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Geese are an easy care, multi-purpose animal that can be a great addition to almost any homestead. In my experience, geese are even easier to care for than chickens because they’re very self-sufficient. Even better, they are usually good mommas and can often be trusted to raise up their own babies.

10 Key Things to Know About Geese

1. Geese Like to Graze

In some ways, geese are very different from chickens and ducks, and this is one of them. While your chickens and ducks will search for bugs and other high protein snacks when they forage, geese have digestive systems that are made to convert grass into eggs and meat. That means that your geese will need abundant access to fresh greens along with their standard poultry pellets. (Never give geese medicated poultry food; it’s dosed for chickens, and it can be toxic to other types of fowl.)

2. Geese are Tough

If you live in a climate with very cold winters, geese might just be the perfect type of poultry for you. They prefer to be outside, even on the coldest of days. It’s not at all unusual to see a flock of geese happily grooming themselves out in the snow, right in the middle of a blizzard. That means you don’t have to provide elaborate housing; just make sure they’re safe from predators and the can get out of the elements if they want to.

3. Geese are Great for Free Ranging

While ducks and chickens are nearly defenseless when they free range, geese can actually defend themselves against many predators very well. In fact, if you have a mixed poultry flock, your geese can do a pretty good job of keeping your chickens and ducks safer while they’re free ranging, too. Just remember to put them in a safe spot at night because they’re night vision is horrible, and they can’t fight off a predator if they can’t see it.

4. Geese are Ground Dwelling Birds

Geese don’t roost the way chickens do. Their large webbed feet are made for paddling in the water and walking across soggy, muddy ground; they are not meant for roosting on a perch. Be sure they’re enclosure has plenty of clean floor space. The won’t use raised nesting boxes either; they’ll need large nesting boxes on the floor.

5. Geese Love Water

Geese are at their happiest when they have access to water. A plastic kid’s swimming pool will do the trick, there’s no need to provide an actual pond. They’ll splash and bath in it very happily all summer long. During the colder months, you’ll need to provide a small water source that’s just deep enough for them to submerge their heads and change it often to prevent it from freezing up on them. Don’t provide a water source that’s big enough for them to bathe in during freezing temperatures, though. They should be kept as dry as possible during the coldest months because their wet breasts and feet might actually freeze to the snow and ice. Trust me, chipping a goose out of the ice in the middle of a snowstorm is not a good time for you or the goose.

6. Goose Eggs Won’t Hatch Without Moisture

Chickens are land birds, and their nests should be kept completely dry during the incubation process. Goose eggs, on the other hand, need moisture to hatch. The momma goose will leave the nest for a short time and bath in order to get her feathers wet so that their eggs will have the necessary moisture they need during incubation. If you want to hatch goose eggs in an incubator, be sure to do some research first to familiarize yourself with the proper procedures.

7. Goose Eggs Don’t Cook Up the Same as Chicken Eggs

Since goose eggs have all that extra moisture, they will cook up a little bit different than chicken eggs. The first thing you’ll notice is that their yolks are much richer and bigger. The whites are quite a bit runnier, too. I’ve found the yolks to be fantastic for making custards, but the whites are terrible for making meringue because they don’t whip up correctly.

8. Goose Meat Does Not Taste Like Chicken

Many people assume that goose meat will taste like chicken or turkey, but that’s not the case at all. Their meat is actually more reminiscent of beef. If your homestead is quite small, raising geese for meat can give you some much-needed variety in your production without the need to raise a beef cow. In fact, even you don’t plan to raise geese for meat, sometimes ganders can be aggressive, and no matter what you do, their attacking behavior can’t be stopped. If you must harvest an aggressive gander, you’ll be in for a special treat.

9. Geese Usually Aren’t Aggressive

Geese have been given a bad rap for being aggressive, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Just like any other animal, it usually comes down to the way they’re handled. Geese that have been handled a lot and raised by hand are often more like cuddly lap dogs than they are farm animals. Our geese used to come running when we got home. They would even circle around our ankles and nuzzle us, just like kitty cats.

10. Geese are a Bit Like Guard Dogs

Be aware though, they probably won’t be nearly as welcoming to strangers. Even a flock of friendly geese will probably have to be locked up when company calls. Steps will have to be taken to protect your mailman and UPS guy, too. They’ll think of you, your family, and the other animals on your farms as part of their flock, but strangers, not so much. In fact, they can be used in much the same way as guard dogs because they will fiercely defend their territory against all intruders.

Geese would be a perfect easy-care addition to many homesteads. With their ability to lay delicious eggs, mow the grass, and provide fantastic meat for the freezer, they might be just the multipurpose animal you’re looking for.

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Dexter Cattle: Are They the Perfect Cow for the Small Farm or Homestead?

The farm I grew up on was in Upstate New York. We primarily raised Morgan horses, but Dad always had plenty of other critters around, too. I still remember the first cow he brought home. Her name was Daisy, and she was a Charolais. That cow would just walk through fences like they weren’t even there. Dad spent more time chasing her around the neighborhood than anything else. Needless to say, she didn’t last long on our farm.

The day he brought home Cupcake and Sprinkles was a magical day indeed for a little girl (I was about 12 years old at the time). Those two little Dexter cows were the sweetest things ever. It was love at first sight! I had never heard of miniature cows at that time; they were not common at all in our area back then. I’ve had a lot more experience with Dexters, and other cattle breeds, since then.

Now that I’m older, I try to look at things from a more practical standpoint, and not just rely on cuteness alone! There are definite pros and cons to raising Dexters, so it’s a good idea to do some research before you decide which breed of cattle to add to your homestead.

The Pros of Raising Dexter Cattle

1. Size

The smaller size of Dexter cattle is definitely a pro in my opinion. I have seen Dexters that are as big as a small Jersey cow, but they can also be as small as a large dog. They are definitely much smaller than a Guernsey or Holstein. If you have small children that will be around your livestock, that is definitely an advantage. Full-size cows can be very intimidating, and even the sweetest, gentle cow can accidentally step on a foot or become panicked and possibly do some serious damage. The potential for injury is much smaller with a smaller animal.

2. Cost of Feeding

Their smaller size also means that they eat less, which means that they can be more affordable to feed than a full-sized cow. This will, of course, vary from cow to cow, though. If your Dexter is nearly as big as a Jersey, then you’re probably not going to notice much difference in your feed bill. The amount of quality pasture that your cow has access to is also going to be a factor, so there are a lot of variables to consider. Our Dexters were just a little bigger than a large German Shepherd, and they didn’t eat as much as a Jersey between the two of them.

3. They’re Tough

Dexter cattle are very cold hardy. They don’t seem to mind the cold at all, so you don’t have to worry about an elaborate shelter for them. In fact, a three-sided shelter might be enough in all but the coldest climates. Ours always had access to their shelter, but most of the time, they preferred to be out in the open. Thee breed originated in Ireland, so they’re well adapted to rocky terrain, harsh weather, and even lower quality pasture.

4. Smaller Yields

Dexters will have lower yields of both milk and meat than a full-sized cow. On the small farm or homestead, this can be a plus, especially if you have a small family. Jersey’s produce a lot of milk, and at certain times of the year, it can be too much. Also, when you butcher a full-sized cow for the freezer, there’s little room left for anything else in there. However, if you have a large family, a full-sized cow probably makes a lot more sense for you. So, technically, this could be a pro or a con, depending on what your needs are.

5. They are Dual Purpose

Dexters are great milk producers, especially for their size. But, they are also fleshy cows that produce delicious, well-marbled meat, if that’s what you want to raise them for.

6. Dexters Make Great Mothers

They make great mommas and usually have no trouble raising two calves at one time. They also make easy work of calving, which is important if you live in a remote area where a good vet is hard to come by. (It can sometimes be hard to find a bull, though, so keep that in mind, too.)

So, what are the Cons?

1. They can be Hard to Find and Expensive to Buy

Because they are still quite rare, they can be very hard to find in some areas of the country. Not only that but when you do find them, they are usually quite expensive, often selling for $1500 or more, each. On the other hand, once you’ve made the initial investment, selling the offspring might be a possible source of additional income on your homestead.

2. Breeding Standards are Changing

Although Dexter cattle are still a dual-purpose breed, the majority of Dexter cattle breeders are more focused on raising high-quality, grass-fed beef. That means that the genes that make them a good dairy cow are slowly being bred out of them. They don’t breed them for good udders or high milk production, so if you are primarily looking for a milk cow, you may end up disappointed.

3. Genetic Problems

Dexter cattle are prone to a few different genetic disorders. There’s testing that can be done to avoid the problem, but it’s definitely something to be aware of when you’re making your decision.

The Take-Away

So, with all of that taken into consideration, are Dexter cattle the perfect family cow for the small farm or homestead? Honestly, the answer is going to be different for every situation. If you really want a dual-purpose breed, but you don’t have a lot of space, Dexters might make the best sense for you, especially if your family is small.

On the other hand, if you primarily want a milk cow, starting out with a Jersey is more affordable to purchase, and you’ll have enough milk for drinking and making your own dairy products, too. In the end, it all depends on your needs, the amount of space you have, and the availability of quality animals in your area.


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