Self-Sufficiency For Six

Iowa Peak Oil

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This is really just to give you something to think about, and is by no means intended to be definitive, and in fact is not my ideal - I have a bias in favor of livestock, and would prefer to have more land and more animals.  The region of the country that you are in will also make a difference in the amount of land that you need - you can do a lot more on a lot less in Iowa than in Maine, for example.  This is based on a description of a self-sufficient homestead from John Seymour.

1 acre for home, farm buildings, orchard, kitchen garden, misc stuff (rabbits, for example - two does and a buck will produce 92 fryers in a year, and they'll eat mostly hay plus some oats and corn)

1 1/2 acres of pasture - two dairy cows, 20 tons of hay, possible a few sheep - that's all of your dairy, beef (from the calves, who can fatten entirely on milk and grass) and lamb (sheep are a little iffy, but you could).

5 half acre plots - one for roots (mostly feed), 1 for oats and barley, one for wheat, 1 beans and peas, and one for clover or corn.

You could also keep 5 or 6 sows and a boar, geese, and ducks (if you have a pond), rotating the pigs through the plots after you harvest and feeding them scraps and roots, and a fair number of chickens.

A really small woodlot, if you have an earth-sheltered home, will go a long way, too.

Here's the total annual production - I've estimated it fairly conservatively, though things never work out exactly as you think they will:

2-3 tons of hay (I said 20 in error) + a smaller third cutting
20 tons of roots
4 tons of potatoes or 5 bushels of corn + beans and pumpkins
1/2 ton of peas and beans
3/4 ton of barley/oats

700 pounds of pork per sow (5 pigs per sow, butcher at 200 lbs) - 4 sows = 2800 (this seems high)
800 pounds of beef per calf (2) = 1600
500 gallons of milk (both cows)
27 pounds of meat per rabbit doe (10 = 270 lbs)
200-250 eggs per hen
5 lbs per cockerel (50 = 250 lbs)
60 lbs per lamb (5 = 300 lbs)
9 lbs per goose (20 = 180 lbs)


Here are some cost estimates (some of these are a little rough):

Rabbits cost $15 each.

A Jersey dairy cow (the breed I would choose because it's gentle and has a very high butterfat content, which is what you want for cheese and things) was around $350 in 1998.

Sheep are $50 for ewes, $100 for a ram.

Chickens are $25-40 for 25 (depending on the breed), ducks are a little more, and geese a little more still (geese are the ideal small farm bird, though - you don't have to feed them anything except a little hay in the winter).  I hate ducks, and wouldn't have them unless I had a pond.  Geese don't need water - they're actually grazers.

Pigs I'm not quite so sure, but I think $50-60 per sow is probably in the range - the boar would be more, I'm sure.  You're not eating the sows, anyway, you're eating the pigs that come from their litters.

If you wanted to train oxen (way easier than horses, and something that you can learn do by trial and error) two bull calves would cost about $100 (for both).  There is no tack - you can make a yoke yourself, and attach them to most equipment designed for horses.  It's also possible to use more modern equipment, but it must be modified because it requires a higher ground speed to operate than oxen (or horses) are able to produce.  The biggest advantage to oxen is that you don't have to feed them anything except grass or hay unless you're doing heavy work, so that - unlike horses which must have oats whether they work or not - they're cheap to keep.  Also, nothing that you're doing on a small place would require the kind of horsepower (heh heh heh) provided by horses or a tractor.

Pigs, rabbits, and geese are the most efficient meat producers on a small farm.