There’s only so much you can actually do now to prepare for meltdown. Raising livestock for food is a whole new way of life, and most people can’t quit their jobs and go into farming “just in case” there’s a long-term crunch of some kind. But even at this stage you can at least educate yourself and think about what you’ll need to do when the time comes. I have raised farm animals over the years, so I’ve learned the ins and outs of keeping livestock, which will serve me well if the need arises. It has also helped me determine my personal preferences. Yours may differ, so adjust your emergency livestock plan to your own needs and preferences. Here’s what I will have:
1. A cow for dairy. Organic, grass-fed raw milk is a wonderfully healthful food. Even though we don’t have cattle now, we still buy raw milk because it is almost pointless, and actually counter-productive, to drink pasteurized, homogenized milk. An average dairy cow will produce at least two gallons of milk per day. Make cheese from the excess, cook with the whey, or give it to your hogs.
2. Beef cattle. If you have plenty of land, turn you cattle out into the grass and raise them for meat.
3. Hogs do a great job converting your kitchen waste, so you won’t be throwing anything away. They’re also good for plowing your land. Keep them in movable pens to prep your land for a garden.
4. Chickens are mostly vegetarian if they have a choice, and free-range eggs, like raw milk, are a superfood packed with vitamins and minerals that will be hard to find when your vitamin supplements run out. Like hogs, they’ll eat all your kitchen scraps too. Downside: they poop everywhere, and they’re too dumb to learn to stay off the porch. In fact, they’re probably the dumbest animals you’ll ever have.
5. Goats. They’re great browsers, eating just about all your weeds, but they’re hard to contain and I don’t like the meat. Some people love it, though, so decide for yourself. On the other hand, baby goats are a lot cuter than lambs.
6. Sheep. Lamb is delicious. It’s my second-favorite meat after beef. And now that you can get shear-free breeds, I’ll definitely have sheep. You might prefer to get wool sheep though, so you can use the wool for clothing.
7. To protect the sheep and young calves I’ll have donkeys and a Great Pyrenees dog. Just be sure to raise the dog from a pup with the flock. The easiest way to do this is to put a sheep and her young lamb in a stall with the puppy and leave them there for a few weeks. If you raise the dog at the house, he’ll become a part of your pack and he won’t do his job of protecting your livestock.
8. Rabbits convert grass to protein more efficiently than any of the above, and the meat is terrific. They are rather labor-intensive, so if you’re looking to free up some of your day to go hunting or fishing, you might trade milk or eggs for some of your neighbor’s rabbit.
9. Fish. If you live in a warm climate, raise Tilapia and feed them a vegetarian diet. If you have access to large bodies of water, go fishing with your kids and bring back supper. If you have a pond you should go ahead and stock it with bass, bluegill, and brim. You’ll need to manage the turtles and herons though, or they’ll eat your fry before they grow large enough to breed. Tip: Hang a Japanese beetle lure about two feet above the pond and cut out the bottom. The beetles fall into the lure and drop to the water, where they are scarfed up by the fish, thus ridding yourself of a pest and feeding your fish at the same time.
Certainly there are other options, and I’d love to hear your ideas.