Sticking to our ultimate goal of self-sufficiency, our long term planning involves finding a way for our livestock to only be fed from the farm (no outside grain source). While this will not happen over night, we are constantly trying to figure out all the ins and outs of making this a reality in the future.
It has been an interesting journey so far as we have been trying to understand every angle of each animal. There is so much information that you can not learn from any book or You Tube video. We have heard so many conflicting bits of information in our research that it is sometimes just plain aggravating. We have also ran into the problem of not enough information on raising the animals the way we want to raise them. We know others do it. We know it is possible. But the details of how seem to be missing. For example with the ducks we choose specific breeds that are suppose to be prolific egg layers, excellent mothers, and super tough that are suited for our climate. These things so far have been accurate for the most part. But when we get into the details of things like how many eggs do they lay in the winter, we find that the answers are not relevant because the research is reported while the ducks are being raised on heat lamps. When you are not using heat lamps in the winter (which will boost egg production because they think it is still summer…basically) it completely changes your answer. Some will still lay eggs, some won’t. **Please know that this detail has nothing to do with whether they can survive without heat lamps, as we only choose livestock that can!**
From a self-sufficiency standpoint this small detail is very important. If our family of 7 is counting on eggs year round, we need to make sure that we have ducks or chickens that can provide such a thing. If it doesn’t exist, we have to figure out if there is a way we can store eggs during the months they are not laying, and if so how long will they store and how do you store them? If we need to start saving these eggs say 2 months before they stop laying, do we need to keep extra ducks around to provide enough eggs? How many eggs do we need to be comfortable? These are the questions we have been trying to figure out. Not just with ducks, but with pigs as well. How many pigs do we really need to raise? How much freezer space do we need to keep this amount of pork? The list of questions seem to just grow.
Slowly we have been answering these questions. Slowly we have began to replace the meat we would purchase at the grocery store with the meat we raise from our farm. As of right now, we have a freezer full of venison, pork, and duck. We have fresh eggs daily. This makes up most of our meat protein in our meals. We supplement hotdogs, a weekly chicken, and an occasional ground beef for variety.
In the future we hope to raise our own beef and chicken, while hunting for rabbit and turkey to add to the mix. When we get to this point, we will really have no reason to buy meat from the grocery store. I have been amazed at how many meals we can make with these new protein sources; ground venison burgers, bone broth, duck nuggets (like chicken nuggets but better!) to name a few. I look forward to continuing the adventure of trying new things and replacing our favorite meals with our farm raised meats. Once you taste the difference in your own farm meat it is hard to ever go back to a grocery store. If you are unable to raise your own livestock, I highly recommend seeking out a local farmer. You won’t be disappointed.