While many animals can be profitable on a small-scale, there are other animals that become very profitable if you have a larger farm. Livestock often only becomes profitable if you have enough land to supply the majority of the feed costs.
What’s the most profitable livestock to raise? The most profitable livestock to raise includes:
- Cattle (beef and dairy)
When raising livestock there are several important aspects that make it possible to make a profit on the livestock. It is vital that you:
- Have enough land to graze your livestock or grow the grain/hay needed for a full year’s feed
- Be prepared to breed and grow your flocks and be ready to birth babies and take care of basic vet needs. Vet costs add up quickly and you need a basic understanding of how to give shots, help babies to come and nurse little strugglings ones to health.
- Join local associations, guilds, and groups that can help you to build your knowledge. It helps to know how others are selling their livestock and to have resources on how to solve common problems.
Cattle (Beef and Dairy)
Cattle are likely one of the most profitable livestock around, but you do need plenty of acreage and a larger operation to turn a profit. It’s difficult to turn a profit with only a half-dozen cows.
How many acres do cows need to eat?
Each cow needs to have 1.5-2 acres to produce enough feed for the entire year. You can grow alfalfa or grass. Cows also love silage, which is a partially fermented feed that brings out additional nutrients for the cows to digest.
You’ll want to gain a good understanding of how to birth new calves and the process of raising cattle. Make sure you have either a good mentor or have experience with cows. Raising beef steers and using the cows to reproduce will help make your operation more profitable.
If you choose to go the dairy route, technology can make the process a lot less of a burden than in years past. Dairy farmers usually sell most of their male cows off as heifers and keep their best males for breeding.
Do cows have to give birth to provide milk?
The cows (female cows) give milk after they have had a baby. Most dairy farmers breed their cows annually. Cows are able to provide milk all but the last 2 months of their pregnancy and maintain good health.
Dairy cows generally need a more specific diet than beef cattle. That’s because the milk industry is heavily regulated and the specific food the dairy cows eat will directly impact their milk production and the quality of the milk.
Horses can be profitable livestock. They are popular for farm work, riding, therapy, and show. Many programs use trained horses to help with troubled youth, disabled kids, and those who have suffered great trauma.
How many acres of land do horses need to eat?
Horses generally need1.5-2 acres per horse of land. The land needs to be managed and not simply wild land. Growing alfalfa or hay on your land will allow you to manage the feed of your horses all year round. Plan on growing 2 acres of hay per horse for a year’s worth of feed.
Horse breeders don’t always turn a profit. It’s important to know what you will offer. Specific breeds tend to sell for more. Additionally, if you train or break horses, then your horse business can become profitable.
You’ll want to make sure that you know about horses and that you love them. Be ready to help foal new babies in the middle of the night.
Goats are fun on a small scale and easily profitable with only a few goats. But, because they reproduce so well and so quickly, they are also profitable on a large scale as well. Many breeds of goats will have multiple babies with each pregnancy.
This makes it easy to grow your herd quickly. As your heard grows, make sure that you introduce new males into your herd to keep the bloodlines healthy. You don’t want to cross-breed your goats into diseases and infirmities.
You can make money on goats in many ways. Goat meat is one of the fastest-growing meats in the USA. Goats are also in high demand and selling both young and fully-grown goats can be very profitable. The goat rental market is growing as a healthy way to manage land and invasive weeds.
Goats are easy and take relatively little labor to raise. You’ll just need to make sure you can safely keep your goats contained.
How many goats can an acre support?
More wild acreage can support 2-4 acres, while better-managed land can support as many as 6-8 goats for a year.
Goats need few shots to stay healthy, a 3-sided shelter, and a mineral and salt block. Otherwise, they are easy to care for and are very friendly to people when treated right.
Sheep are another easy livestock to raise. They are more predator-vulnerable so you’ll need to make sure you have a good way to keep them safe. A good watchdog or reliable electrical fence will make a huge difference.
Sheep are people-friendly and can learn to recognize as many as 50 human faces. They are popular as a healthy meat source and as a grazing animal. You can also sell their wool for clothing and carpets, depending on the quality and part of the body it came from.
How much land do sheep need for grazing?
You can raise 6 sheep on an acre of land. You’ll also want a good shelter from the sun and bad weather. Because sheep are more vulnerable to many animals, I’d recommend a barn where you can lock the sheep in during the months in the year when predator attacks rise. This often happens in the fall and the spring.
Pigs make profitable livestock. But, they are really more profitable on a larger scale. That’s why they didn’t make our list of profitable small farm animals. But, a single sow can have as many as 11 piglets in a litter. Purchasing weaned piglets can cost as much as $1-200 depending on the breed, age, and size of the piglets.
At that point, you can raise the pigs for the typical 5-6 months and then sell them for slaughter, or winter them and sell them full-sized. If you live in a colder area, then selling the pigs at the end of the month will yield more in profits. During the winter, you will have to supplement the feed for your pigs (unless you grow your own grain) and the cost of the pigs will go up. The feed to meat ratio will be higher for pigs slaughtered after a winter raising.
Free-Ranging Pigs to Reduce/Eliminate Feed Costs
Pigs eat almost anything, but they love vegetation. They do a great job of rooting out food. This makes them great for areas that have quack grass and other weedy grasses because the pigs will root it out. But, you will want a tractor to smooth the ground out afterward.
If you don’t have the land to provide most of the food through foraging, then your feed expenses can become quite expensive quickly.
You can save money on feed by purchasing through a grainery instead of at a feed store, but it will still add up and make it much harder to make a profit on your pigs.
How Many Pigs Can Go On An Acre? Plan on about 25 pigs per acre. That means about 6 pigs on a ¼ of an acre of land. You can add a few more if your land has more vegetation to support the pigs. As many as 32 pigs can forage on a well-vegetated acre.
You can also allow them to forage through your garden at the end of the season.
In addition to foraging for food, pigs can eat a lot of your garden and kitchen waste. They will eat compost, grains, bread, milk, and other food. Be careful about feeding them salt-saturated, or sugary foods, but they can handle some of those foods.
4-H Makes A Difference In Profitability
Of course, if you have kids, then raising a few pigs over the summer can be more profitable even if you have to buy feed for them. 4-H pigs must make their weight gains or you are not as likely to make a profit.
I’d recommend that you always supplement summer grazing with additional grains for 4-H so that the weight gains can be met. If they are met, then the pigs are auctioned at the local county fair. 4-H animals usually go for higher than market price.
People and businesses want to support the kids. I know this isn’t necessarily your profits, but if you are creating a homestead to help your kids learn hard work or helping them save for college, then they can raise 4-H animals and accomplish the same goals. Instead of you saving for their college, they will be able to work, learn responsibility, and save for their own spending goals.
My kids even buy most of their clothing and pay for their portion of extra family vacations they vote to go on (above our usual big vacation and camping vacations each year).
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