There are endless ways to create your own self-sustaining homestead using 1-acre of land. Some people prefer to keep cows, goats, pigs and hens, while others prefer to keep animal livestock to a minimum, or none at all. With or without livestock, your home can provide you with most of your everyday needs.
Here’s a brief overview how you can turn one-acre of land into a self-sustaining homestead.
How To Raise A Dairy Cow
There are a multitude of pros and cons to keeping a cow on your self-sustaining homestead, although mostly pros if you are willing to put in the extra work. Cows can provide milk, meat and their rich manure makes a great natural fertilizer.
Fresh, all natural cow milk is healthy for you and your family, and it also benefits other livestock such as pigs and poultry. Cow manure will also promote better soil fertility so that your garden continually produces more delicious produce each year.
Still, a cow is an annual expense that can tally near a few hundred dollars each year, or more. If you can afford the original bill for keeping happy, healthy cows, you will make your money back with everything a cow has to offer.
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It’s not difficult to milk a cow once you learn how, and it can be done in as little as 8 minutes. Cow’s milk can be used to make everything from cream, cheese and a delicious glass of milk.
It is not impossible to maintain a self-sustaining homestead without a cow, but it’s much easier to do so with a cow. If you plan to add a dairy cow to your yard, you will need to milk her regularly and if you plan to go out of town you will need someone experienced to take over while you are gone.
Pasture For Dairy Cow + Crop Rotation
If you choose to keep a cow you can assume that half of your acre will be dedicated to pasture, which you may never plow, or you can plow every four-years if you plan to rotate crops.
It is recommended to rotate crops in strips of a quarter of the half-acre, resulting in freshly sown pasture that varies in age. If you have freshly sown pasture that is 2-years-old, 3-years-old, and 4-years-old, you will have the most productive land usage.
Illustration by: Dorling Kindersley
How To Manage Grazing
If grass becomes overgrazed you need to remove cows from the area right away. Rotational grazing is key in order to keep the grass healthy, as grass does best when it has plenty of time to fully grow before being grazed or cut down. It is so important to carefully manage grazing in order to prevent your entire pasture from turning to dust.
A half-acre of grass should keep a little Jersey cow plump all summer. It is unlikely you will have any leftover grass, but if you do it can be used to make hay. In order to prevent overgrazing, your cow will need a place to stay inside for the winter, but will still require some fresh air every day.
The other half of your one-acre will be farmed as a garden. Ideally, you will separate this land into four sections so that annual crops grow in a strict crop rotation.
Example of an ideal crop rotation:
–Grass (four years)
–Plot 1: Potatoes
–Plot 2: Legumes (pea and bean family)
–Plot 3: Brassicas (cabbage family)
–Plot 4:Root Vegetables (carrots, beets, etc.)
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Over time, your 1-acre farm can become more productive than a 10-acre farm built using commercial lines.
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A goat is a great asset for times when cow milk runs dry. In fact, all farm animals will provide their own unique benefits.
Different animals require different living conditions, but all require some sort of indoor shelter for at least part of the year. Bedding for indoor stalls is something you must factor into your budget.
Animals will consume any food you do not; in fact you won’t need a compost pile with animals around.
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Even if you only have a very small amount of space to work with, you can still develop a self-sufficient home.
Photo Credit: Lamar Alexander
This information was taken from The Self-Sufficient Life and How To Live It, written by the late John Seymour. The treasured classic is now available as a 400-page illustrated masterpiece. If you are truly interested in starting your own self-sufficient homestead it’s a beneficial read!