Part-time or full-time farmer?

Jeanne Sheridan

Overrun with beasties
Joined
Oct 9, 2017
Messages
63
Reaction score
88
Points
78
Location
10 Miles west of Chehalis, Wa
We are getting ready to get our goats, but not sure I'm ready to give up my paying job. How many of you juggle a full-time job in addition to raising goats or other livestock? Is someone in your family a full-time farmer? Advice? Opinions? Drawbacks?
Welcome! I haven't been on this site long but it has been a great resource. We currently have 24 goats but that number varies depending on sales and births. We also have a llama to guard them rather than a LGD. He eats pretty much the same thing as our goats so that cuts out the dog food and we haven't seen coyotes in our pasture since we got him. We did have two but lost one to an infection from what we think was a cougar attack. A neighbor lost one of their LGD to cougars this last fall too. We hope to add pigs, chickens and maybe a cow for milk this summer. We have 30 acres and 20 of it will be in hay this summer. We have a deal with a neighbor that he will work it for half the hay. In a normal summer we get 2-3 turns with just rain fall so we will still have more than we need. We have a big garden and 16 fruit trees so I do a lot of canning, freezing, cider pressing, and dehydrating. I grow a big row of pumpkins, some for us, some for sale in a road side honor stand, and the majority as food for the goats. We also give them wind fall apples. Until this last fall both my husband and I just worked on our farm, but also keep in mind that we bought an old property that needs a lot of work. We don't have a mortgage so we can survive on our retirement pay but only with all the food we grow and without many extras. I'm starting a part time job next week sewing for a company in town that makes letter jackets and my husband is going to be driving a school bus next school year. That way I'll be home for morning milking and letting the herd out into the bigger pasture before work and taking our daughter to school and we will both be home for the night time chores. We live in a valley in SW Washington filled with small farms and dairies. I'd guesstimate that better than half of us work part or full time off the properties.
 

goats4us

Chillin' with the herd
Joined
Feb 24, 2018
Messages
17
Reaction score
34
Points
46
Location
Indiana
Another dual full time family. Mine included me gone for the last 12 wks straight without coming home. A lot of work for the DW. I got rid of the goats but still have horses, mini cattle, multiple chicken coops and a few dogs. Hoping my being gone more means the sooner she can go down to part time.

Starting small (say 3 goats 1 being a buck) will get you used to taking care of them in general and learn your system while letting you get used to the extra work. It will get easier then you will want more.
Starting to big you will become overwhelmed and not enjoy it then possibly never mess with them again. Same with a garden which I'm sure will be next on the list.
Have done very large garden in years past; it was too much for me last year while working so this year will be only a few items and only enough to eat, no canning. :-( We were going to start off with 4-5 goats to get our feet wet and hopefully grow from there. I feel for your wife, my husband sometimes has to travel, too. We have a daughter who is a huge help.
 

goats4us

Chillin' with the herd
Joined
Feb 24, 2018
Messages
17
Reaction score
34
Points
46
Location
Indiana
Welcome! I haven't been on this site long but it has been a great resource. We currently have 24 goats but that number varies depending on sales and births. We also have a llama to guard them rather than a LGD. He eats pretty much the same thing as our goats so that cuts out the dog food and we haven't seen coyotes in our pasture since we got him. We did have two but lost one to an infection from what we think was a cougar attack. A neighbor lost one of their LGD to cougars this last fall too. We hope to add pigs, chickens and maybe a cow for milk this summer. We have 30 acres and 20 of it will be in hay this summer. We have a deal with a neighbor that he will work it for half the hay. In a normal summer we get 2-3 turns with just rain fall so we will still have more than we need. We have a big garden and 16 fruit trees so I do a lot of canning, freezing, cider pressing, and dehydrating. I grow a big row of pumpkins, some for us, some for sale in a road side honor stand, and the majority as food for the goats. We also give them wind fall apples. Until this last fall both my husband and I just worked on our farm, but also keep in mind that we bought an old property that needs a lot of work. We don't have a mortgage so we can survive on our retirement pay but only with all the food we grow and without many extras. I'm starting a part time job next week sewing for a company in town that makes letter jackets and my husband is going to be driving a school bus next school year. That way I'll be home for morning milking and letting the herd out into the bigger pasture before work and taking our daughter to school and we will both be home for the night time chores. We live in a valley in SW Washington filled with small farms and dairies. I'd guesstimate that better than half of us work part or full time off the properties.
Interesting that you have a guard llama. We were originally going that route, but several people around here who've had them have said they weren't enough so we've been looking at dogs. Glad to hear it's working for you! Maybe we'll keep our options open.
 

farmerjan

Herd Master
Joined
Aug 16, 2016
Messages
6,117
Reaction score
21,043
Points
628
Location
Shenandoah Valley Virginia
We use llamas with our sheep. Much easier than having to worry about different food and because we don't always have the sheep near home, the llamas are essential. Most fences where we rent will not keep a dog in and we had trouble in the past with "do-gooder" idiot neighbors, feeding the dogs over the fence and such, thinking we were not treating them right. It just didn't work. The llamas most stay far enough away from, since they will lay their ears back if they don't like the humans near them and people don't want a llama to spit at them. They have been VERY GOOD at protecting from roaming neighborhood dogs and coyotes. In fact had one llama that used to stay with one group of cows where I had free range layers. Was hoping he would help protect the chickens from the foxes and such. Instead he took it upon himself to take care of the baby calves on the first calf heifers and he was very protective of them when they were little.
We have also used donkeys. Had one that hated the little lambs but was fine with the older ones. The other was fine with all the sheep and did a good job of taking care of them with the coyote problem. It would run down my son's dog if she wasn't on the back of the truck when he went in the field.
 

MaryZoe

Chillin' with the herd
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
Messages
25
Reaction score
6
Points
29
Hello, I just saw these posts. My husband and I moved to the "country" (relatively speaking in Naples, Florida) about 2 1/2 years ago. Before then we had exactly zero animals/pets but 6 kids at home. We now have exactly zero kids at home, but 2 goats, 2 dogs, 2 cats, 3 mini-donkeys, 3 tortoises, and almost 30 chickens (five of whom are broody at the moment--yikes!). We both work full time jobs and share in the daily chores. We do not expect to make any money from our critters--they are an investment in our future. We want our future grandkids to beg their parents to spend LOTS of time at our place during the summers. So we created our own mini petting zoo. We both look forward to retiring in the next 5-7 years (God willing), but until then, as long as we work together and help each other, it is entirely possible to run a hobby farm with both spouses working. It just takes a lot of support from both parties.
 

Ridgetop

Herd Master
Joined
Mar 13, 2015
Messages
3,115
Reaction score
8,730
Points
483
Location
Shadow Hills, CA
Welcome! My advice is keep your jobs and start small. My DH worked long hours, mandatory overtime, for years while I worked part time, occasionally full time, raised the kids and ranched. The old days of running herds on pasture and selling for a big profit died with John Wayne. My husband's uncle in Kansas farmed 340 acres commercially and still had to work a 9-5 job and this was in the 60's and 70's when farming was much more profitable. He hooked up lights in his fields so he could plough at night! Farming is an unreliable source of income unless you are farming 1000s of acres. With a paycheck you can buy feed, pay the vet, put up fencing, do repairs, etc. without having to sell livestock. Remember Loretta Lynn's song shoes bought from selling a hog? Even then her daddy worked in the coal mines!

Farming is very hard work. What is your health, age, etc. We did our largest ranching - commercial meat rabbit barn,100 dairy goats (monthly milk test), chickens, hogs, sheep, and of course our horses, when we had 4 lively children to help with the work. We raised calves for the auction on our milk, sold eggs, rabbit meat, and goats. No mall trips for them but the work was healthy, they enjoyed it, and it taught them a good work ethic and the importance of family. When we bought this property we had to fence, build barns, complete renovate the house (the doors fell off one if the kitchen cabinets while we were moving in :celebrateand learn about ranching large stock. We brought our rabbit businesss with us and I had been raising a large garden fruit trees and canning everything we ate for years. I even had a small business making fancy pickles and jams which I sold at craft fairs. It was heavy work before we even took on more ranching.

Start small! Get used to farming and ranching with less to manage. You will find that the ranch will take on a life of its own and grow. Buy a pair of bred does or buy your does from a breeder who will offer stud service. Bucks
are a whole other problem that you don't need when starting. They will need separate housing and fencing. It will be cheaper to pay for stud service from the breeder (check when you buy) than keep a buck until you have at least 10 does to be bred. Does only produce milk after having their kids so you will find that your herd will increase fast. If you are raising dairy goats for milk, you will have to milk and bottle feed the kids after heat treating and pasteurizing the milk.

Read all you can on keeping goats - not just the feed store books, but read other publications designed for agriculture students. If you plan to keep goats on grass, think again, they are browsers and if all you have is grass pasture they will need hay for which you will need a paycheck.

Don't get me wrong - DH and I still have a small herd of sheep, guardian dogs, and are thinking about restarting our rabbitry. WE LOVE THIS LIFE! We are older and pretty stove up though and can't wrestle the large stock like we used to. Luckily our grown sons live with us and do the heavy lifting and catching.

DON'T GET TOO EXCITED AND OVER BURDEN YOURSELVES. YOU NEED TO START SMALL AND LEARN ABUT THE SPECIES YOU ARE RAISING. They don't need constant oversight. You will learn to recognize problems from the way they come to the feeders, walk, etc. You will need to learn to give vaccinations, castrate, disbud, draw blood for CAE testing and lots of other fun stuff. We set broken leg, sutured up cuts, treated prolapses, pulled kids and lambs, and doctored our stock. The vet is too expensive for routine stuff.

My last advice is to make sure you realize that ranching is heart breaking too. Unless these animals are all going to be pets (in which case you should look for a full time job to afford them) you will lose animals, suffer predator losses, and have to make the decision based on cost between vet care or euthanasia for your animals. Can you do this? I just spent the cost of a healthy ewe on a ewe I knew l would euthanize just so she could wean her lamb. I should have out her down and bottle fed the lamb since now I will have another farm call to euthanize her. I broke my own rules about cost effectiveness since this was one of my oldest ewes, but she had been a good producer and I liked her. She recovered enough to raise the lamb, but is not doing well so must go down. She could never have been bred again and since I run my ewes with the ram, I can't let her breed again. $500 for a moment of feel good but I had the money - what if you don't? I have been there too.

Anyway, ranching is a life of ups and downs. Too much fun especially when the kids were young. If you love it, if it is in your blood, nothing will seem too difficult. When we were younger, some of our corrals were held together by brightly colored hay ropes - we refer to this as 4-H fencing. :lol: We were exhausted, broke, and pretty happy! Ranching is in our blood - our great-grandparents, DH grandparents and uncles farmed, my uncle ranched and rode rodeo.

You have to love it. Everyone here will help you - listen to everyone who gives you advice. You don't have to take it but you will learn from it. Good Luck!
 

goats4us

Chillin' with the herd
Joined
Feb 24, 2018
Messages
17
Reaction score
34
Points
46
Location
Indiana
Thanks for your honesty! We do plan to start with 4-5 does and expand from there. I'm a nurse and have no problems giving vaccinations, drawing blood, etc. once someone shows me the right way to do this on a goat vs. a human. :D =D Only one large animal vet here covering a huge area, so thinking we will have to become pretty good at taking care of most things ourselves. Not to mention that the vet bill can easily exceed the cost of the animal. We are getting meat goats so they are not pets, though I know we'll have our favorites that will likely become like one. You go through those tough decisions with any animal; we had to put down our border collie just a couple weeks ago. Not easy, but we know we gave him a good life and take comfort in that.

My grandfather had 675 acres and managed to make a pretty good living off it, but they were people of few wants and used their money carefully. And I know they had rough times as well.

My biggest concern when I started this thread was: will the goats be okay with no one at home all day? Do I need to take off when they kid? But between people's answers and my reading I feel like I'm getting a pretty good grip on it and that we're ready. Bought the fencing and staked out the area last weekend, will start digging post-holes tomorrow if the weather cooperates. Still trying to decide what will work best for us in housing. Don't want to spend too much, but want it big enough that we have room to grow. I'm thinking bigger and my husband is thinking small and just build more buildings later when we need them. And it should go up before we actually run the fencing so can't take much longer to decide!
 

Ridgetop

Herd Master
Joined
Mar 13, 2015
Messages
3,115
Reaction score
8,730
Points
483
Location
Shadow Hills, CA
The animals will be just fine with you working. They do not need full time supervision as long as you have adequate fencing, a water supply, and some shelter from weather. I would recommend some type of guardian animal. Our preference is a guardian breed dog, although llamas, donkeys and mules are good. We have cougar here which are the main predator of llamas in South America which we found out right after we adopted a couple of guardian llamas! :lol:.

You are way ahead of where we were when we started since we had to learn all our medical prowess from the ground up. Luckily we had some great people showing us what to do and giving us information, and hands on training. You have your heads in the right place with your attitude and training.

Since you are going with meat goats, you will not have to do any milking. You will just have to check the milk production for the kids. As far as being home for kidding, I suggest that you get a marking harness with different colored crayons for your buck. Don't let him have access to the does except at breeding time. Then you put the harness in him and change the crayon to a different color each week. When he mounts the doe he will leave the color no her butt and you will know who is bred. Change the crayon color each week and keep the buck in his harness until you go a month without any does remarking. Changing the crayon color will ensure that if the doe remarks over a previous color you will catch it. Make sure to write the marked doe's ear # on your calendar and the date she marked. Most of the time they mark in the evening so yo should check in the am when you feed. Once you know the breeding date when she takes, you can use a breeding calendar or just count 5 months and 5 days and you will have a very accurate kidding date for the doe. It makes life easier because you can bring her into a jug or kidding pen close to the house so you can watch for signs of trouble. If your barn is far from the house, you can use those security cameras. They are not too expensive and can be picked up at Costco or Walmart. No wondering and worrying for weeks when she will kid. No traipsing out to the furthest field when she kids in bad weather (they love doing this!). Luckily your guardian dog will not leave her so when you are missing a goat and the dog you will be able to put on your rain clothes and hike out with your flashlight into the fields. So much fun but it happens to us all. It also helps because you can watch for signs of stuck kids, etc. Accurate breeding dates and records will make your life so much easier. If you want to take time off during kidding time you can but if you buy animals from a herd with few kidding problems it shouldn't be necessary. Of course, we all like to be on hand to greet our new babies!

YOU ARE GOING TO HAVE SUCH FUN! CONGRATULATIONS ON YOUR NEW LIFE! :weee
 

Latest posts

Top