Prepper’s Livestock Handbook by Leigh Tate

If you are interested in livestock for a homestead, we would highly recommend Leigh Tate’s book Prepper’s Livestock Handbook. Leigh writes from experience and research, which is something I appreciate and have learned a lot from her over the years. It is an easy to read, informational text that will help get you started and be successful traveling down the path of raising livestock in a self-sufficient manner.

Leigh is an author of several books, eBooks and the blog 5 Acres & a Dream. Her blog is what led us to raise American Guinea Hogs, make and drink kefir, and this 

year, grow amaranth. Leigh’s extensive research in ways to become more self-sufficient for both the humans and animals at their homestead has led Leigh and her husband to try many different things. The benefit for all of us is that she writes about those experiences.

Leigh includes many resources and references in The Prepper’s Livestock Handbook that will lead you to more information beyond her experiences. I would highly recommend it for anyone starting out with livestock, or anyone that is looking to expand their animal husbandry experience. It is full of natural ways of raising animals and maintaining their health beyond dependence on chemicals and purchasing all that is needed. Leigh’s information focuses on being able to provide for the health and vitality of livestock independently, with knowledge, trial and error according to differing climates and environments, and with forethought and planing. She and her husband strive to provide for themselves and their animals in ways that decrease dependence and increase the probability of survival should the SHTF.

Other books Leigh has written include:

Critter Tales

5 Acres & A Dream: The Book

I learned to make lotion and lip balm using one of Leigh’s eBooks, which I still make and have for years. She has written a number of eBooks on a variety of topics. They show the efforts she has made at becoming more self-sufficient and knowledgeable about decreasing dependence on store shelves.

Leigh is a prime example of life-long learning. I truly appreciate her willingness to share her experience, knowledge and research with us. It has, and continues to enrich our lives daily.

Until next time – Fern

Pear Sauce, Pigs & Vinegar

Remember those five 5 gallon buckets of pears? And I said I was finished? Well there are still tons of pears coming off that same tree and we thought it would continue to be great pig food. So I got five more 5 gallon buckets.

From the last of the first batch of pears, I made my first vinegar. It isn’t ‘done’ yet, and I don’t know how it will turn out, so I haven’t told you about it. But it looks right according to all of the pictures I’ve looked at and all of the information I have read. I’m excited to finally try making vinegar. I wanted to and had to because my friend Grace also tried her first batch out of the same pears, and she started hers before I did. Today she is making her first ever batch of soap, too, something we have yet to do. Good for her, I hope it turns out perfect.

Bowl of very ripe pears, vinegar crock, pig bucket, pan for pear sauce


After I brought home the last batch of pears, I decided that pear sauce would be a good thing to make. Since we aren’t eating any sugar and haven’t in almost a year, I was thinking pear sauce, made out of the really ripe, dripping pears would make a good sweetener for things like winter squash pie. Pears have a good amount of carbohydrates like sugar, but there is no processing or additives in these pears. The tree hasn’t even been pruned, sprayed or fertilized for, well for as long as anyone can remember. The only thing I did to make pear sauce, was peel and core the pears and cook them down. The vinegar got the peels and the pigs got the cores and seeds. I did add a tablespoon of citric acid powder, just because. The sauce has cooked down to a beautiful golden brown. It was canned in the water bath for 20 minutes. I think the next time I try making a pie, without a crust, I’ll add about 1/4 cup of pear sauce for sweetener and see how that tastes.

Since the first batch of vinegar seems to be doing it’s thing correctly, it actually made some ‘mother’. I decided that I should start more vinegar, this time in the five gallon crock instead of the one gallon. I’ll give you many more details about the vinegar once the first batch is ‘finished’ and I find out if it actually worked. For now, know I am once again experimenting on us an hope it works and doesn’t make us sick. That is always one of Frank’s concerns, and rightly so, but I just tell him we’re not dead yet.


The pigs really, really like the pears, and so do the chickens. I am truly grateful for this abundance of food, for us and the animals, and the people that are so willing to share. I hope I am able to share something with them sometime that they will enjoy as well.

Until next time – Fern

Fern, the Pig Trainer

Just typing the title for this article makes me laugh. If you’ve been reading here for long, you’ve read that I hate pigs. I’m afraid of pigs. I want to raise pigs for food, but don’t like them at all. I’m just not a pig person. Or wasn’t until recently, as recent as May 15, 2015, five and a half short months ago.
 

May 19, 2015


Well, after we decided to add pigs to our homestead for the benefits they will provide after the SHTF, I decided it was time to change my tune. So I did. Now we have pigs, and they’re decent enough animals. I’m not afraid they’re going to bite me all the time anymore. I’ve realized that their behavior can be shaped, similar to any other animal, whether it is a dog, or a goat, or a pig.

I admit, I do pay more attention to Lance, the boar, and Liberty, our gilt, than I do the barrows, our future dinner. We plan on having Lance and Liberty around for a very long time, so we want them to be relatively tame and easy to work with. This is very similar to the way I treat the goats. I pay a whole lot more attention to the does and very little to the buck or wethers. It’s just the nature of things. American Guinea Hogs are smaller pigs, 150 to 250 pounds full grown, and known to be slow growers. We originally thought about butchering the barrows in December when they will be nine months old, but there is just not a lot of meat on them yet. For now, the plan is to wait until February or March when they will be close to a year old.

barrow


We still feed the pigs very little grain. They get scraps from the kitchen, stuff out of the pantry we don’t eat anymore, like macaroni or cereal, old powdered milk mixed with water or the liquid from a jar of green beans or squash. Stuff like that. In the morning they get two small green bean cans of dairy goat ration. We don’t by pig feed specifically for them. They graze to their hearts content in their one to two acre pasture, and appear to be healthy, happy pigs.

We have been asking folks questions about pigs, their health and behavior, since we have never raised them before. The consensus appears to be that Liberty looks pregnant, which is good. We are hoping she is, and have a rough guesstimate of a January 10thish due date. With that in mind, seeing how she is low pig on the pecking order, um, make that oinking order, I wanted to make sure she is getting enough to eat so not only can she feed her growing babies, but continue to grow herself since she is not an adult, or sow yet. Thus the title of this article.

Pigs are strong, quick, scrappy creatures. Once the feed is poured out in the pan, it’s every pig for themselves. Since we haven’t raised pigs before, I’m not real sure how to think like a pig yet, but I’m learning. Lance is the largest of the four and can easily move the others out of his way to get the most food. I noticed this a month or so ago and started feeding in two pans instead of one. This resulted in Lance eating out of one pan, while Liberty and the two barrows ate out of the other. I used this observation to try to develop a way to feed Liberty by herself.

I moved the feed pans over by the pen we have set up. If I could get Liberty to go into the pen to eat, I could shut the gate, let her eat, then when she was finished, let her out. First I tried feeding everyone in there and running the boys out. That definitely didn’t work. Then I tried feeding everyone right outside the pen in one pan, and trying to get Liberty to go into the pen to eat. That didn’t work. I ended up waiting for her to be on the pen side of the feed pan, they always go around in a circle as they eat trying to get to the ‘good stuff’. At first I kind of lifted Liberty’s front end by the shoulders and aiming her at the pan in the pen. This didn’t work for a day or two, then all of a sudden it did. Yea!

Lance

The next day, Liberty walked right into the pen and I shut the gate, fed the boys, but when I opened the gate to feed her, out she came, not to go back in. Humphf. Now what? Keep trying. I did the lifting by the shoulder thing for several more days. Sometimes she was willing to go in and eat, and sometimes she wasn’t. After about 10 days there was around a 60% success rate. Not bad for a novice pig trainer, I thought. I realized that if I put food in the pan closest to the pen, then in the pan farthest from the pen, Lance would go to the far pan and the others, including Liberty would stay closer to the pen. I stayed consistent in this routine for a few days and it worked.

Liberty

For the last few days I have been pouring out some feed in pan #1 by the pen, then pan #2 for Lance, then pan #3 in Liberty’s pen. As I pour out Liberty’s feed, I tap the side of the bucket to draw her attention, then I walk out and pat her on the shoulders and tell her to come on. For three consecutive feedings it worked great. Then, this morning as I was tapping the side of the bucket, in walks Liberty to the pan at my feet and starts eating. Hallelujah!

Twirling barrows
Liberty

At first Liberty was fussy and anxious when she finished eating and found herself penned up alone. Now she just talks to me as I come back to let her out. Once I open the gate she walks right up to me waiting for more food or a pat on the back. Now that we’ve reached this point, I’m hoping she continues to trust us a little more. It will be very interesting to see how birthing and raising piglets works out. The docile nature of this breed of pig is well documented. Most folks don’t even separate the sows and boars during, or after the piglets are born. Since Liberty is getting used to eating alone, I should be able to continue this routine while she is nursing, insuring adequate nutrition for her and the piglets, at least that is my theory for now. Again, we’ll just have to see how it all works out.

Fern, the pig trainer. I never thought in a million years I would ever be doing anything like this, or writing about it either, for that matter. Just goes to show that you never know what life will bring you. Sometimes it something that will increase your chance of survival, and in that case, it’s a gift for which I am truly thankful.

Until next time – Fern

 

This is not Liberty.

This is not Liberty either.

This is Liberty.

Pig Tales, Volume 3

Even though Frank and I are still a little cautious around the pigs, they have become a welcome addition to our homestead. I am very pleased with the demeanor of our American Guinea Hogs. They have some little quirks that we are slowly trying to shape more to our liking, though. Like taking the end of our shoes in their mouth when we enter the pasture. I still haven’t figured out if it is a greeting or a taste test. Either way, I really don’t like it. I keep picturing Lance, full grown at around 200 pounds wanting to ‘taste test’ my shoe. With my foot in it. I really don’t relish that idea at all.
 

Lance


Then there is Liberty. She like to run right behind me when I am walking to the feed pan, and bump my back foot as I pick it up to take the next step. I also picture her full grown around 180 pounds. She could easily trip me and make me fall. On the ground is somewhere I do not want to be in a pig pen.

Liberty


Then this evening when Frank went in the pasture to feed the pigs, one of the barrows bit the back of this leg. That didn’t go over too well, and he received a correction with a shoe. This is one behavior that will not be tolerated. We need to be able to go into the pasture without the risk or fear of being bit. We don’t want to raise pigs with unacceptable behavior due to our ignorance of normal pig behavior since we haven’t raised them before. There is still a lot to learn.

When I went to the pig pasture to take pictures for this article, the pigs were down at the pond. I was hoping they would be. The first one surprised me by coming up over the pond bank. One by one they all came over to see me expecting to be fed, even though I have never fed them in this location. It’s just that most of the time when they see me it is feeding time. It took them a while to figure out that there was no food forthcoming.

 

What the pigs showed me were the trails they have created through the tall grass and weeds around the pond. Some are right at the edge of the water and some are farther out into the vegetation.

I was pleasantly surprised when one of the trails took me right past these beautiful flowers. Does anyone know what this is? All I know is that it is a three foot tall weed that I truly enjoyed. It is as close to blue as any flower I’ve seen.

After I made it around the pond to the far side the pigs lost interest in following me. That’s when they showed me where their wallow is located. I don’t think I would have ever figured it out if they hadn’t shown me.

At first, the pigs would wallow on the west side of the pond closest to the barn, but there wasn’t any shade. Now they have found shade on the south side of the pond in the form of these tall, grassy weeds. Pretty smart if you ask me. The water is shallow there, and the grass provides the shade they need. 

The pigs are now 4 1/2 months old, and growing nicely. Most pigs would be much bigger than these by now, but since our pigs will only reach about 200 pounds, they are doing well. According to everything we’ve read and the folks we’ve talked to, Liberty should be coming into heat in about a month and a half. I hope they all get along during that time since we are not planning on separating them until she is ready to farrow.

Our biggest fear in getting the pigs was that they would get out. That hasn’t happened and they don’t seem inclined to even try as far as we know. They are comfortable with their territory and seem to get around quite well. I don’t think they will ever run out of things to eat. This pasture could hold many more pigs, but we don’t plan on having more than one breeding pair, with two to four barrows on the hoof awaiting the dinner table. There will be piglets around from time to time, but we will sell the extras when they are eight weeks old and ready to wean.

Liberty


Lance


Having piglets will be the next big step for us. If that goes well, I guess we will officially call ourselves pig farmers. And goat farmers. And chicken farmers. And vegetable farmers. I guess that makes us homesteaders. It’s who we are. There’s no place like home.

Until next time – Fern

Pig Tales, Volume 2

All the worry and dread about getting pigs has pretty much been laid to rest. Our pigs are doing very well. They are funny when they snort and squeal at us for their food. If you are walking around in the pasture with a bucket and don’t go directly to the feed pan, they follow behind and do this little squealing sound, especially Liberty, our gilt.

We told you about Liberty’s mother and the problems the breeder indicated happened to the litter. The sow had four piglets, but two of them were dead. Because of that we thought it would be wise to get a second gilt, just in case there are problems with Liberty’s genetics. We had a young gilt lined up that we were going to pick up around the 20th of June, but when I called to set up a day and time, the breeder indicated he needed them to be picked up right away. He had lowered his prices and advertised on Craigslist to move them out in a hurry. We had things lined up for several days and were not able to drop everything to make a fast trip that would take all day, so I called him back and declined. 

In some ways that really simplifies things. We already have these four pigs, and the new gilt would have been at least a month younger. We wondered if she would be able to get through the field fence that surrounds the pasture. Now we won’t have to worry about that. 

The pigs enjoy anything we bring them. They usually get some whey with a variety of other things. We are using up some of the older canned goods in our pantry as part of their feed. I appreciate being able to turn this older food into new food via the pigs’ stomachs. We fed them the dried corn and sunflowers we grew last summer, along with a variety of garden scraps. They get a little pasta, lentils or beans as well. 

 

The great thing about our pigs is that the vast majority of their feed comes from the pasture. They root around all over the place, even in some of the tall, overgrown areas. 

 

We keep a small water pan for them by the barn in the shade, but the pigs get most of their water from the pond. When I went down to the pond this afternoon to try and catch a catfish, the pigs followed me grunting and squealing. After they realized I was not there to feed them, they started rooting around for something to eat. Liberty took a nap and almost rolled into the pond. That was funny. They eventually wandered off to do what pigs do. Unfortunately, I didn’t catch any fish for supper, but I am not a fisherman either. I find it to be extremely boring and I am not a patient person. It probably would have helped if I had the right bait and hooks for the fish I wanted to catch, but that’s okay. We had this pond built after we moved here in 2008, then we stocked it with minnows, hybrid blue gill, sun perch and catfish. Neither Frank or I like to fish, so it’s something we really don’t do. But lately, fish has sounded really good, so I thought I would give it a try. Maybe next time.

We are very pleased with our pigs so far. They have been a great addition to our homestead. The next step will be to butcher one of the barrows when they get big enough. We are really looking forward to seeing how the meat tastes and the amount of lard we can get from one pig.

By the way, I have to tell on Frank. One evening while I was in the barn milking, Frank was just going into the pig pasture to feed. The pigs came over to meet him, and I heard the funniest sound. You remember when you were a kid and you tried to make that noise with your nose to sound like a pig? That is what Frank was doing. I laughed out loud so much the goats and dog were looking at me wondering what was wrong with me. When Frank came back in the barn, I asked him if he was snorting at the pigs. He said, “Yes. Don’t you do that?” I started laughing again and told him no, I had never done that. Now that was funny.

Until next time – Fern

Picking Wormer….From The Yard

As spring has come on, I’ve been thinking more and more about being able to grow natural wormer for our goats. For now, we still administer Fenbendazole (Safeguard) and Cydectin, and since it’s been an exceptionally wet spring, we have prime conditions for a heavy worm infestation. We allow a five day withdrawal period before we keep any milk for human consumption, but we do continue to milk, then feed it to the cats, dog and chickens. I didn’t want to experiment with all natural wormers only to have the goats become ill from worms, so this year we’re doing both.

The Complete Herbal Handbook for Farm and Stable by Juliette di Bairacli Levy is an amazing source of information if you want to learn how to treat most farm animal ailments naturally. I have spent much time reading and re-reading about many different herbs and plants, especially pertaining to worms. I would highly recommend this book if you are interested in herbal remedies for farm animals. As I read through this book, I began making lists of plants that are good for goats. 

This little notebook contains the beginnings of my research, with ideas for several categories including: plants for feed, plants for overall health, plants for worms and plants to increase milk production.

 

Now as I head out in the morning to do the chores, not only do I take a bucket to pick slugs and weeds from the garden for the chickens, I take a bucket for some goat pickings as well. The amount and variety of things I pick has grown since I took this picture, but it gives you an idea. Here is a tour of my morning wanderings as I pick for the goats.

 

I usually start off with comfrey, with anywhere from three to five leaves per goat each day. I am having to limit how much I pick for now until the plants are really at full production. Because of that, the chickens don’t get comfrey very often for now. Comfrey is a highly nutritious fodder plant for animals of all kinds.

 
Once the cabbage plants got big enough, I started picking leaves from the Michilli cabbage for the goats. It’s a very good source of sulfur and other vitamins. It turns out cabbage is good for lice, as well. Each time I introduce something new, it may take the goats a day or two to get used to it, cabbage was one of those things, but now they really like it.

I have also started including a few mustard leaves in the last few days, which helps to expel worms. Some of the goats seem to really like them, but some of them don’t. It’s always interesting to see how they will react.

 Next to the mustard is the dandelion patch. I always try to have at least a handful of leaves for each animal. Dandelion leaves are good for overall health as well as expelling worms.

 

I usually alternate between lemon balm and marjoram, which are both good for overall health. I want the plants to continue developing well for our own use, so the goats only get a few sprigs. They probably wouldn’t eat much more than that anyway. It’s part of the browsing nature of a goat.

 
Next comes garlic leaves which are high in sulfur and is an effective worm deterent. The goats won’t eat much, but they will eat some. I have started to include just a little each day. Behind the garlic is a patch of honeysuckle.

I have a couple of healthy chive plants that I have started picking small handfuls from as well. They are also effective against worms.

Honeysuckle

On Saturdays, I also pick a big handful of honeysuckle along with around four or five wormwood leaves for each goat. These two plants are especially good for expelling worms. One thing I have observed that I find to be very interesting is how the goats choose to consume them, or not. I have found that if I walk out into the barn with a large handful of honeysuckle vines, the does will gather around and heartily begin to strip the leaves from the vines. Until they are finished. Not until the leaves are gone, but until they are finished. My theory is, once a goat has eaten enough of a certain plant, they stop. Too much is not a good thing. And enough for one goat, may not be enough for another. They each stop eating the honeysuckle at their own timing. And the wormwood? Sometimes they will eat it and sometimes they won’t. Last week I wormed One Stripe and Copper with the commercial wormers on a Monday. Saturday when I brought up the honeysuckle and wormwood, neither one of them would eat them, even though they always did on the preceding days I had brought them. As I wondered why, I realized that they didn’t need the plants because I had just recently wormed them. Interesting, huh? Since tomorrow is Saturday, one week later, it will be interesting to see if they will eat these two plants tomorrow.

 

I started this wormwood from seed several years ago in this large wooden barrel. Now that I know it will continue to grow and have started using it, it’s time to move it back into the fringes of the herb bed. Many other plants don’t get along with wormwood too well, so it will be out on the edge of the bed next to the camphor wormwood I planted last year. It really does smell like camphor, and I haven’t quite decided what I would like to make out of it. I don’t use the camphor for the goats, though.

Since I recently read that blackberry leaves are good for goat feed, I stop at this patch of wild berries on the way to the barn and add a good handful of leaves to my bucket. 

Last week when the vet came to disbud our youngest baby goats, we found out they had lice. As far as I know, we have never had a lice problem on our goats before. The vet said our extremely wet spring has created prime conditions for lice. I got out my Herbal Handbook again and looked up lice. It turns out that sulfur is a good natural remedy and you can add a teaspoon of sulfur to the goat feed. Well, that wouldn’t work for the young babies that needed treating, so we put a little Sevin dust on them, and the teenage goats that are being weaned. But I needed a natural remedy for the does I am milking. It turns out garlic and cabbage contain sulfur. I was already feeding the cabbage leaves, so I increased the amount each doe was getting. That’s when I added in the garlic leaves. They ate more of them the first day, but since then, they will only eat a limited amount. But so far, I haven’t seen any lice on the does, so I hope this works.

So what do I do with all of these leaves? I dump my bucket on top of the big round bale of hay by the milk stand and sort everything out. I want to make sure each doe gets a portion of the harvest I have brought. And I only do this for the does I am milking, not the babies or the billy and wethers. As each doe comes to the milk stand, I give them their grain ration, then pile all of the leaves I have brought right on top of it. At first they seemed to be a little irritated with me, but now they just dig around the leaves, eat their grain, then usually have the leaves for desert. It’s rather comical. But if I took all of these leaves out to the feeder and spread them out for the goats to eat, they would just turn up their noses and go graze in the pasture. I’m not sure why they will eat them from the stand, but not from the feeder. It’s like it’s a treat or something.

I am hoping that feeding the goats plants that we have growing here will eventually be enough to keep them healthy and somewhat worm free. I don’t want to experiment to the detriment of their health, but I do want to try to eliminate the commercial wormers. I know there are companies that sell a natural wormer, but if I am going to change over to natural, I would like to see if growing our own plants will work. Only time will tell. It may take a year or more to really see what the outcome will be. I’ll let you know.

For the off season when the plants aren’t growing, I plan to dry the herbs. But, with nature, worms generally aren’t a problem in the winter months since the worms go dormant, some in the ground, some in the goat. There are other techniques for controlling worms, pasture rotation, short or tall grass and others. 

This brings us to another question. If the time comes when we are dependent upon ourselves, and we get worms, will these remedies work on us as well? Many of these plants are a common part of our diet and I have read that wormwood can be used with humans. But that is a whole different research project. Just food, pun intended, for thought.

Until next time – Fern