to pay attention to breeding and training.
For example, if you’re working with younger animals, you may decide to confine them to a smaller area until they learn the ropes of where they live and roam. Establishing a routine for your animals makes training far easier.
Most of the teaching and training of your animals really comes down to trial and error. Every homesteader has a set of techniques that work best for them.
Monitor and Learn from Your Mistakes
Going free range comes with its challenges. Even the most experienced homesteaders will have their difficulties in the beginning.
You must take the time to continue studying and learn from your mistakes. Homesteaders are strongly recommended to get in touch with someone who already has prior experience so they can get some tips and have someone they can ask questions.
Note that free ranging isn’t for everybody. The only way to find out if free range on your homestead can work is to try it out.
Achieving free range on your homestead will take a long time. It takes years to build up your flock or herd and have the numbers constantly turnover.
Make sure you have space for storage and know when to slaughter for meat and when to keep your animals grazing. Then, with some time, knowledge, and experience, you’ll have everything you need to be a bonified free-range homestead.
What type of animals do you want on your homestead?
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