What’s Deceiving About Farming Information


Animals raised for family use on plenty of clean pasture don't need the complex care that commercial farm animals do.

If you pick up a book about raising cows or sheep or goats, you will probably be overwhelmed by the information.  The details of caring for animals is complex and the authors are usually poor writers and what they write (if you actually read it) usually doesn’t make any sense.   Much of it is regurgitated info from other sources who DID understand it, but provided additional info to make it useful.  Regardless, if you DID figure it all out, you’d find it to be a big waste of time–especially if you’re a small scale farmer seeking the good life and not money.

Farming is made complicated by the desire for money–not animals, feed and crops.  When plants and animals are turned into cash machines, then farming gets ugly and complicated.  Anytime you hear people talking about nutrients, feeds, medications, and most other common farm topics, you’re reading about how to use the farm as a way of making cash–not about farming for life and happiness.

If you read between the lines, you’ll find that the people offering this kind of advice are assuming you are trying to maximize the production of every plant and animal to make the maximum profit.  They assume you’re trying to cram as many animals as possible into a small space.  They assume you don’t want to actually have your hands and eyes on your plants and animals, but want them to be out of sight until harvest time comes. 

If you are interested in farming for the right reasons, you need concern yourself with none of this–and farming becomes very. very simple.

A family needs but one or two cows, a few goats or sheep, a flock of chickens and gardens.  When these are managed naturally, you don’t have nutritional deficiencies or diseases threatening your farm.  You don’t need to buy expensive feeds.  The animals need to be on pasture, eating grass and they need water.  Goats and sheep can browse areas with brush, leaves and grass.  If you have enough land for your animals to eat on you will never need to worry about feeds.  If your pastures are clean and dry, you will not have problems with worms, parasites, etc..

Worse, if you feed your animals lots of grains, they will expect them and will lose the taste for grass and hay.   You will find that cutting off grain supplies makes the animals eat more grass…which is the healthiest food of all for them.  The vitamins they need are found on open, sunny, clean pastures.  Supplementation (if you read carefully) is only needed for animals NOT kept on pasture in the sun and air.  

Worms and parasites breed where animal population is high, the land is wet and animals spend a lot of time eating close to their own feces.  No duh…these conditions would make anyone sick.  Animals on sunny, airy and dry pastures–and not crammed on them by farmers trying to raise more animals than they should–will be healthy and have no such problems. 

If you try to raise animals or plants in an unnatural way for unnatural goals, you will have all kinds of problems and will need to become an expert in chemical treatments.  If you are content with the natural produce of your gardens and animals, you will need no such headaches.  Be content with what your animals provide you on grass and water.  You may not get as much milk as the commercial dairy…but you will have a healthy farm and not an animal hospital.  You may not get as many eggs as the commercial hen houses….but you will also not have their filth and disease.  Be content with nature’s own production levels and don’t try to force more by turning to chemicals and artificial methods.  You should not keep more than 1 cow per acre of pasture and 4 sheep per acre.  That will provide well for your family, but if you’re hoping to make money, you will beging to add animals and buy feeds…and medicines.   Your costs will soar and you will ultimately know none of the joys that come with healthy farming.

Take your Bible off the shelf and you’ll find the best farming advice.  Care for your animals as the Lord cares for you, his sheep.  Provide them with green pastures and fresh waters.  Protect them from their enemies.  You will have a farm filled with peace and health–which no money can buy.

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4 Responses to What’s Deceiving About Farming Information

  1. Amy Kline says:

    “You should not keep more than 1 cow per acre of pasture and 4 sheep per acre.”

    How much land does a family need? We have almost three rural acres; could we put one cow on the first acre, four sheep on the second, and a garden and chickens on the third? Or is that not enough?

    We’re trying to discern whether our current situation is worth sticking with for the long haul or to save up and move somewhere larger. The line between mere discontent with what one has and legitimate desire to improve has gotten blurred for us.

    • villapacis says:

      If you’re allowed to have animals on your 3 acres, then that is a good size for what you said. You can keep the cows and sheep on one acre and supplement their feed. What we would do on our farm is leave the other acre to grow for hay (which is cut and baled twice each summer). The animals would be on the grass only all summer and fed hay & grains when the grass started to get low (under 2″).


  2. Jason Knight says:

    How much land do you think is the minimum for attaining the kind of self-sufficiency you have for a family farm?

    Is 5 acres enough? 10? 20 or more? For some reason, in my head, I need 20 or more acres . . . but, it looks like you’re doing so much and you have 15, right?

    What should one look for when looking at purchasing land for a family farm? Topography? Is a pond necessary? Pasture? Trees? Can you explain what you think would be necessary and what would be ideal?

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