posted on Feb, 17 2011 @ 11:13 PM
I have thought about this issue as well. I am retired Soldier and have chosen a semi-off the grid lifestyle in NW Missouri. I have a small herd of
dairy cows and goats along with a bunch of laying hens, ducks, geese and several horses. Of course along with that I have 4 dogs and many barn cats.
Horses would be the first thing I got rid of excess – I have 4 rescues who do nothing but eat which is fine for now but if I had to manage feed they
are a drain. All are older retirees like me who worked hard and needed a nice place to go out to pasture. The older gelding and my daughter’s 25
year old pony she can’t ride anymore would be first to go as a geldings they can’t even breed. 3 of the older rescues can at least be
broodmares if necessary they are 15+ but I think they can still reproduce if I kept them and fodder wasn’t an issue.
I suppose when the SHTF I would have to pare back my stock to what I can actually hand milk daily which would keep me in beef for a while if I did it
in a stepped manner doing most of the harvesting in early winter so I could hang the meat in the cold cellar.
I think I could raise them on all grass with limited results – they now get grain and alfalfa hay which just makes their production higher and their
milk richer in milk-fat.
I think I could still get two cuts of hay if I barter a percentage with the Amish who have a horse drawn hay cutter. They don’t bail theirs I
suppose I could do the same though I’d have to clear one of the older barns for storage. I think I can feed about half of my stock through an
average winter on that – they might lose weight of course but so will I so that’s fair.
Goats are great; I have dairy does for milk which full size but my wife raises pygmies for a hobby – we’d probably end up harvesting all the dairy
ones except a couple – trade them away for things we needed with the Amish who are my current main customers for goat milk anyways.
The ducks/geese I raise for their eggs and meat I process about 15 a year – I could trade them off or kill a few if I thought they were not getting
enough forage. Really though they are pretty resourceful and I only supplement their foraging in the coldest three months when they can’t get to
Chickens might be an issue – I manipulate their laying cycle with light so they lay peak number of eggs year round. Without light I think that
would reduce my winter production from 24-30 eggs a day to 12-15. I would have to kill some of them off or trade them away – probably could trade
them off for more than they are worth now. I’d also have to figure out how to brood them – I currently just buy more from the farm store rather
than hatch my own.
As for inside pets my wife has two spoiled house cats who we’ve had for several years prior to farm life. They do keep the mice in the house to a
minimum. If you’ve ever lived in an old farmhouse there is no way to totally get rid of the mice without poison and I have too many pets to risk
that. I think we could support these two for a long time on the sweet meats and scraps of the beef, chickens and ducks and such.
We buy all our food in bulk since we can get wholesale prices from the Farmer’s COOP so depending on the time the SHTF I might have anywhere from
60-90 days of dry food for them anyway.
I think there will be plenty of leftovers for the dogs as well – two of our dogs are working dogs; big mixed types 100lbs or more. They mostly
guard the place and chase off foxes, coons and skunks. My wife has a couple ankle biters as well. They actually do really well for themselves
eating mice, moles and squirrels. The two bigger dogs hardly ever catch anything – they got a turkey once but the two little ones are always eating
something dead. I suppose if we ran low they would hunt in the woods for game of their own.
As for the barn cats – I think we have 10-15 at any one time. They kind of come and go on their own; I put out food for them of course but not a
lot and they get milk spills as well. Currently, the ones I can catch I have spayed or neutered – I figure even if they run off they are not
propagating more of themselves. I have paid for 12 females and 5 males since we moved in. I think people drop them off out here somewhere. I think
these guys left to their own devices would find the natural equilibrium pretty quick. I wouldn’t hesitate to take them out if they started preying
on my chickens and ducks!
It would be hard to put my best farm buddies (my two dogs) down but in the short time I have been in agriculture I have become very pragmatic when it
comes to animal death and wouldn’t hesitate if I thought they were suffering.