Low Maintenance Farm Animals: Top Choices for Easy Care Livestock

Especially if you have zero experience with raising farm animals, it can helpful to start with low maintenance farm animals.

Raising farm animals is an enriching experience that offers a closer connection to your food sources but also a sense of fulfillment.

There is such joy in watching a newborn calf run around, or witnessing the birth of a baby lamb. I love it, especially babies on the farm.

I know that they will become food for someone, nourishment to their bodies. And that is all well and good.

However, the thought of caring for animals can be daunting. There can be a degree high of work involved with raising farm animals.

As a steward of animals, you are responsible for their care. The workload doesn’t concern me, as I find the learning curve is usually more challenging than the workload.

Even in todays information age, practical experience is the best teacher.

Fortunately, some farm animals are well-suited for those looking for a less demanding start into the world of animal husbandry.

Our first farmstead animal were chickens. Broilers, I believe, the first year. Next came a couple of bottle calves that we raised for meat. We added laying hens, and sheep shortly after. Then came turkeys, and pigs.

Sheep, goats, and chickens are examples of animals that are often considered low maintenance, although I would challenge this idea.

Sheep and goats are a struggle to contain if you don’t have the right fencing, and they can be a bit of trouble makers.

They have the advantage of being smaller animals, that don’t require elaborate housing or specialized diets, which makes them great choices for beginners.

With basic shelter, consistent water supply, and proper feed, you can keep these animals healthy with a relatively small amount of effort.

Small animals still need some kind of fence, as I don’t ever recommend keeping them inside a barn all the time.

Managing your expectations and being prepared are key elements to a successful small farm or homestead.

Low maintenance farm animals can provide you with fresh produce such as milk, eggs, and wool, while also keeping your grass trimmed without the constant need for intensive care.

With the grass trimming also comes a lot of manure, even if its small sheep pebbles.

As with all animals, they can still be susceptible to illness, or getting into random places of trouble. A smaller animal is great for beginners because they need less feed and space.

A big cow is a lot more intimidating to the beginner farmer than a sheep or goat!

Being informed about the specific needs and characteristics of the animals you choose ensures a smooth journey into sustainable living.

Choosing the Right Animals

When selecting animals for your farm, focus on compatibility with your land the resources you have. Take into consideration your lifestyle and the degree of care each type requires.

Considerations for Small-Scale Farming

Space: Measure your available area. Different animals need varying amounts of room to thrive.


Climate: Your local weather patterns will affect your livestock. Choose animals that can adapt to your region’s temperatures and weather conditions.


Resources: Assess what you can reasonably provide in terms of feed, water, and shelter. Do you need to travel to obtain feed? What about water sources? Animals need clean water daily.


Purpose: Determine if you are farming for personal use or commercial purposes. This will guide your livestock choices. Are you wanting to put meat into the freezer, or eggs on the table?

Always start small. You can always increase the amount of animals with time.

We started our first sheep flock with 10 expectant ewes, and that was a wonderful start for us. We realized we really enjoyed it, and increased that number in the following year.

Traits of Low Maintenance Animals

Feeding: Look for animals that graze or forage, like sheep or rabbits, as this will reduce your feeding workload. But this also depends on how large your area of land is.

One small sheep doesn’t need a whole lot of acreage, but of you increase the number, your requirement for pasture will increase.


Healthcare: Go for breeds known for good health with minimal need for regular veterinary attention. Take into consideration parasite resistance, and animal size.

When buying animals from a farmer, take not of the conditions the animal is living in. That can be a huge sign of the health of his animals.


Temperament: Select breeds with a calm demeanor, as they are easier to handle and require less daily intervention.


Reproduction: How will your females be bred? Are you keeping a male counterpart? AI? Breeds that can reproduce without assistance and have easy birthing are preferable for low maintenance.

Top Low Maintenance Farm Animals

When considering farm animals that require minimal care, you want to look for those that are hardy, disease-resistant, and thrive with basic shelter, food, and water.

Poultry

Chickens and ducks are your go-to birds for low-effort farming. They need simple coops, easy access to water, and regular feed. Chickens also provide you with healthy, pasture fed eggs, while ducks add pest control to their uses.

Sheep

Sheep are excellent grazers and can often take care of their nutritional needs themselves if you have enough grassland.

They’re relatively resilient to disease, but can be prone to parasites when overcrowding happens. They need only basic shelter from extreme weather, food, and water.

What makes sheep less low maintenance is their hooves are need to be trimmed periodically and their wool sheared annually.

When getting sheep, a handling system is vital. We’ve done it without, but it makes for a lot of hard work.

Goats

Goats are versatile and can adapt to various environments. Providing them with sufficient pasture, water, and a safe enclosure will often suffice.

They’re also useful for weed and brush control, efficiently clearing land while feeding themselves. But, they will attempt to escape every sort of fencing, and can get into a lot of trouble in a short amount of time.

Rabbits

Rabbits are one of the most low-maintenance livestock options. They need a small living space and a diet of hay, pellets, and fresh greens.

Rabbits typically have a short breeding cycle and can be a source of meat or fiber, depending on the breed.

Daily Care and Management

Managing low maintenance farm animals effectively involves establishing consistent routines. Your attention to their feeding, health, and shelter is crucial for their wellbeing.

Feeding Regimens

Chickens:

  • Feed twice a day with layer pellets or grains.
  • Ensure continuous access to clean water.

Sheep:

  • Offer hay or pasture for grazing; supplement with grains if necessary.
  • Provide fresh water daily.

Goats:

  • Provide a mix of pasture, hay, and occasional grains.
  • Clean water should be available at all times.

Health Monitoring

General Checks:

  • Observe animals daily for signs of distress or illness. Every farmer should be attending to his animals daily. There might be times when you leave that you are able to leave them with enough food and water for several days. That’s fine. As long as its not a dairy cow, or broilers, you should be fine.

Parasite Control:

  • Administer deworming treatments as advised by your vet.
  • Check for external parasites like lice or mites regularly.

Hoof Care:

  • Trim hooves of goats and sheep every 6-8 weeks to prevent foot problems.

Shelter Requirements

Chickens:

  • A coop or hen house that protects from predators and severe weather.
  • Nesting boxes with bedding and a perch for roosting.

Sheep and Goats:

  • A barn or shed to provide refuge from extreme weather and predators.
  • Clean bedding to maintain dryness and comfort.
  • A secure fence.

Starting with low maintenance farm animals is a great start, and will help you become confident in raising animals.

Animal husbandry can be intimidating when you’ve never done it before, but if you truly care for the animals, you will be fine.

My top recommendation for low maintenance farm animals would be chickens.

Even raising broilers for meat birds is not that difficult, and it gives you a quick return for you investment, as they can be in the freezer in 8 weeks.