In the Hudson Valley, there are farmers’ markets and veggie CSAs all over the place, but buying livestock is a little trickier.
I’m only buying feeder lambs and pigs - babies that have been weaned from their mothers - and I will be raising them to market weight. This is partly because I’m not able to invest in winter housing and partly because I have off-farm work year-round. My hope is to keep things simple by sacrificing control over the genetics of my animals for a little sanity.
It is really hard to find feeder pigs in this area - I talked to at least five people before I was able to get a hold of a pig breeder. Most farmers in the Hudson Valley have some pigs on the side and either keep some breeding stock or buy a few pigs here and there from other people with small pig enterprises.
I am buying 24 pigs all at once ( an average litter is 8-10 pigs) that are close enough in age so that I don’t have older pigs beating up on little pigs. This means that I really need three sows farrowing (giving birth) within a week of each other to meet my needs. The farm I'm buying from is big enough to have pigs farrowing frequently. My pig lady loves her pigs so much - I feel very lucky to have found her.
Most people don’t sell feeder lambs possibly because lamb is less popular in this part of the world and probably because they are ruminants that like to be on pasture and require a little more management. Pigs are easier to have as a side enterprise because you can tuck them in any corner of your farm you want tilled up and they eat more grain and less grass.
The sheep farmer I’m buying lambs from usually grows them out himself and sells the meat at farmers’ markets. By buying live animals from him while they’re young he has fewer animals to manage on grass and does not have to put out the resources to get those animals processed and sold. My lamb guy generously offered to loan me a donkey, he will be a guardian animal for my flock. I hear coyotes yowling almost every night and I will certainly sleep better knowing the lambs aren’t out there by themselves.
This is one of those things that make having my own farm feel real. At this point I feel like I think I know what I want but I’ve never purchased animals before and these two big purchases dictate a lot about how my final product will turn out. It's an adventure!
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Leanna at Four Legs Farm