As homesteaders and small-scale farmers, many of us start out with a few chickens to provide our family with fresh eggs. Eventually, you might get some rabbits or a couple of goats, or maybe even raise a couple of pigs for the freezer. For most of us, these critters are a significant part of the joys of homestead life and a way to become more self-sufficient.
But, have you ever thought about putting your livestock to work for you? What if you could actually make money with the animals on your farm? The truth is, there are countless ways to make money with livestock. If you have the drive and commitment, there’s no end to the opportunities out there.
How to Decide if Raising Livestock for Profit is Right for You
Raising animals on your farm requires a considerable commitment. There will be lots of ups and downs along the way. Before you jump into a livestock raising venture, spend some time considering these questions.
- Are you willing to commit all of your time to your farm? Raising animals requires a 24 hour a day, 365 days a year commitment. There might be times when you have to get up at 2 AM to care for a sick animal. You might have to practically camp out in your barn when your goats are kidding. It seems like animals only get ill or injured at the most inconvenient times, so be prepared to miss out on those football games and dinners out.
- Do you know someone that would be a good farm sitter? If you can’t find a trustworthy and reliable farm sitter, you will have to miss out on weekend getaways and family vacations. The more animals you have, the more tied down you will be.
- Can you handle selling your animals when the time comes? Once you have those cute little bunnies or those baby goats ready to sell, will you be able to handle selling them? Don’t forget, many of the people who come to buy your animals will be planning to put them in the freezer at some point. It’s easy to fall in love with your critters, but it’s pretty hard to make money if you never sell any of them.
- Is there a market for live animals in your area? Do some research to make sure that there’s a market for the animals that you want to raise. Be prepared to advertise and market your farm just like you would any other business.
- Can you weather the low times? Unfortunately, animals die unexpectedly from things like illness, injury, and predator attacks. Make sure you are mentally prepared for when the inevitable happens.
- Can you afford to care for these animals properly? Things don’t always go as planned. There may be times when that steer or those baby lambs don’t sell. Are you financially capable of taking care of them all until they are sold?
Decide What Your Goals Are
The next step is to decide what your goals are. Would you like to make enough money to help offset the cost of raising your own animals, or are you looking to turn this into a full-time income? It may take years (if ever) before you make a substantial profit from your livestock, so you need to do some careful financial planning before you get started.
Other Important Considerations
Next, you’ll need to make an honest assessment of your farm. Do you have enough space to raise the type of livestock you’re considering? How about infrastructure? Will you need to add shelter and fencing or are those already in place? Is there a vet in your area that is qualified to work with your animals? And, don’t forget to make sure that you are legally allowed to have livestock at your location. Be sure to spend a lot of time educating yourself about the breed and type of livestock you want before you buy anything.
How to Make Livestock Profitable
Most homesteaders will tell you that there is little if any, money to be made with livestock. Traditional ways of making money with livestock are becoming less and less profitable. However, there are some creative ways that you can make a profit with livestock. You just have to learn to think outside the box!
- Choose the right niche. The species and breed of livestock that you choose to raise will make all the difference. Don’t pick an animal that everyone in your area already has. The key is to find something that everyone wants but can’t find without traveling a great distance.
- Consider value-added products. Rather than raising animals to sell, consider selling value-added products instead. There’s a big market for pastured chicken eggs. You could even raise animals like alpaca or angora rabbits to sell the fiber.
Which Animals Could You Raise?
Here are some ideas to help you get started.
- You could raise beef cattle for grass-fed and organic meat.
- Rare breeds or miniature breeds of cattle are in high demand.
- Raise a large flock of chickens and sell free range eggs and laying-age pullets.
- Raise rare breed chickens and sell day old chicks.
- Raise and sell meat or dairy goats. You could even rent out your goats for clearing brush.
- Pasture raised pork is huge right now, especially if you choose a rare, heritage breed. Sell piglets in the spring and market pigs in the fall.
- Raising sheep for their fleece isn’t as profitable as it used to be, but there is a demand for market lambs, and, believe it or not, dairy sheep are becoming increasingly popular.
- Female alpacas can sell for as much as $10,000 or more, and even a gelding costs at least $1,000. That’s a pretty significant investment starting out, but if you have the right market, that’s a lot of profit too.
- Although there isn’t a whole lot of money to be made with meat rabbits, if you choose a hard to find breed such as angoras for fiber, you could turn a profit in a much smaller space than most other livestock requires.
No matter what type of livestock you choose, start small. You’ll want to take your time and feel out the market before you go all out. You need to make some changes depending on the market in your area.