*The Pros and Cons of Keeping Livestock*
Part I
By: MoonMist
27 June 2005

Even if you have only a little land outside of the city you can have livestock. The question is, is it worth it? Some people decide it is, and jump in with both feet only to have the whole enterprise turn sour because they didnít know enough before they tried it. As with any new endeavor, stop - think about your needs and your resources. Thereís no point in getting a horse or cow if youíll have to pay top rates for hay all year around because you donít have sufficient pasture. Iíll outline here the basic advantages/disadvantages of buying those cute fluffy chicks at the feed store or putting a cow on your pasture.

In this part weíll look at the advantages of having your own livestock.

The best reason for livestock is having a ready supply of meat, milk, and/or eggs. You canít beat the taste and healthful aspects of growing your own - you know exactly what is (and isnít) going into your food. So not only do you have a source, but itís much better than what youíd get at the store. Home-grown animal products may take some getting used to; not only are the flavors much richer and more pronounced, but the eggs are deep yellow and the milk full-bodied with cream floating to the top. Itís food the way itís supposed to taste.

Thereís also the benefit of products that have the full complement of vitamins and natural substances that are often taken away and then artificially added in store-bought food. For instance, milk from the store had been pasteurized (heated) until thereís no beneficial organisms left. This also takes out the natural vitamins and minerals contained in fresh milk, so to get us thinking that itís worth buying, vitamin D is added, which tends to make us assume that the milk is actually better than itís supposed to be. Better than water, maybe.

Your own animal products are reliable as well. Youíre guaranteed to have fresh milk and eggs every day for a minimum period of time. In some areas this can be all year round.

Some animals (like various poultry) are effective as pest control in the garden as they eat insects that attack the plants. Others, like goats, are the best brush clearers you can find anywhere: no gas used in clearing, whatever they eat is that much less you have to feed them, and they naturally fertilize the area they clear. Goats actually prefer brush over grass. Cows and horses can keep a clear area of grass from becoming overgrown - staked out, they can be put in any grassy area to chomp it down. (Horses can also be used as a BOV, as well as for pleasure riding or even pulling wagons.) Hogs can take care of any and all scraps you have from the kitchen. All of these animal are a source of fertilizer through their manure, though some are stronger than others and need to decompose before they can be applied directly to plants. It doesnít take a lot of animals to produce sufficient fertilizer for any garden, and you wonít be exposed to the toxins of chemical fertilizers while getting the benefits.

One of the best things about having your own livestock is seeing animals thrive and flourish because of the care youíve given them. With the proper equipment and medications plus a working knowledge of what can go wrong, your livestock should remain healthy and happy. Some people become genuinely attached to their animals and give them everything - and more - than they essentially need (these people tend to have overweight but tame animals). Even if you donít become attached to your critters, maintaining certain simple requirements will still give you the satisfaction that you can raise them successfully.

In many countries animals are equated with wealth. A familyís status is determined by how many cows they have, or how large their goat herd is. Should a situation occur where the normal currency is useless, animals can become a tremendous bargaining tool, since most people, except for certain areas in the country, wonít have them. Even in a "normal" situation, animals can be turned around for quick cash when needed.

Thereís one last factor that may or may not be appealing when considering livestock, but goes a long way when you do have them: their ability to entertain. Every animal has its normal behaviors that are amusing, and other will add their own personal touch to how they interact with others and their owners. Some chickens will fly onto a personís shoulder; young goats are so bursting with energy that jump, hop, run, and manage the most amazing contortions that make you laugh. Each animal brings itís own distinctive form of personality to your place. Even when they arenít acting up, sitting outside while the sun is setting and watching your animals go about their business is surely one of the best stress-busters in the world.

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