Over the past couple of years we have learned a lot and will continue to do so as we strive for a more sustainable farm. We currently sit on just 5 1/2 acres so a lot of the things that we are doing here can be applied on some scale at most homes. As mentioned above, we will always be looking to learn and we want to share this experience in hopes to empower and inspire others to follow their passions and dreams. Below is a little information about the different animals we currently raise.
We started our venture with a Kune Kune boar and American Guinea Hog sow. A farm owner in East Alabama wanted our boar for his sows so he has been sold but before he left out came our first litter of piglets. These cute little guys act like a cross between the Tazmanian Devil, a sloth, and a bulldozer. They can change a landscape. But on the positive side, they are a small breed pig that will not grow much larger than 200 lbs and have been easy to manage. These are heritage breed pigs and will not grow as fast. Our sow didn't make market weight until she was almost 11 months whereas other breeds will get there between 6-8 months. For someone thinking about raising pigs, talk to people who raise them before buying so you have a good idea what you are getting in to. They are an important part to our goal of sustainable farming but I don't think they are for everyone.
Meet our guardian, Izzy. She is named after the patron saint of farmer, St. Isidore. A breed not mentioned too much here in the south, this Newfoundland has exceeded our expectations and has proven to not only be a loyal pet and companion, but also a wonderful and useful guard dog. I can't say enough good things about her. I can put her with any animal we have and she is good. As I am typing this, she is sleeping on the floor with a pig snuggled up next to her using her thick coat to stay warm.
We began raising rabbits in the summer of 2016. We started with 2 does and a buck. One doe and the buck are New Zealand Whites and the other doe is a Californian. These are animals anyone can raise almost anywhere. With a gestation period of about 31 days, they can have 6-7 litters per year. In our first litter, one doe had 11 and the other had 7!! They give you a quick return on your investment. We raise ours for the meat, but another bonus is all of the organic fertilizer that we get for our garden. Rabbit manure can be used immediately without the risk of burning the plants.
A large part of what we are doing here involves our goats. We currently raise Nigerian Dwarfs, Lamanchas, and Nubians. Besides using their milk for our goat milk soaps, we drink it raw and make many delicious products such as cheeses, yogurts, keifer, butter, and ice cream!! These are a perfect addition to any small farm or homestead. Depending on the breed and goat, our girls give between a quart and a gallon per day.
We also started raising Khaki Campbell ducks in the summer of 2016. They are noisier than advertised and not as people tolerant as our chickens, but we hope to get lots of eggs from them. This breed is known to be prolific egg layers giving up to 300 eggs per year per bird!! They also eat lots of bugs and are just fun to watch.
Here is our buck, Samuel. He joined our herd in December of 2015. We are looking forward to some flashy kids in 2016 from him with good milk potential.
And no farm is complete without a couple of cats to manage the barn. Honestly, I was not a cat person at all until I rescued these two when they darted out from under a bush I was trimming at another property. It was going down to 20 degrees that night and they weren't but about 6 week old according to the veterinarian. After all of their shots, worm treatments, and getting spayed and neutered, these are probably the most expensive free animal I have ever owned, but they are pretty cool. They just hang around, do their job, and mind their own business.
We have had several different chickens over the years. Our Rhode Island Reds and Golden Buffs are our favorite and best brown egg layer. We let them free range and ever since we put Izzy with them, we haven't lost any chickens to hawks. The chickens and pigs are a good match because they seem to scratch the freshly tilled ground from the pigs and smooth it back out. So far they seem to get along pretty well.