Becoming a livestock breeder could be one of the most lucrative and self-reliance boosting prepper side hustles that exist.
The benefits of not only having ample livestock on your survival homestead and honing the skills required to properly tend to them is the primary reason we enlarged our barnyard five years ago.
And perhaps the best part of being a livestock breeder is the fact that it is a side hustle preppers can do anywhere, even if they have just a backyard or a small 10 acre farm to use for keeping the animals.
Livestock breeding as a career or beloved side hustle has been commonplace in rural areas (where all preppers should live) for generations. Raising animals to sell can bring profit regardless of what type of critters you choose to keep, but choosing as wisely as possible can increase your potential earnings exponentially.
The major plus side to this prepper side hustle, beside the obvious cold hard cash aspect of course, is constantly having a supply of meat, milk, and egg producing animals within arms’ reach during a disaster.
But, both the animals you choose to raise, and how sustainable the breeding and husbandry process is on your land, will play a significant impact in how much money you can make with this prepper side hustle and how long you can keep it going during a disaster as a means of barter.
Table of Contents
What Is An Animal or Livestock Breeder?
Livestock breeders use their animal husbandry skills along with any knowledge of animal science and genetics to breed animals. Some keepers consider themselves far more of a farmer or a rancher than a breeder, in the most technical sense of the word.
A more formal breeding operation would involve a focused effort on breeding for specific genetic attributes of registered livestock or livestock guardian dogs that would be of show quality.
Livestock Breeding Laws
If you plan on raising any type of herd dog or livestock guardian dog, you may be subjected to state licensing requirements and annual litter maximums. Laws and regulations such as these were created to prevent “puppy mills” and the mistreatment of canine breeding stock.
While there is still no formal education or training background required to become a livestock breeder, the government will still require you to open your wallet and fill out some forms before moving forward with a dog breeding business.
Make sure to adhere to all local and state laws before starting any type of animal breeding business.
Some municipal areas in multiple state may regulate the number, type, and sex of animals that can be kept. For instance, even in some Right to Farm states it might be illegal to keep roosters if you live in an incorporated area.
Thankfully for prepping folks who live in an urban, suburban, and incorporated small towns (again, it is time to move to an out of town rural area if you are serious about survival) Right to Farm laws can pave a smooth path for them to raise at meat rabbits, ducks, miniature goats, qual, and in some cases, chickens.
While keeping chickens is legal in most areas, raising them can be another story due to potential limits placed on the number of birds kept or a prohibition of roosters on the premises altogether, as noted above.
If you live in a rural area, the options are typically limitless on the types of livestock you can breed and keep.
But, always still check with local laws and read any restrictions on your property deed first, before investing in a single animal or erecting a pen.
While it is rare, there are sometimes deed restrictions imposed in even rural areas that could vastly curtail your livestock breeding prepper side hustle plans.
For example, I once had a loved one – a real estate client that purchased property near a lake that prohibited the keeping of any type of livestock due to the powerful tourism industry in the area that was able to push such restrictions on land sales.
In another instance with a real estate client who was buying a small 15 acre farm, the property deed restrictions prohibited the keeping of hogs on the land. Apparently, the couple was selling off just a portion of the old family farm and was opposed to the aroma of hogs.
Education And Training Requirements
There is no specific type of education required to be a livestock breeder. The more you know the better you will do with the prepper side hustle and the better the overall health and living conditions of the animals that you are raising.
Being raised on a farm or ranch is often all the education or training a person needs to launch a successful livestock breeding operation.
But, even for folks who grow up or have spent a long time living on a homestead, ranch, or farm, possessing business and marketing skills either formally or informally obtained, would be highly advantageous.
Bookkeeping or accounting skills at a minimal level are also encouraged, even if you plan on hiring out those tasks to a licensed professional.
Being able to understand the type of documents you need to keep to prove all legal expenses and income and the reports your accountant gives you is vital to livestock breeding side hustle.
Being able to trust but verify all of your income and expenses are tabulated and distributed correctly could mean the difference between having a lucrative and legal business and owning an ill-managed money pit that could land you in severe legal trouble – especially with the IRS.
Livestock breeders must possess the skills and knowledge necessary to raise healthy animals in a humane way. Such a skillset would also include understanding the breeding process for any type of animal kept to ensure risky and dangerous over-breeding, early breeding, or improper line breeding does not occur.
Also, understanding the time commitment and potential cost of dealing with the labor portion of the breeding must also be taken into consideration.
When everything goes as nature intended, you will not have to stay up all night, have to call a veterinarian, or safely wrangle a stuck goat kid or calf from its mother birth canal.
A difficult birth could cost you the momma and the child if immediate emergency care and follow up care of the momma are not undertaken properly.
The cost of a veterinarian to visit your farm, ranch, or homestead can vary greatly depending up the cost of living where you live.
Even if you afford to call a vet in case of any type of livestock medical emergency, the expense will cut into your profits and there is no guarantee that the vet will be able to make it there in time.
When my goat herd leader and best performing nanny goat was the victim of a horrific dog attack, the vet who had an office only 10 minutes away, was out on an emergency call in the opposite end of the county.
I called the backup vet (preppers always have a backup plan) and she was out of the county at a training class.
Thankfully, the second vet (who I liked a lot better but was about 40 minutes away) offered excellent advice over the phone, and followed up with me via email as I sent photos of the wounds.
Between her advice, our skills, and stockpile of medical supplies, we were able to save Pearl. Had any one of these three things not existed or been delayed, we would have lost her within just a few hours.
Livestock breeders with self-taught or life skills or academic training, often focus more intensely on not just producing healthy offspring, but also breeding livestock that will produce a particular set of physical characteristics and demeanor.
For example, a livestock guardian dog breeder could select pups from parents that were exceptionally large, quiet, aggressive etc. and breed them together to meld those desirable characteristics into a new litter of pup – such genetic breeding may take several years of selective breeding.
The breeding of livestock that have just one parent in common is called line breeding and is a tactic that livestock and animal breeders often use to improve a quality or champion line.
Animal breeders use their knowledge of genetics and animal science to select and breed animals that will produce offspring with desired traits and characteristics.
For example, they breed chickens that lay more eggs, pigs that produce leaner meat, and sheep with more desirable wool. Others breed and raise cats, dogs, and other household pets.
Livestock breeders can also use this same selective breeding process to weed out undesirable physical characteristics, such as goat wattles.
A goat wattle is basically a mohair-covered appendage of thin flesh that hangs around either side of the animal’s throat. Some goats are born with no wattles, one wattle, or two – one on each side of the throat.
These wattles are mostly considered to be a “leftover” of the evolution of the goat, serve no purpose of good or ill, and are merely a superficial genetic trait. It is impossible to tell if a goat without wattles will produce offspring with wattles by a simple visual examination.
In my experience, wattles are a recessive gene that are produced every single time when both parents (even if they are wattle free) carry the gene.
When my Pearl mated with the best Billy goat to ever walk the planet, Not Negan (may he R.I.P) they always produced kids of both sex with wattles – kidding after kidding for years. But, when Not Negan mated with an equally wattle free goat from my Pygora herd, none of the kids ever produced a single wattle.
If the side hustle is focused on selling goats for meat, dairy, brush clearing, as farm pets – attraction (like goat yoga… yes that really is a thing) or their mohair, the presence of wattles will likely not matter much, if at all.
But, if you are going to breed goats to be show champions because they can bring such a high price and help establish your reputation as a quality breeder, then churning out kids with wattles could sink your business.
Academic degrees of both the 4-year bachelor’s degrees or 2-year associate’s degree do exist for folks interested in being livestock breeders and working in the agricultural field.
The cost for a degree related to animal husbandry will vary by learning institution. The cost of a single online course related to livestock husbandry typically runs between $80 to $250 – if a certificate of completion is offered.
It is possible to take some classes online for free or at a nominal cost, and while these types of classes can offer valuable knowledge, they are generally shorter and less interactive than online or in-person courses/workshops that offer some type of professional certificate of completion.
The beginning farmer courses and internships that can yield valuable educational and hands-on learning opportunities. County “Extension” offices established throughout a state where land grant universities exist also offer free agriculture related training and services to residents.
Colleges or universities that are “land grant” schools almost always offer some type of agriculture education department.
But, animal science degrees of varying types are offered at most institutes of higher learning. Individual academic classes or adult vocational or professional level courses can also be taken.
Common Helpful Livestock Education Course Titles For Breeders
- Nutrition and Health
- Animal Genetics
- Beef cattle management
- Animal Breeding
- Breeding Physiology
- Livestock Reproduction
- Livestock Marketing
- Genetic principles to improve efficiency in livestock
- Feeds and feeding
- Livestock selection and evaluation
- Animal Health
- Livestock First Aid
- Animal Anatomy
- Calf Rearing
- Grazing Management
- Sheep Production
- Poultry Husbandry
- Quickbooks for Farmers
- Social Media and Online Marketing For Agriculture
- Pastured Pigs
- Woodlot Management
- Soil Health
- Livestock Management Plans
- Farm Business Planning
- Farm Records and Analysis
- Animal Diseases
- Goat Production
Learning about livestock first aid either in a professional or academic setting or informally from an experienced rancher or farmer, cannot be recommended highly enough.
A host of important and potentially life-saving medications and healthy supplies for livestock can be purchased over the counter at farm supply stores like Tractor Supply and Rural King.
You can purchase most if not all livestock vaccines you may choose to use, antibiotics like penicillin, and other livestock animal specific preventatives and treatment aids without the need of a vet visit or prescription.
Since the livestock breeding operation would be part of a prepper side hustle, I would also recommend learning how to naturally and/or sustainably deworm, prevent worms, treat bloat, and herbal aids, without the need to visit a commercial supplier.
For example, I have stockpiled diatomaceous earth (DE) and store this cheap and shelf-stable natural mineral in barrels so it can be sprinkled over livestock food to help prevent worms and other parasites in livestock.
It can be tossed into chicken coops, into their coop to help prevent and kill parasites and other germs, into the chicken “dirt baths” for the same reasons, and to sprinkle on any of the livestock struggling with parasites or horseflies. There are lots of ways to use DE on the survival homestead.
Investing in a livestock first aid kit that includes the long gloves and tools you may need to dislodge a baby animal being born in an emergency situation, is always recommended.
Livestock Breeding Funding
The Beginning Farmers and Ranchers loans would likely yield the best chances of approval for folks who are new to breeding and agricultural endeavors.
This type of loan offers a low and fixed rate with somewhat flexible qualifications standards for livestock purchases, barn and structure building, farm equipment, and similar types of permanent buildings and supplies needed for animal husbandry.
If you have a child that is involved in 4-H or FFA and they are going to be involved in the livestock breeding business, it is quite possible a USDA Youth Loan could also be used to help fund this new family prepper side hustle.
County or regional Farm Service Agency offices can also help you find other potential funding for agriculture related businesses that typically offer far better interest and length of loan terms than a traditional bank loan.
The FSA staff also offer a wealth of information related to animal and crop husbandry free of charge and can help you learn more about livestock insurance, farm registration that can allow you to be reimbursed at market rate for the loss of an animal, as well as any other government programs that could aid in your agriculture business.
Best Animal Choices For This Side Hustle
As already noted, the best animals for a prepper side hustle can largely depend on demand in your area or the larger market for a rare breed type.
When choosing livestock it simply cannot be recommended highly enough to choose varieties that will be sustainable to raise on your land during a long-term disaster.
If you do not plan on continuing the prepper side hustle as a bartering business during a SHTF event and the rebuilding stage afterwards (and you should) then you should choose animals that provide a benefit to your family when you can no longer go to a grocery store.
While there are no absolutes in livestock breeds, some are better suited than others for docile behavior, intelligence, and hardiness from a historical perspective.
Learn as much as you can from reputable sources about the different breeds of any livestock type you anticipate raising before purchasing the animals.
If you are breeding a fiber animal to maximize your earning potential now, both sheep and goats can still offer meat for the family during a disaster.
Goats will also be valuable for milk, especially if you do not live on large acreage and cannot keep dairy cattle.
While all goats and sheep can be used for meat, some breeds are far more valuable than others for this purpose – the same thought process holds true for breeding goats breeds that are quality dairy animals.
If you are limited on space or budget or both, consider how keeping a multi-purpose meat and dairy breed of goat or two different breeds kept in separate pens and grazed independently will suit both the supply and demand for the animals now and how they will be useful during a long-term disaster.
Keeping a miniature cattle breed like Dexters, could be an option for small acreage (or even large acreage) self-reliant livestock breeders.
While they do not offer as much meat or even milk as a standard size cattle breed, they also take up far less space to graze, house, and much less to feed.
Keeping chickens, ducks, or rabbits are wonderful livestock breeding options for people with small space and/or a limited budget. They will not bring as much money per sale as a goat, sheep, cow, or hog, but they cost a lot less to purchase and raise.
Poultry birds and rabbits should be steady sellers now when times are normal and be a valuable source of meat or meat and eggs during and after a long-term disaster.
If permitted to free range, ducks and chickens will help keep their feed costs down.
Setting up a free ranging area that you have planned to add potted plants into to keep the inexpensive flow or food, as well as attracting a free protein source (bugs) will keep the husbandry costs down, and help the animals hone their natural instincts to help them better prepare for the day when filling a feed scoop with pellets is no longer possible.
There are as many differences in chicken and duck breeds as there are other types of larger livestock.
Some are produced purely for their meat and reach a much larger weight, others remain a bit smaller and produce quality eggs (of varying size, quantity, and quality), while other chicken and duck breeds are known as dual purpose or multi-purpose breeds – meaning they are frequently produced both for their meat and their eggs.
When selecting chicken and/or duck breeds to raise you should both know what is in demand in your local area and at a local or regional farmer’s market where you will set up a booth as well as what your family and other family’s nearby can use the most during a SHTF event.
Keeping a flock of multi-purpose birds in addition to any meat or egg breeds that you choose to raise for sale now would be wise planning for developing an in demand animal during a long-term disaster.
Free ranging poultry birds and yes, even rabbits, is a healthy and cost free way to feed them, but you WILL lose some to predators. If you create a pen style free ranging area that can be covered with bird netting, they will be far better protected while foraging for their own food.
You can also buy or make a “chicken tractor” so they can forage in safety. Chicken tractors can also be used with ducks and rabbits. At the very least, create a run area around the rabbit hutch so the animals can eat a more natural and free diet.
Remember, rabbits are burrowers, so you will need to dig down at least one foot into the ground and place a layer of hardware cloth covered pressure treated wood or a layer of concrete to prevent them from ultimately escaping during their grazing time.
Hogs can also do some grazing to help feed themselves, or to feed themselves entirely if you have enough land to let them do so. But, the more exercise a hog gets, the less fat that it will put on.
Grassfed hogs also take longer to put on weight. Going the old-fashioned route and “slopping” the hog by providing it with table scraps and garden scraps, can help to keep feed costs down and to put weight on the animal.
In general, keeping a livestock breed of any type of livestock should help it to survive in more austere conditions, keep feed costs down, and produce a more hardy and less human dependent livestock.
Heritage livestock breeds are sometimes difficult to find in some areas and tend to always cost more to purchase – but they sell for more money, as well.
Keep in mind that heritage livestock breeds typically take longer to put on weight than a more modern breed and sometimes do not weigh as much once mature.
The breed, age, and sex of any type of livestock will cause the cost to vary – as will the supply and demand in your local or regional market. Below are the average cost of common breeds of livestock.
Non-registered livestock will always be at the cheaper end of the spectrum. You should expect rare or heritage breeds of livestock to cost more and be more difficult to find in many areas.
- Goats – The average cost for a standard size meat or dairy goat ranges from $150 to $300 on average. Fiber goat breeds of both standard and miniature size commonly range in price from $200 to $450 each. Wether goats are the least expensive, but they cannot reproduce and are used for brush clearing and as pen buddies for Billy goats that are kept separate from the female goats except during mating time.
- Sheep – You can usually purchase sheep for around $200 to $350 each. Lambs typically range in price from $75 to $150 each.
- Hogs – Feeder pigs, as hogs raised for meat are often called, usually range in price from $50 to $150 depending upon breed type and age.
- Cattle – Meat and dairy cattle vary greatly in price, largely depending upon their weight and breed. The average price for a mature cow is between $1,500 and $3,000. Calves are usually sold based upon their weight at a designated price per pound by the breeder.
- Poultry Birds – These are the cheapest type of traditional barnyard livestock that you can purchase. Chicks, ducklings, or poults (baby turkeys) are available from breeders and farm supply stores for about $4 to $7 each for “day olds.” You can luck into a sale for any young birds that have been unsold after several weeks, and get them for about $1 each. These older birds are often old enough not to have to be placed in a brooder, depending upon the time of year that they are purchased. To buy a juvenile to mature chicken, rooster, duck, or turkey you should expect to pay around $15 to $25 dollars per bird.
Even though you are going to be excited to get the livestock breeding off the ground, overextending your budget will be as disastrous as overly taxing the amount of space you have for raising the animals.
You must first decide if it will be important to your breeding business to purchase registered animals. They have a higher price tag to purchase even when they are young, but especially when they have achieved the “established breeder” title.
If you want to be known as a breeder of champion livestock, spending more to purchase a registered animal will be highly advantageous. If you want to be listed in breeder registries and be involved in breed associations, then forking over the extra cash for animals with their papers will also be essential to this type business.
Purchasing established breeding pairs will be more expensive than purchasing young animals that you must raise to maturity before they start churning out offspring for you to sell.
You must weigh the cost of the breeding pair or a single established breeder against both the cost of raising a young animal to maturity and taking a risk on an unproven animal.
Quality breeders will be able to prove their animals or breeding pair have a track record of producing healthy livestock to justify their added purchases cost.
Written records, photos of the breeder with its young, customer testimonials, and livestock show results are the most common ways a breeder will offer as bona fides of the quality of their line.
Skip the urge to make an impulse buy, and spend the time looking over the animals and reviewing the history of an unfamiliar breeder that has not been recommended by someone you know and trust. If a deal seems too good to be true, it most probably is.
A prepper starting a livestock breeding side hustle should know that the mantra, “two is one and one is none” still applies.
If your breeding business is going to be sustainable both now and after the SHTF, work enough viable male and female breeders into your operation that the business can live on even if a single male or mature female does not.
Feed Budgeting Tips
In addition to stockpiling the health tools and medical supplies that could be needed and tucking some money away for emergencies, a breeder must also factor the seasonal food and nutrition needs of the livestock being kept into his or her budget.
Wintering over large livestock and even goats if you live on small acreage, can bust your budget and quickly eat into or completely devour your profits.
Taking the amount of land you have for spring, summer, and fall grazing will help you better determine both what type of animals you can realistically keep and the number that your natural resources can support.
Livestock will also need hay and straw for over the winter to use as a primary feed source and to line their stalls and pens to keep them warm and dry.
Purchasing commercial pellet feed and corn can be part of an animal’s diet, but only a small portion of it.
Giving too much of this type of feed is not healthy for any type of livestock, will not fulfill its nutritional needs, and could cause it to founder when given in high percentages on a daily basis.
You will either need to have enough land to include a quality hayfield along with the equipment, skills, and time to bale the hay or the funds to purchase enough hay to see the livestock through the winter to the fresh grass of spring.
Square hay bales must be stored under a roof, or will get damp and grow mold. Round bales can be stored out in the weather if need be, but will require several strong folks or a tractor with a hay fork implement to move them.
Learning about the different types of hay and how to determine if a bale (particularly a square bale) is old, been damaged by dampness and has signs of mildew, contains quality ingredients or is too full of weeds or clover.
Yes, livestock love clover, but eating too much of it can also cause them to become ill or founder – which is something you also need to be on the lookout for during the early spring when the animals tend to gorge on the tender young grass.
The cost of square and round bales (each can come in different sizes and weights) varies by both location and quality of the hay. The time of year you purchase the hay can either increase or decrease the price, as well.
For example, we spent $210 on 10 round bales of quality hay. These bales are large enough they take two people to roll, some bales are a little larger and can take three to four adults to roll.
Those 10 large bales will supplement the 400 square bales from our hayfields and get all of our horses, goats, mini donkeys, and pigs through the winter.
But, we do not have to start putting out hay until December due to the amount of acreage we have for the livestock to graze upon.
If you plan on breeding goats and have at least a partially wooded homestead, farm, or ranch, they can feed themselves to a higher degree than other livestock during the winter.
Goats are ruminants like deer and will dine upon twigs, brush, and dead leaves to keep themselves from starving. During a survival situation, goats are a hardy livestock that will have a better chance at staving off starvation if hay runs out than cattle, horses, hogs, and even sheep.
Even if you are going to be a small livestock breeder of poultry birds or rabbits, they will still need straw to keep them warm and dry during the winter and the rabbits should be given hay to eat and not just pellets.
When attempting to determine how much hay you will need to get your livestock through the winter, do not just Google it. There are simply too many individualized variables to consider to take the internet’s word for it.
Talk with other local breeders, farmers, and homesteaders to determine how long into the fall their livestock can feed themselves by grazing from a weather and growing pattern as well as type of acreage perspective. Tips from those folks will be quite valuable estimates for you to use when planning your breeding operation.
A 50-pound square bale of hay costs between $3.50 to $7 on average, depending upon the time of year that it was purchased and the local market.
A four to five hundred pound round bale of hay costs $5 to $50 per bale, again on average depending also on the local market and the time of year. Round bales can vary widely in weight from the size noted above to around 1,200 pounds.
How much hay you will need will also vary by the length and harshness of a winter where you live, the type and number of livestock you are breeding.
- Goats – These animals consume between two to up to four pounds of hay per day, which equals roughly three to four percent of their body weight. When supplemented with a grain feed, most keepers average one square bale of hay per week per goat during the winter months. They are a smaller livestock but are ruminants so they will eat far more than you think based upon their sheer size and weight alone.
- Cattle – Cows eat roughly two percent of their body weight (about 24 pounds) per day. Grass hays can contain up to 10 percent moisture, so they would need to consume more of this type of hay to maintain their body weight and optimal health.
- Sheep – A sheep usually consumes .03 pounds of hay per pound of body weight daily. As with all types of livestock, expect the necessary amount of hay to increase if the sheep is pregnant or nursing.
- Rabbits – Mature meat rabbits generally consume roughly four ounces of pellet feed per day. A doe with kits (baby rabbits) need to have about eight ounces of feed per day because she is nursing. Rabbits should also have hay or access to fresh grass in their diet. They prefer Timothy hay, but can eat the same hay as being fed to the rest of your livestock. The feeding of grass and other natural foods to caged meat rabbits can be controversial. If the rabbits are raised having access to their natural food sources, concerns about digestive problems typically evaporate. But, suddenly changing a rabbit’s pellet diet to a natural one when it has not regularly been exposed to the greens and hay diet may have negative health results. As with other types of livestock, raising grassfed meat rabbits can increase the price per animal sold and per pound of meat sold, if your breeding operation is also going to include butchering services.
Supplementing the daily dietary needs of livestock with a grain pellet, crumble, or scratch (poultry birds) is part of the livestock husbandry process for most if not all keepers.
Whether or not you decide to supplement the grazing, browsing (goats), or foraging (poultry birds) of your animals will depend on not just your personal preference, but the type and amount of land that you own and the climate where you live.
Understanding how much hay and/or grain feed each animal you keep will need to thrive will help you better determine how many of each type of livestock will fit your overall breeding operation budget.
Some livestock breeders prefer to rely solely on grazing or browsing feeding of their livestock until winter comes and hay must be given to all but poultry birds.
While it would be time consuming and possibly more expensive, you can grow and/or preserve garden crops and sprouts to feed poultry birds during the winter when finding greens and bugs would be difficult to do in most climates.
Livestock feed is most often sold in 50-pound bags. The cost of a decent quality feed hovers around $10 per bag in most rural markets, but can cost more in suburban settings.
If you want to feed your livestock organic, weight management, or another type of specialized or supposedly champion creating style of feed, expect to pay around $20 to $30 per 50-pound bag of feed.
All stock or sweet mix types of livestock feed can be fed to goats, sheep, horses, hogs, and cattle. If you are going to be raising multiple types of animals, it is often cheaper to purchase just one type of feed in bulk.
You may also be able to purchase a specific type of all stock mix that includes percentages of protein, molasses, corn, etc. that you prefer at an agricultural feed supply business in bulk, as well.
Feed stores typically store your recipe in a computer file so that each time you make an order it can be mixed quickly and ready for pick up.
If you choose to go this route when feeding the livestock remember to save your reusable feed bags, most if not all feed supply stores offer a discount if you return the bags each time you purchase more feed.
Feeding each type of livestock you keep a feed designed just for them or only for animals of a similar type (such as cattle, goats, and sheep which are all ruminants) of feed is also an option.
You might pay around $1 more for feed per bag over the cost of purchasing an all stock feed, but any cost difference depends largely upon brand of feed and local market.
Storing the feed is a lot simpler, costs a little less, and takes up more space when purchasing only one type of feed for all non-poultry livestock.
Simply placing the feed bags in the barn or garage will not work long-term because mice will quickly find them and soil the feed.
Storing feed in metal or thick plastic tubs with a tight fitting lid or using an old deep freeze, are really the only ways to protect it from mice, bugs, and the elements.
During the winter months, when an animal is pregnant or nursing, it is highly recommended to combine a sweet mix or all stock feed with some cracked corn to infuse more crude protein in the diet of the livestock.
Cracked corn is sold in 20 to 50 pound bags in most feed or hunting stores. You should expect to pay between $5 to $30 per bag.
- Goats – As noted, some breeders never feed grain to their goat herds and prefer to let them browse for their food except during the winter months when hay is fed. The average amount of grain given to goats when they are not browsing but are pen kept and fed solely grain and hay is one and a half pounds of grain per day for a standard stature adult goat of either sex. This amount is reduced by half when feeding miniature goat breeds like Pygmy, Nigerian Dwarf, Pygora, or Nigora goats. The amount of feed for goat kids is about ½ of a pound per day. But, if the goat herd is also browsing for its own food (which is far more ideal from a cost and health perspective) I recommend giving not more than half a quart of feed at most to adult goats and one fourth of a quart of feed to goat kids.
- Cattle – Cows consume up to two percent of their body weight or 24 pounds of dry matter on average, per cow per day. A total of 7 percent of the dry matter eaten should be hay, leaving the other 3 percent to come from store bought grain.
- Sheep – All stock feed ration guidelines recommend mature sheep be given up between one and a half to two and a half pounds per day of the feed. As with goats, this high feed ration is often reserved only for animals that are pen kept and cannot browse for food and live upon feed pellets and the hay supplied by keepers.
- Poultry Birds – Mature poultry birds, especially laying hens, typically consume close to two pounds of feed per week. That figure amounts to approximately four ounces (around a half a cup) of feed per bird per day. Flocks that are allowed to free range will supply a lot of the nutrients they need during the spring and summer months and early weeks of fall, allowing you to cut back on their daily food rations.
- Meat Rabbits – Breeds of rabbits raised for their meat typically range in price from around $15 to $35 each.
Livestock Space And Housing
This is perhaps the most important fact to consider when planning to breed livestock. Even if your pockets are lined with money, you simply cannot create more available space – unless you purchase more.
Not only will you need to build a barn, run-in wood or metal shed, and coop, the livestock will need a run on the coop, a pen around the shed, and pasture around a barn to live humanely, safely, and in a healthy manner.
Runs can be purchased in kits made out of metal framing and chicken wire, or made using metal or pressure treated wood posts and hardware cloth or chicken wire.
- Goats – Every mature goat kept will need between eight to 10 square feet of shelter floor space, at a minimum. Some experts and breeders recommend up to 25 square feet per goat. If you free range your goats or they have a spacious pen, that eases overcrowding concerns related to the safety and health of the animals. On average, a goat shelter for a herd of 10 standard size animals should measure roughly 120 to 250 square feet. A single acre of land is large enough for a pen for about three to eight goats.
- Rabbits – Mature meat rabbits should have at a minimum three square feet of floor space in a hutch that is at least two feet tall. A run attached to the hutch will increase the living and foraging opportunities for the rabbits. The bucks in the rabbit colony will need to have separate living quarters to avoid potentially dangerous over mating and harm to any kits that are born.
- Sheep – Each sheep should have access to approximately eight to 10 square feet of living space in their barn, stall, or shed. A 1-acre of land will create a large enough outdoor pen space for between six to eight mature sheep.
- Hogs – Mature hogs will each require eight square feet of living space inside their shelter. A 1-acre hog pen is large enough for roughly 20 hogs.
- Chickens – Adult chickens should each have three to four square feet of sheltered indoor living space, in addition to a communal run for the flock. This means approximately 10 to 12 chickens could live inside of a coop that is 4X8 feet in size.
- Ducks – A mature duck requires three to five square feet of living space. Because domesticated ducks do not roost like chickens, their living space must all be calculated at ground level. Remember to calculate space for a baby pool or small garden pond inside the run if the flock will not be turned loose every three days at the bare minimum to soak in a larger pond or creek.
- Turkeys – Adult turkeys need five to eight square feet of sheltered living space, in addition to a run.
Skimping on the living areas for the livestock will (not can or may) cause them to live in overcrowded conditions that will provoke bad behavior that can lead to serious or deadly injuries as force them to dwell in their own mess – which sparks rapidly spreading diseases.
Potential customers will immediately notice the cramped living conditions and quite possibly dirty and ill livestock and not only choose not to purchase an animal from you, but destroy your breeding reputation by word of mouth – and in our modern world, likely trash you on the internet and reach possible buyers far beyond your local area.
Following the recommended shelter and living space guidelines for each type of livestock you intend on breeding as part of the prepper side hustle, the due diligence will easily pay for itself in the long run.
Livestock Breeding Supplies
Some expenses will be recurring for livestock breeders, like regular hay and feed purchases. Others, like barns, pens, and coop runs, will be a one time purchase that may ultimately need some repair or expansion over the life of your prepper side hustle business.
On the chart below you will find other common husbandry supplies with approximate current market costs to help you better grasp the true start-up expenses associated with breeding any type of common barnyard livestock.
|Medium Sized Livestock||Hanging Hay Feeders||$30-$75|
|Poultry Birds||Poultry Waters||$20-$25|
|Chicks, Ducklings, Poults||Chick Waterer||$3-$5|
|Poultry Birds||Poultry Feeders||$10-$20|
|Chicks, Ducklings, Poults||Chick Feeders||$3-$5|
|Goats and Sheeps||Feeders||$10-15|
|All||Bedding Straw||$3-5 per bale|
|Goats||Baking Soda – free choice supplement||$.50-$1|
|All but Rabbits *||Salt Block||$10-$15|
|All but Rabbits *||Mineral Block||$3-7|
* There is a lot of debate about whether or not rabbits need salt or mineral blocks if they are raised in what some experts deem the healthiest manner – which means a diet with a lot of commercial feed filled with supplements.
If you plan on keeping meat rabbits, please research further the dietary options, and choose the type that you believe will yield the healthiest animals and appeal to the market you are attempting to serve.
The type and number of vaccinations that are offered over the counter or from a veterinarian for any of the livestock varieties on this list is vast.
The average cost of a vial of over the counter vaccination, medication, commercial dewormer, or livestock bloat treatment is less than $20 each.
Depending upon the size of the vial, you may be able to vaccinate more than one animal, but that varies per type of medication and size of the animal, as well.
Pricing Animals and Marketing Your Business
Knowing your market is key to determining how many animals you should purchase to fulfill local demand without saturating the market and driving your own prices down.
The market in which you live might be highly focused on registered animals even if they are only being sold as pets, brush clearers, or for meat and dairy purposes.
While any other breeders in your local or regional area must be looked upon as competitors, there is also typically a camaraderie among livestock keepers. Networking with them to not only purchase livestock but to learn from, can help you with the budgetary planning.
It is not uncommon in our area for breeders and ranchers to share tips about hay sellers, upcoming events for livestock sales and marketing opportunities, and to pass along customers that are ready to buy but want a different breed, age, or sex of animal than you currently have available.
Doing a breeder a good turn when you can’t make a sale often comes back to you when the other breeder can pay forward the favor.
Determining the price for the livestock you are selling will also depend upon multiple factors, regardless of the type of animal you choose to raise, breed, and sell.
The local market or even the regional or national market if you are going to market beyond your zip code and engage in delivery or livestock shipping services, will dictate how much you will reasonably expect to earn when selling an animal.
Once your breeding business has established a solid reputation, you will likely be able to increase the price per animal, but will still largely be working within the current supply and demand dictates of the market in which you are selling.
If you choose to sell hard to find breeds of livestock, your initial investment will likely be higher, but so will the potential yield from each customer purchase made.
Social Media Marketing
The marketing of a new livestock breeding business does not need to cost a lot of money, thanks to social media.
You can purchase ads on Facebook and they can bring in customers, but joining groups for the specific animal you are trying to sell and general farming, prepping, and homesteading pages will cost you nothing, and generally allow you to post an image of the animal, details about the animal, and your zip code so customers know what you have on offer and where you are located.
Facebook rules prohibit posting the price of the animal in posts, but group pages typically permit you to post a price in the comments section under the post and request potential buyers to instant message you for the price and further details.
You should create social media pages on all of the major platforms to promote your livestock breeding side hustle on and to share photos, videos, and for sale announcements.
Pinterest is another social media hub that would be beneficial for breeders to share information on and permits the launching of a business or professional account for free and permits page and group online sales just like Facebook.
Also, it would be worth your time to post information on social media platforms that more typically attract preppers and the self-reliant set, like MeWe and Gab.
Join livestock organizations, county agricultural society, breed associations, and become involved with the local 4-H and FFA groups to get to know local buyers and breeders on a personal level.
The time and little bit of money it may take to join such groups will help not only get your business known in your community, but also to help establish your reputation as a reputable breeders and one that is focused on being a valuable part of the local agricultural community, as well.
Selling top quality livestock to 4-H club members is often a major part of a breeders income in rural areas. Extremely specific rules and written in stone purchase time frames are involved when selling to 4-H members.
Connecting with the county Extension office will help you to better become acquainted with the animal regulations and the calendar dates that young animals must be ready to go buy for consideration for showing at the fair.
In addition to joining livestock associations for the type of animals that you keep and getting listed on their books and on their website, you should create your own website to post not just photos and videos related to the animals you have for sale, but to personalize your breeding business by sharing your own personal homesteading, farming, breeding, etc. story to help customers get to known and trust you.
Customized domain names typically range in price from just $12 to $20. You do not need to be a computer whiz to set up a blog or website.
Both Google’s Blogger blogging platform (free) and nominally priced website creator services via GoDaddy and WordPress generally cost around $200, and allow both discounted annual payments at startup or monthly payments to help defray costs.
Starting a livestock breeding prepper side hustle can bring in a copious amount of extra dollars now and be an excellent source of barter during a long-term disaster and the months (or years) of the rebuilding stage.
As with anything else in life, you will get out of this home based business as you put into it. Keeping livestock is work. The animals will need fed even when it is -2 degrees outside, when you are busy, sick, or your child is a starting player in the big tournament.
Not only will you have to go outside in the bitter cold or pouring down rain to feed your livestock, you may also have to go back out at least once more to crack ice in their waterers and on your pond.
Floating bottles filled with salt water can help prevent freezing, as can livestock waterer heaters – if you have electricity in your barn, but donning your long johns and thickest winter coat is still going to be necessary.
Animals do not give birth, get stuck in fencing, or become injured on our time schedule or only during sunny spring days.
If you go into this prepper side hustle with open eyes, a budget you stick to, husbandry knowledge, and the time necessary to devote to a livestock breeding operation, this new business can be highly lucrative and filled with joy.
But remember, raising livestock WILL be messy, smelly, and gory at times. Invest in good quality work gloves… You’re gonna need ‘em!
Tara Dodrill is a homesteading and survival journalist and author. She lives on a small ranch with her family in Appalachia. She has been both a host and frequent guest on preparedness radio shows. In addition to the publication of her first book, ‘Power Grid Down: How to Prepare, Survive, and Thrive after the Lights go Out’, Dodrill also travels to offer prepping tips and hands-on training and survival camps and expos.