Many people do not keep farm animals due to their own physical limitations, not enough land and because of the work and expense of keeping them. However, strong, healthy people who have land should consider keeping farm animals because of their many benefits. It is true that keeping farm animals has its hardships and heartbreaks, but it has its positive practicalities too, such as how they provide food and eat unwanted shrubs. Additionally, there are the moments of wonder, friendship and love that one can have with them.
Animals provide food. Goats, cows and even sheep can be milked. Whether a person wants to make cheese and yogurt or just drink the fresh, delicious milk from these dairy animals, having them right on site is very convenient. Chickens and ducks give eggs and meat. Eggs are a seasonal product and chickens and ducks give fewer eggs the older they get, but chickens are so amusing and charming that they can be kept purely for entertainment once their egg laying years are over. In addition to the food that poultry provides, pigs, goats, cows and sheep can be raised for meat. Raising animals for meat may be a frightening prospect for some; however, there are certified people who can take the animals away to be harvested or humanely do it on site while the owner is away. In short, raising animals for meat may be difficult, but it is well worth the effort.
As a result of being such an integral part in the lives of one’s food source, the animal’s owner will always know the details of how the animal was treated and fed. Additionally, if the quality of the life of animals raised for food is important to the owner, then the owner will be able to treat their animals accordingly. The animals will be raised in the way that the individual wants them to be, and there will be no question about whether or not the eggs produced by one’s own chickens are organic or free range, or that the meat is humanely raised.
Animals work. As well as providing food for humans, animals eat plants and shrubs that humans do not want. Today there are many invasive species, such as Autumn Olive, taking over in our area as well as elsewhere, and goats, sheep and cows can do a fabulous job of keeping those species at bay. Of course, they will eat other things in the pasture too, but this can be monitored with fencing and rotational grazing. Chickens and ducks are also great at scratching up a garden space before planting in the spring. While they are scratching and pecking for food, they will also be providing manure that is excellent fertilizer for the soil of the lands that they are clearing.
In addition to being practical, farm animals enrich people’s lives. It is true that having animals does tie people down since it sometimes is hard to find someone to take care of one’s animals while one is away. However, having them can make home a welcoming place. When one comes home to animals who are happy to see them (and probably eager to be fed), it gives contentment. Animals are also interesting topics for stories or conversations. One can write about their animal experiences and photograph and draw their animals as well.
Animals are entertaining. Having animals is like having a nature TV program right in the yard, all the time. Goats are notoriously playful and capricious. They love to jump around and climb on things, especially when they are young. The interactions between farm animals are fascinating, whether in the same species or among different species.
Taking care of animals builds character. By observing animals and taking care of them, people learn how to commit to taking care of another living being and coming to love that creature is a formative experience. Commitment and follow-through are built when one has living beings that must be taken care of and fed. The animals are there in the pasture or barn every day, which means they must be tended to every day as well. It is true that this may be a lot of work, yet that constancy is one of the greatest things about keeping animals.
In contrast to the commitment and work that must be put into animals, taking care of them gives pleasure. Besides the fact that it is surprisingly satisfying to pitch a load of manure out of the barn or to do the milking every morning, going out to take care of animals can be a relief from the fast-paced pressures of modern life. It can also be satisfying to show an animal at fair or to sell a calf from one’s own cow.
Above all else though, animals are friends. Looking beyond the many practical purposes for keeping them, animals can make fantastic companions. Most animals are great listeners. While they may not always provide input or advice, (and they may walk away while one is talking to them) animals will provide a non-judgmental ear. Animals will not care if their human has done something hurtful or irresponsible elsewhere in their life. Animals will love right back no matter what is going on in their human’s life. What they care most about is being fed and cared for, and being treated with respect. The more time a person spends with a particular creature, the more human and animal become attuned to each other’s habits and expressions. The bonds between humans and animals are amazing and beautiful.
Animals not only provide practical things like food and land management; they also make wonderful friends and give pleasure to their caregivers. My family and I have had chickens for nearly ten years, and goats and a cow for three. Taking care of these animals and forging bonds with them has developed me as a person and has given me so much more confidence. It is true that animals can be a lot of work, take up a lot of space and cost a lot of money, but if one has the means to do so, one should consider acquiring farm animals. In the words of Anatole France:
“Until one has loved an animal a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.”