Over doing it!


 We bought a 7 Acer block 11 months ago! so coming up to a year we have a Orchard that is constantly under attack by 30 sheep. 16 pigs, 63 chickens, 11 ducks, 2 horses and 6 cattle and 2 Geese. Hardly any fencing and no vege garden as I have no where to keep the marauding sheep! Did all the planning and although I work hard when my health is good I have severely underestimated the work load.

Don’t get me wrong I love it but buy the time I get through what has to be done immediately there not much time left.

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  • Hi Shona,

    We purchased our 10 acres 4 years ago... its taken 3 years to get the fencing finished enough to get a vegetable patch in.  I grew up on a farm so know a little about what to do but still so excited I got the animals first, fruit trees second and did the permeant fencing last.  Fruit tress and gardens just became expensive goat feed.  It was a struggle and frustrating at times (especially with little money to do stuff) and it took a while to learn stock ratios (still learning).  It's not as simple calculation.  It all depends on soil type, minerals, irrigation, topography, stock types, grazing regime, climate and seasons.  This past summer with the drought we reduced our sheep and goat numbers by a 1/3 and we moved our house cow and her two calves to my parents land.  It was hard to see our goats go as they are such friendly animals but it had to be done.  

    We buy in some of our feed but looking for more ways to provide all we need as a family in terms of food as well as provide all the stock/animals feed.   We hope that if we get to this point all we will need to buy on any regular basis is minerals.   

    One way I've found to reduce work load is to streamline all feeding/water/checking routines.  I try and set things up so I don't have to walk back and forth to get stuff... Chicken feed in bins by chickens, Egg cartons out of rain near laying area, rabbit feed & hay in hut by rabbits,  Hoses by where water needs to be filled with taps on ends for easy on and off, pigs near house (like you plan) & veg patch for easy feeding of kitchen and garden scraps and manure collection for worm farms, Calf rearing close to house so while they feed I can sort chickens, duck and rabbits out and still keep an eye on calves,  Paddocks with working gates for easy rotation of animals around land (still working on this one),  Self filling water butts in all paddocks. Little things like scoops in all the feed buckets, compost bin next to rabbit huts handy for cleaning time.  I haven't got my system perfect but working on it each day.  I find if I'm spending all my energy on chasing animals around or even walking back and forth thats energy I don't have to go towards building the life I want.

    When choosing what animals we wanted and how many of each we would need I roughly calculated how many eggs we eat a week and how much meat and milk we consumed.  I have to ask do you really need 63 chickens?  and if only 11 are laying your paying for 52 free loaders, thats some expensive eggs.  We have 7 chickens 4 roosters and 18 ducks and that is just about enough eggs for 4 of us a week (and we eat a lot of eggs) as well as a duck or rooster in the pot when we feel like it.  I don't want to come down on you here as non of us are perfect but 16 pigs?  how much bacon can one eat?  I think you are right in saying that you need to reduce numbers.... its not a case of animal health (as you have said they are in good condition) it's a case of your health and sanity not to mention your bank balance.   And if one of three of theses things fails the animals health will go down hill.   

    I have come to the conclusion for myself that I can't do it all.  If the animals and garden are done, the house is a mess.  If the house is tidy, the garden is neglected.  If the house is tidy, animals and gardens are done, then there is no food cooked for dinner.  There is only so much time in the day and only so much energy I can expend before I burn myself out.  And I want some time to sit back and enjoy they life I have, sit in the sun with the kid goats jumping over me or give the pigs a scratch.  Hold the rabbits and take photos of the animals playing.  So I don't try and sweat over the little things (like a spotless house or washing my car :-)). 

    It's hard work but I love this life and would not change it for anything.  

    Maybe Shona you need to ask yourself what you really want out of your 7 acres... I'm guessing burnout is not one of them.  And like Peter I don't mean to offend in anything I have said sometimes us farming types (me in particular) are good with animals but bad with people and communicating.   

    All the best on your lifestyle block endeavors Shona.  

    • hi louise

      your setup sounds amazing. well done.

      i disappear all day into vege garden and animal area. thank god for slow cookers. i make bulk meals and freeze them as i always too exhausted to cook end of day. are your rabbits food or pets.

      regarding shade for chickens, from my last post, i have to say how much the chickens love being under the sail cloth

    • Hey Kate

      Thanks.  I don't know about amazing but we want to be functional/practical.  I have a slow cooker but usually too interested about getting outside that I don't think to put a meal into it first :-(   We tend to do easy meals like curry, casserole or stir fry.  

      We made little huts for our ducks and chickens so that they could get out of rain wind and sun... they are 1.8m long by 60cm high by 60cm deep.  They have one open side and corro iron on the rest.  They are not too heavy for one person to shift around so we can move them depending on the weather.  They like them because they can sit and still look out at whats going on around them.  We use an old double dog run for the laying area and they love going down into the dog house to lay.  

      We made them out of deer battens that we got for $2 a batten so it was cheep to build.  


      If I get time I will post a pic.

    • thanks louise

      i am so jealous that you have your fencing done. the only fence i have on our place is the moveable electric netting to keep possums out of the orchard. we are working on the house so all money goes there for now. my chooks have old netting from a grape grower who was updating his nets. i have had to patch lots of holes but at least the ducks and chooks dont mind. hubby thinks it is an eyesore. i agree but the soil they are making for us is worth the effort, as well as all the amazing eggs. lucky for me the neighbours are buying my eggs so it covers feed for chooks and lovely eggs for quick meals especially when mum forgets to prepare dinner. i do have little shelters for them, but f they hide inside they dont peck and scratch all day. the shade cloth which i fished out of a friends rubbish is a godsend. 

  • i am glad to finally see discussions on this board. we are all so busy i think we never get to it. thanks shona for getting this board chatting. obviously it is difficult to read body language andexpressions or emphasis on email. we all have the same goal to enjoy the process and are on this board to encourage each other. therefore lets not take offences either way but be grateful to those with more experiences under their belts.

    i need to get shade organised for my forage paddocks for my chooks. in have planted capegooseberry but think i wil, need to put up either a moveable shadecloth frame or have a large shadeclth sail i move around between paddocks as i move them. chickens need shade insummer as they dont have a  great cooling system. what have others on this board done for quick shade for chickens. any photos would help please. i am a visual person

  • You are overstocked. If a draught hits or the weather stays cold your animals will suffer. Or your bank account. Or most likely both. Why do you make your life harder than you have to? 16 pigs is crazy. What do you do with 16 pigs? Do you have a commercial piggery? 30 sheep and 6 cattle? Average stock numbers for cattle is 2.5 acres per cattle. You will need 15 acres alone for your 6 cattle. I am not sure how much of your 7 acre is in grazing. But you need to get rid of a lot of livestock to make it viable (and up to standard with animal welfare!)

    Sorry I know this is a bit bluntly and direct but there is no need to talk around the issue. Think of your animals!







      My animals are fine; in good condition and that I know I am over stocked! That’s what I said in the discussion. We have had several Vets, Ferries and Farmers on our property and they all believe our animals are in great condition, all are better than we got them so you don’t have to worry about there health or happiness! The stock feed suppliers are happy too. I am growing 16 pigs so I can choose the healthiest so I can breed them (Maybe?) the rest I’m going to eat. Yum. I can assure you I think allot about my animals! 10 of my pigs are ready for slaughter as well as my bull. But I wish to keep them around for a little while longer. Our Neighbor said our sheep were in better condition then hers (while she was retrieving her young Ram). Her animals keep braking into our property and our animal’s don’t try to get out of our paddocks at all. Except our pet lambs that get out and sit by the front gate to get back in to the lawn! You can not assume our animals are suffering! I understand that you are clearly passionate about animals, as am I. I do believe there will probably be a draught as that is what usually follows a draught then floods and then Draught again which is why I put in another two 31,000 liter tanks to be sure we were covered for short fall and have an underground spring that has never run out of water ever. Yes I do need to get ride of some stock but please dont asume I am not up to animal health standards.

    • I can only judge by the numbers you have given us. I did not assume your animals are suffering. But I see problems in the future for you and them. I do not want to offend you and i apologise for my straight way but that's how I am.  

      How you keep that many animals on such a small property is beyond me. You must have found the magic way everybody is looking for. Good on you and good for your animals if everybody is so healthy and happy.

      I have seen many lifestyle block dreams end in tears. Almost all of them didn't had a concept. They "collected" animals until they were at a point when someone suffered too much. Either the humans or the animals or both.

      If you found a way to keep these numbers of animals healthy and in good shape and to sustain this system then I am sure we can learn something from you.

      Oh and watertanks and springs don't grow food on paddocks. Unless you can do some serious irrigation. You should also think about feeding nutrition back into the land. Animal growth will eventually deplete your nutrition in your soil. Many people think the animals fertilise the land. Yes they do, but animal growth has to come from somewhere. It is a closed system after all. You take out something at one end and it will decrease something at another end.

      At the moment it sounds to me that you can not confine your animals. That means that the sheep will transform your paddocks into a golf course style lawn. Cows need longer grass to graze. If you can't rest the paddocks for the cows and keep the sheep out for a while how do you want to make sure the grass grows back? Are your pigs nose ringed? Otherwise they will start turning over some of these 7 acres. Your poultry will eat a lot of bugs. That's great. But they will also eat a lot of grass seed. Not so great.

      And a word about neighbours. Are they experts? Do they know what they are talking about? The best thing when we moved to our block was that the neighbours were all "proper" farmers and helped us heaps. And were straight up and told us what we did wrong. We still made our mistakes but there were many we didn't make.

      We have currently 41 cattle, 5 of them are dairy cows, 15 of the cattle are in calf. We have 20 calves we feed with milk from the cows. We have about 30 sheep, a horse and a donkey, 12 chicken, 5 ducks. We farm 105 acres, about 85% in grazing and we still run out on grass at some times. We supplement with hay we buy in. We do fertilise the land. Weed like carrot weed and others are a challenge because they decrease our grazing area. Just to show where I am coming from.

      Please keep us posted. As I said, we can learn something from you.



  • shona,

    i am not perfect but

    i try to follow permculture principles, so everything i bring to our land should have at least 3 uses. my chickens fertilize the soil, lay eggs and what we breed either extends the flock or feeds us. my 5 peking ducks do the same. our 3 rabbits eat garden weeds, give us loads of ferilizer for the gardens(and i mean loads), and feed us or the dogs. the dogs give us love,alert us of visiters or animals out and do tv work, our cats catch possums, wild rabbits and mice, the guinea pigs eat weeds, provide loads of fertilizer and give my children lots of cuddles. the possums who i dont like as they nearly killed all my fruit trees last year are caught in my live capture trap, shot in the head, plucked for thr fur to sell and chopped up and feed to cats and dogs

  • Golly-gee, time to de-stock!  You'll run yourself into the ground trying to manage that lot. :)

    Lambs are fetching a good price this year, as there is a shortage.  6 cattle is probably far too many for such a small block, so some of those need to go too.  Oh, and chooks are worth a few dollars if they're laying.  Look on Trade Me for price guides.

    To be honest, the two horses and all that poultry are more than enough for 7 acres.  The animals don't like grazing where poultry have pooed.  Maybe a sheep or two (no more) and a house cow, if you really want one. 

    I do hope you are able to reduce numbers and your workload - this is meant to be FUN!

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