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How much land do I want?

Discussion in 'Random Ramblings' started by LMK17, Mar 27, 2017.

  1. Mar 27, 2017
    LMK17

    LMK17 Ridin' The Range

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    So the family (husband, 2 kiddos, 1 dog, 2 cats) and I are about to jump into homesteading! It's a long held dream of ours, and we're thrilled. The only thing between us and our big dreams is... buying some land. It's a minor hurdle, right? :p

    We've been actively shopping for a couple months, and all the options and considerations are overwhelming! I feel like our search is just all over the place. I can't even pin down the amount of land I think we want, so that's my question for you all: How much land should we be shopping for?

    Some background: It's going to be me and the kids (ages 8 & nearly 5) managing the place. We homeschool, so while the kids are always around to help, I don't have huge chunks of time to head out to the field and work for hours on end without interruption. My husband will pitch in when he can, but the reality is he works long hours and is rarely home before 7. It'll be even later if the move increases his commute time. Right now, we maintain organic gardens and fruit trees-- even the kids each have a little plot of their own-- so I hope to have the gardens up and running shortly after moving in. Animals and such will come in time, but only as our resources allow. It's a multiyear plan, so please don't think I'm planning to do all this, all at once! :eek: Year 1 will probably be gardens and fences, year 2 might bring chickens and pigs, and so on...

    Once we hit peak production, I hope to have: a pair of large donkeys (for driving and riding), about 3 feeder pigs/yr, laying hens + meat birds (including maybe a turkey), gardens, an orchard, bees, and dual-purpose dairy/meat something (either mini cows or goats).

    I want to have enough land that we can do exactly what we want without feeling cramped... My big fear is that we'll hit our homesteading stride only to discover that we're outgrowing our property! But I don't want too much land-- I'm afraid I'll be over extended managing acres and acres of land + caring for my little humans + homeschooling-- and more land, of course, can bring greater expenses. I don't want to have to maintain miles of fenceline or get a gigantic tractor just to keep the place running.

    We're considering properties from 5.5 acres up to 20+ acres right now. Any thoughts on where we should be focusing our search, acreage-wise? FWIW, we'll be located just outside San Antonio, TX. Thanks a bunch for your thoughts!
     
    Last edited: Mar 27, 2017
  2. Mar 27, 2017
    NH homesteader

    NH homesteader Herd Master

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    Well... It depends. On a lot of things! I consider 5 acres to be perfect, but I do not have (nor do I want) cattle. My husband and I in a perfect world would have 5 acres of pasture and 5 acres of woods. This is primarily for harvesting firewood, so you are not in as much need of that!

    Fencing is EXPENSIVE! It might be helpful if you studied each animal you are considering and wrote it all down on paper, and see how much you come up with.

    For me, more than 10 is overwhelming and the rest, if I had more, would be fairly neglected! But it all depends on the person, and the environment.

    Edit: also it depends on how much you want to supplement feed for the animals you will have, and how much the land can sustain, which will depend upon soil, etc. Basically there are a million variables!
     
    Last edited: Mar 27, 2017
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  3. Mar 27, 2017
    Bossroo

    Bossroo True BYH Addict

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    I would recommend that you first consult with your County Agriculture Extention Agent. What price range do you qualify for ? What prices are properties bring in your area ? Is a house on the property or just land ? What is your local property tax structure and exemptions ? What are the soil types in your area... loam, sandy, rocky , hardpan , animal carying capacity ? How about rainfall, irrigation water availability, rainfall, weather, vegetation types, trees and brush or lack of, location, location, location etc, etc. ??? Answers to these things and more will determine what you can purchase.
     
  4. Mar 27, 2017
    farmerjan

    farmerjan Loving the herd life

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    @Bossroo hit all the high spots. If you are thinking cattle then you need to double what you think you need, so that you can have some room to rotate pastures and such and that will make you more "self-sufficient". But what you need in say Va is very different from what you will need in Tx and I am not familiar with the climate in the San Antonio area. Also realize that you do not have to "maintain" all the land. Allowing for some to be "buffer" from neighbors isn't such a bad idea. Woods and such do not need to be fenced initially, and may never need fencing. But knowing that someone will not be able to build right up against the "using" part of your homestead is kinda nice. Neighbors that are neither seen nor heard......
    There are alot of Texas folks on here....@latestarter, @greybeard ..
     
  5. Mar 27, 2017
    LMK17

    LMK17 Ridin' The Range

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    Fortunately, we're not on a strict budget. We could purchase a few acres or more. It mostly comes down to the house on the land- A 5-10 acre plot should give us a very nice, newish house north of the city ($$$$ area). South of the city, we could get a couple dozen acres with an older house. Land is running about $9K/acre and maybe $150ish/sqft for a house. Kinda pricey, as we can't get too far from San Antonio. Ag exemptions are giving us headaches. Generally speaking, I think I want to just pay market rate taxes on a smaller plot of land. Under 10 acres isn't likely to get an exemption, and taxes should be manageable. 10-20 acres would be hard to keep an exemption, I think, but the taxes on that size plot might be a problem. Above 20 acres, we could be exempt, but it would maybe require jumping through some hoops that I'm not in the mood to jump... Soils vary tremendously. Down south, it's straight sand. East or west, you get a lot of clay. North, it's rocky with maybe just a few inches of topsoil. Likewise with brush. Down south is scrubbrush, east is largely savannah and plains, north is Hill Country. And we're looking in all those places! LOL I much prefer going north. The Hill Country is beautiful, and we already spend a lot of time there. Pretty much any where else gives us more bang for the buck, though. :rolleyes:

    A ballpark number on carrying capacity around here is 1 AU/5 acres, assuming some level of improved pasture.

    Here's my math so far. For this example, I'm assuming 3 Dexter cows @ 600 lb each, 2 large standard donkeys, and 12 broiler chickens. So, I can round up and call the cows 2 AU total. That's 10 acres just for the cows. The donkeys, I've read, need at least 1 acre of pasture/pair. We're up to 11 acres, then. And I've seen 25 sqft/bird for chickens kept on pasture, but even then, the amount of pasture for 12 birds is negligable. So that's 11+ acres in pasture that I would need, right? Plus extra space for the house/yard, coop for laying hens, and pig pen. So I should be shooting for at least 12 acres?? Sound reasonable? Am I missing anything? For a smaller plot, I could go with goats instead of cows, since the cows have the biggest need for space.

    Then again, if I rotate all the animals on the same pasture, I could save a little on space, right? And not all the animals would be on pasture for the entire year... How would I add that into the calculations? Or is it better just to go with my 12 acre calculation to be on the safe side?
     
  6. Mar 27, 2017
    Bruce

    Bruce True BYH Addict

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    Seems like tough sledding no matter which direction you go. Doesn't sound like any of it is decent for growing things.

    I think a standard donley would come in at 1/2 AU. If your carrying capacity is 1 AU/5 acres, you need 5 acres for the 2 donkeys. And that assumes you are not doing any rotational grazing to help the pasture. If you do rotational grazing you'll need 20 for the cows and 10 more for the donkeys. The 25 chickens really don't count. You can run them in a pasture with the other animals. They eat mostly bugs, take bits of this plant, that one that is seeding, clip the tips of the grass over there. My girls (have had as many as 16 at one time) have plenty of room and the only place they cause "trouble" with growing things is under the lilac bush and a nearby fir tree where they like to dust bathe. I think like any other animal chickens only "over graze" when they are kept in too small an area.

    And then what about your garden and orchard? Need space for them too.
     
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  7. Mar 27, 2017
    NH homesteader

    NH homesteader Herd Master

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    It is also preferable to rotate pigs on pasture, to avoid parasite issues.
     
  8. Mar 27, 2017
    LMK17

    LMK17 Ridin' The Range

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    It's not ideal for growing things, for the most part. Fortunately, I've gotten used to using an organic program that greatly improves the soil over time. And I can always do raised beds for most of the garden.

    Not being argumentative, just trying to figure out whether I'm sorely mistaken: My understanding is that the donkeys don't do well on lush pasture. As I've seen it jokingly mentioned, donkeys get fat just breathing good air. So I figure that if the pasture is good, the donks won't be on it all the time; I'll probably need to confine them to a yard. So 5 acres of lush pasture for 2 donkeys seems like overkill. On the other hand, if the pasture grass is poor, the donkeys might be on it all the time, but in that case, cows might not do well on the grass, and I might want to consider goats instead. Either way, I don't think the calculation needs to be 10 acres for cows + 5 acres for donkeys. :hu

    And doesn't rotational grazing work the other way? Meaning, if I need 5 acres/AU for continuous grazing, then intensively managing the pastures and practicing rotational grazing means that I can actually increase my stocking density, right? So more animals on less land? I really don't think that for rotational grazing I'd need 30 acres+ for 3 mini cows and 2 donkeys...?

    Gardens and orchards would be pretty small and could be on the "yard" part of the property, assuming about 1-2 acres is dedicated to a yard/house.

    I was thinking of penning the pigs in areas where I want to establish gardens... Let them till up the land for me for a few months at a time. Later, they could occasionally run through the orchard or go back through and "plow" the garden plots here and there. Probably would also have a dedicated pen for times that having them any where else is inadvisable for some reason. Is this a bad idea?

    I'll have to look up pasture raising pigs... I've been the damage wild hogs do around here; putting pigs on good pastureland scares me! :eek:
     
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  9. Mar 27, 2017
    NH homesteader

    NH homesteader Herd Master

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    Lol I hear you! I'm going to tag @misfitmorgan for pasture raising pig information. She's got a lot more experience than me!

    I don't know about the land needs, but goats aren't huge grass eaters. I mean, they'll eat it, but they prefer to browse. And they'll need grain and hay, particularly if you're milking them.

    Chickens take up a negligible amount of land. I don't know anything about donkeys. Except they freak me out, lol!

    @Baymule did you have a donkey or mule? Either way, she would know how much they eat, and she knows Texas soil! @frustratedearthmother also.
     
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  10. Mar 27, 2017
    Baymule

    Baymule Herd Master

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    I've had donkeys and a mule. Donkeys are desert animals and don't require as much as a horse. They need good hay, clean water, shelter and grass or browse. They will eat weeds that cows or horses won't.

    www.lovelongears.com This site has lots of information on donkeys.

    If you use donkeys as pasture guards, make it a gelding or jenney, never a jack. A jack will go after other livestock that is in heat and can injure them. A friend of mine had a jack with his cows and the jack fought the bull off them and chased the cows when they came in heat. He got rid of the jack.

    How many acres does your county consider the minimum for claiming Ag? It might be a good idea to buy at least the minimum.

    Even pastured pigs will roll up a pasture if there isn't enough grass. We currently have 4 pigs on 3/4 an acre and they utterly destroyed it in less than a week. We have 8 acres and don't have enough pasture to rotate pastured pigs. A neighbor has Kune Kune pigs, supposedly the ultimate pasture pig, but he doesn't rotate them and they have stripped all vegetation in their pen.

    We also have 3 horses (hole in our pocket we dump money in), 5 ewes, 1 ram, 4 lambs and maybe 30 chickens. Just got Muscovie ducks today. The pigs will go to slaughter in June or July. Then we're going to level up their damage and plant grasses and forbs. It will lay fallow next winter.

    Our soil is sand. Hard grazing, or any grazing for that matter, on the sparse grass that is there, takes a long time to recover. In the summer, it bakes to a crisp. We are working on adding humus to the soil in the form of rotten hay, compost and wood chips. We are north of Tyler and get plenty of rain. It will take time to build better pastures.

    Other property around us is red iron ore/clay soil. A lot of it is pasture with cattle. Most of the land here is forest.

    San Antonio gets 30-32 inches average rainfall. Tyler gets 46 inches average, in 2015 we got 68 inches. As far as stocking rate of AU, consult with the county extension agent. He or she will be able to advise you on the local soils and what animals they can support.
     
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