Raising Livestock: Freezer Bound

In the almost-ten years that we have lived on Oak Hill, our "permanent residents" have been the chickens, goats and horses, but we've raised a variety of other livestock, mostly for the freezer. 

Our first short-term residents were a pair of pigs. An online friend in western Oklahoma was raising "homestead hogs", a cross between Hampshires and pot-belled pigs. This gave her a pig that was smaller and more easily handled, but still yielded a decent-sized carcass for the freezer. Although our butcher poked a bit of fun at their size, he later admitted that he was impressed with the yield. They sure did taste good - good enough that we did it again a few years later.

Pigs, however, are hard to contain. When they were small I taught them to come when called, calling "piggy piggy piggy" when I fed them. I was glad I did when they began getting out of their pen on a regular basis. 

A few years later hubby thought he'd like to raise hair sheep for the freezer. He bought half a dozen dorper lambs and when they were large enough, we took the extra ram lambs to the butcher. We kept one ram and three ewes, planning to raise and butcher the lambs. Unfortunately we didn't care for the taste of the meat much, and eventually we sold them.

Two years ago we ventured into the world of cattle when we bought a dairy shorthorn calf that we named Chuck, as in Roast.

Cattle are definitely a longer-term project, but they yield more meat too. We had him during a bad drought year, which made growing him a bit challenging and more expensive than it could have been. He did learn how to get out of the horses' pasture and into the hayfield, but because he always came back to be fed at night, I didn't worry much about it. I decided at least he was getting the grass he needed to grow. 

Chuck wasn't halter-broke, which I would definitely do the next time we get a calf. I did, however, train him to go inside the horse trailer to be fed, so it was easy to get him to the butcher when the time came.

Our next planned project is to raise meat chickens now that there is a processing plant in our state. We did this when we lived in Michigan and are looking forward to doing it again. Chickens are a short-term project with a good yield compared to cost.

We've learned a lot with each project, and will do a few things differently the next time. With the exception of the sheep, we plan to do it all again.

Have you raised meat for the freezer?

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  1. Anonymous6:59 PM

    Did you guys like the taste of lamb before you ate your own? We love lamb and it's something we would like to try to raise ourselves someday, but was wondering if you found home-raised lamb taste any different? And did you find raising your own beef cattle difficult in terms of butchering time? Seeing as how you do end up spending quite a lot of time with them and getting to know them?

  2. I hadn't had lamb since I was a child; hubby'd had lamb before and liked it. Then again he likes venison and I don't. I'm told that hair sheep taste a bit more wild than wool sheep, and I'm betting that was the reason we weren't crazy about it. It was a bit more "wild" tasting.

    As for the steer, we had no problem sending him to the butcher! By the time they are big enough to go, you are ready to send them, believe me.

  3. Very helpful information! Thanks. I would love to know how the chicken operation works out for you.
    from Lee @ Lady Lee's Home.

  4. The chicken growing project will of course be reported here when the time comes. :-)


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