Did I mean to be a meat farmer or to raise animals for fiber? How will the chickens pay for themselves - though eggs or meat? Of what use are the llamas or the rabbits? And so the questions go on.
When I started the venture, I had in mind to farm wool and exotic fiber. To do so does not mean, then, that I need to breed the sheep or llamas, for even castrated males or wethers will provide fiber. Then there is the question of registration. Is it best to register purebred animals or simply keep them on the farm. If there is no breeding going on, then registration is not important, however, for keeping pure lines of rare breeds, registrations may be of a much greater value.
Do I need 3 sheep or 30 sheep? One llama or 4? Do I need a cow, or pigs or even a horse?
Lately, I have been pondering the farm and what it set out to be, a rare breeds permaculture farm, and how it has evolved in three short years to not be a rare breeds farm at all and the permaculture is only starting this year. Maybe I only need one breed of sheep, just a few goats for fiber or milk and one milk cow and possibly one meat cow. Occasionally I could raise a pig or two for meat as well, and the chickens that reproduce themselves by hatching their own eggs, could be kept for meat or eggs, depending on if they laid or not. I believe I have finally come up with a feeding system that will keep the wool of the sheep free from contamination with hay, so the wool will be easy to clean. Up until now, the many systems I have tried have resulted in very much hay lodged in the wool rendering it poor quality.
What really got me thinking was the bunnies. Who does not love the bunnies, cute as they are, but do I need to breed them to raise them for food? Do I want to send the babies off to slaughter to put rabbit meat on the table? Do I want to help my lambs enter this world, care for those who inadvertently become ill or injured and then once healthy, kill them for food? Oh goodness, there is so much to think about now. How much work can one person comfortably manage in all seasons? I think I am more or less at my capacity for animals now and like it or not, some must be slaughtered or sold. It makes the most sense to slaughter them saving the hides for tanning, which provides the most return for the animals. Or maybe, it could simply be a petting zoo of my own and I would never have to send any of the precious lives to the butcher shop? At least I know that the meat is raised humanely with love and fed the best diet for the species so the meat is the best it can be as well.
I need to make some decisions in the next year. Where is the Fat Ewe going? And what is the goal of the farm? These experiences over the last three years provide excellent education to help me on the right path for the farm. I think.