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How much land is needed to be self-sufficient?

Discussion in 'Feeding & Watering Your Flock' started by Bullitt, Aug 23, 2013.

  1. Bullitt

    Bullitt Chillin' With My Peeps

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    My 94-year-old grandfather always says, it is pretty hard for a person with a garden, a milk cow, and chickens to starve to death.

    So I am curious how much land would be needed to grow alfalfa and corn to feed chickens, a cow, and maybe a pig every other year? This would be in addition to an area for a large garden.

    So what is the total land needed, and how much land is needed to grow feed for animals?

    I am thinking about 5 acres total, with 4 acres for alfalfa and corn. What do you think? Is that more than enough, too little, or about right?
     
    Last edited: Aug 23, 2013
  2. Krazzy

    Krazzy Out Of The Brooder

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    thats a good question. i think it would be different for people depending on climate, size of family, and number of animals. 5 acres sounds like the minimum if you use traditional small farming methods. if a person really wanted to they could do it on a less land, but the more the better.

    the real question for me is what do you consider self sufficient? in my head i think it means without buying anything from outside sources to make it work. for some it might mean selling product that you produce and using that money to buy things like gas/oil to help you harvest faster.
     
  3. Bullitt

    Bullitt Chillin' With My Peeps

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    To be truly self-sufficient would be very difficult.

    I am thinking about how much land would be needed to grow all the feed for chickens, a cow, and a pig every other year. The garden would supply most fruits and vegetables needed for people, and scraps for animals.

    A person would still have a job to pay the house, car and other bills.

    I suppose solar and wind power, and electric cars and a tractor, could allow someone to get along much better if things fell apart. But for this, I am just thinking about producing food for animals and people. A dog would be good also, but they eat mostly meat. More animals would be needed to feed a dog. It would be easier to buy dog food, I am pretty sure.
     
    Last edited: Aug 24, 2013
  4. hdmax

    hdmax Chillin' With My Peeps

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    To be pretty much off grid and self sufficient, I'd say a minimum of 10 acre, and the more the better. With that said, 100 acres wouldn't do much good if it's not good tillable land. And if it is all woods, you will work your self to death getting it cleared and ready to use.
    With 5 really good acres of land, one could make great strides toward being self sufficient.
     
  5. Bullitt

    Bullitt Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I have been reading on the Internet to determine how much feed each animal needs, and I do not think I would need a lot of land.

    Laying hens eat about a 1/4 pound of feed per day. 12 chickens would need 3 pounds a day. For 365 days, that would be 1,095 pounds of feed. I would also allow them to free range, so they would not need that much feed.

    It takes about six months and about 500 pounds of feed to get a pig ready to butcher. Again, I would be feeding them scraps from the garden and milk from the cow, so that amount of feed would not be needed.

    A milk cow like a Jersey would eat about 25 pounds of feed per day. The cow would be grazing during the warm months. So I figure I need to feed the cow for about 150 days during the colder part of the year. 150 days times 25 pounds equals 3,750 pounds of feed needed. That is 37.5 bales of alfalfa, if a bale weighs 100 pounds. The bales can be purchased at $10 each, which would be $370 for 37 bales.

    One acre can produce from 50 bales per cutting or more, depending on rainfall. So let's say 50 bales per acre in one cutting. I think it would be easiest to get a neighbor to bale the hay and give the person half the hay, or pay a service to cut the alfalfa at about $3 a bale. Then you could sell part of the alfalfa to pay for the hay baling service. So, one acre of alfalfa would easily provide the winter feed for a cow.

    Cows will also eat the corn stalks and leaves after the corn has been harvested. On average, an acre of corn produces about 8,000 pounds of corn kernels. So, that is much more than I would need.

    I think one acre of alfalfa and maybe a 1/4 acre of corn (2,000 pounds of corn) would provide most of the feed needed. I would also have a few acres for the cow and a calf to graze, plus they can eat the corn stalks and leaves.

    So I am thinking that my guess about 5 acres would work to produce all the feed needed for a few animals.

    One interesting thing I was reading by a gardener said that you do not even need to take the corn kernels off the cob. Just throw the cobs to chickens or pigs, and they will eat the corn off the cob.

    So, I think I could get by with a rototiller and a walk-behind corn seed planter, but it would be nice to have a little tractor with a cultivator and a seed planter. I was thinking a little tractor like this would be nice.

    http://dallas.craigslist.org/dal/grd/4022752834.html

    A lot of food can be produced on a small amount of land.
     
    Last edited: Aug 24, 2013
  6. hdmax

    hdmax Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Nothing ever works as planned! Did you allow for crop rotation? How about Bull service to impregnate the cow? What about feed for the cow? A milk cow needs more then just alfalfa. Then there is the calf, you can't have milk without a calf. Sure a cow can and will eat corn fodder, but if you allow them to eat too much, it can get founded on it! Do you plan to sell the calf just after birth? Or raise it for slaughter? If you raise it for meat, you will have to feed it.
    And if you plan on butchering a pig at 6 months with just 500# of feed, he/she will not be very big. I believe you will need to figure about 700-800 pounds of feed (A pig will eat cob an all, but I don't think the cob has much nutritional value.) You will most likely need to purchase the piglet at 6-8 weeks, then fatten it up for 5-6 months. and if you do not process the hog, most places charge about $35-$40 to kill and gut, then about 65-70 cents per pound to process it. And the smoking of the hams are not included, sausage links have an additional cost.

    I don't think a small time farmer will ever produce 8000# of shelled dried corn per acre.
    And there will be times when too much or too little rain, or hot/cold weather will wipeout your crop, or much of it. It is always better to plan about twice as much as you think you can get by with.

    Best thing you could do, would be to talk to locale farmers, not commercial farmers, but ones like you want to become.
    5 acres will go a long way in helping you achieve what you want, but I don't think it will get you there.
     
    Last edited: Aug 24, 2013
  7. Bullitt

    Bullitt Chillin' With My Peeps

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    The area I am looking at has good farm land in a river valley with a temperate climate. It rarely snows in the winter there.

    You are probably correct that 10 acres would be best to be on the safe side, and it would allow more flexibility if I decided to raise a calf for meat. It just costs more money.
     
    Last edited: Aug 24, 2013
  8. hogster160

    hogster160 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I have a book that has so much information in it. As I have 2 acres, I want that land to pay for itself. Meaning it takes care of us. We have a garden, chicken and turkeys atm. I don't think I have enough land to do much more than that. But according to this book, I have plenty of land to make a life for me and the family. It is a very good read with lots of suggestion and ideas. Also goes into how to butcher your own animals to save the cost of paying someone to do it for you. It might give you some more ideas and options that you have not had.

    http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/backyard-homestead-carleen-madigan/1102229232?ean=9781603421386

    I bought the book, but you may find it in your local library.

    Good luck

    Deb
     
  9. Bullitt

    Bullitt Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Thank you, Deb.

    That book, "The Backyard Homestead: Produce all the food you need on just a quarter acre!," would be helpful.

    Many places won't allow more than a garden and a few chickens on a 1/4 acre. You would probably have to be outside the city limits in most towns and cities.

    But I know that a lot of food can be produced on a 1/4 acre. My grandfather had less than an acre, and his garden was about 1/8 of an acre, and he raised just about all the fruits and vegetables needed, and had chickens and a milk cow, and raised a pig. But he had to buy feed for the chickens, cow, and pig. That is where I think a few more acres are needed, to provide feed for the animals.
     

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