Part 4 of our Covid-Induced Homesteading Fever seminar — the ruminant.
Ruminant. It means an animal whose stomach is so wildly compartmentalized that she can break down cellulose and use it for food energy — at least, her gut biome can do all of this. In the United States and most of Europe, this means a cow, a goat, or a sheep. How do you choose? Well, you start with the land and ask 1) what kind of ruminant eats what this land is growing? and, 2) is the topography of this land prohibitive to any of the ruminants I’m considering?
What’s growing on your land? Grass, weeds, or briars — or, more likely, all three? In what proportion? If you can hardly move for the briars, goats are your best friend. If you’ve got a whole lot of grass, or what looks like grass to you, cows are going to be very happy. Sheep like grass, but are just wonderful on tall, weedy broadleafs. All three can do pretty well on a big, weedy pasture, but if it’s very steep, then larger breeds of cow may have difficulty getting around, and may tear some paths into the soil that will lead to erosion.
All three species give good milk, and are easy to manage. Cows give the most volume, sheep give the richest milk (mostly used for cheese), and goats’ milk, being naturally homogenized, is easier for some folks to digest.
Next post, we’ll talk about fences.