Living on a small-acreage homestead doesn’t mean your dream of having a farm filled with animals like Old McDonald can’t come true.
In fact, there are several livestock that will do exceedingly well on your small-acreage farm. These animals not only add life to your homestead, but they also make great companions for a petting zoo, if you’re looking for additional income streams.
Read below for 4 animals that will thrive on your small-acreage farm or homestead.
(Please note: As with any livestock purchase, check your zoning laws first. Some laws require a minimum acreage amount to own livestock.)
Weighing between 250 to 450 pounds and reaching up to 32 inches in height, miniature donkeys are cute farm friends native to the Mediterranean. Males are referred to as “jacks” and females are called “jennets.”
Miniature donkeys are great options for small-acreage homesteads of farms because they only need (at minimum) 1 acre of land to pasture in. These mini donkeys require the same standard of care as most other livestock: consistent clean water, hay or feed, access to a shelter to escape the elements, hoof care, regular grooming, deworming and veterinary care.
Donkeys are herd creatures, so adding miniature donkeys to your homestead means adding at least two mini donkeys to the farm family. No, other livestock won’t count as companionship—miniature donkeys want others of their kind around.
Additionally, miniature donkeys are an investment in decades: they can live to be up to 47 years old, with many living to their early 40s.
While miniature donkeys can be successfully pastured with horses, it’s not recommended that you pasture them with goats or sheep. Jacks tend to be aggressive in their play, “biting” necks as they romp with their friends. While this works when it’s another miniature donkey, this type of playful behavior puts your goats and sheep at risk of injury or death. Some people choose to pasture their Jennets with goats and sheep because females tend to be less playful, making sure to allow their goats and sheep an “escape route” should the female donkey decide she wants to play a bit too aggressively with the goats and sheep. Read more about pasturing your miniature donkeys here.
For more detailed information on caring for your miniature donkey, check out this post.
Llamas are a social and friendly lot, making them a great addition to your small-acreage homestead or farm.
They grow up to 72 inches (head height) and weight between 250 to 300 lbs at maturity. Llamas live, on average, between 20 – 25 years.
For those who are llama uninitiated, it can be easy to assume that llamas are a spitting hazard. However, that is not always the case. Spitting is used as a defense mechanism and as a way of establishing hierarchy in a llama herd. Young llamas should be raised without bottle-feeding or over-socializing, otherwise these friendly camelids will start to view us as one of them, resorting to the same communication tactics (i.e. spitting and more) to establish dominance. Look for llamas that were raised by breeders with this knowledge in mind.
Llamas aren’t particularly picky when it comes to space; they need about 2 acres of fenced pasture for up to a dozen llamas. The same rules for livestock apply to llamas—a shelter from the elements, access to a salt block, plenty of clean water, and hay (llamas will go through 10 – 12 lbs of hay daily) or a variety of natural gasses.
You’ll want to find a veterinarian who is familiar with llama care. Llamas are vulnerable to many of the same diseases as other livestock like cattle or sheep. As a wooly creature, your llama’s coat will need to be maintained. Shearing is recommended yearly.
Llamas can be used as guardians over your other pasture animals, as they tend to bond relatively quickly with their pasture companions and are naturally aggressive toward common predators like foxes, coyotes, and dogs. When spotting a predator, llamas will react through shrill noises, spitting, or even herding their companions away from the threat.
Your llama will also need at least one other llama to keep it company, though if you are using yours for guarding purposes, you’ll want to put one llama at a time at pasture to avoid any dominance conflicts while on duty between the two llamas.
Alpacas are another popular small-acreage livestock option. With a lifespan of 15 – 20 years, these fellow camelids are about half the size of llamas, weighing between 120 – 200 lbs.
Alpaca care largely echoes that of llamas, with land requirements of one acre of land for every 6 alpacas. However, because alpacas are smaller, they are not suited for the role of pasture guardian like llamas are.
Like the other herd animals on this list, alpacas need at least one other alpaca companion to truly thrive.
Out of all the animals on this list, pot-bellied pigs need the least amount of space. In fact, pot-bellied pigs can even be kept as pets! But if creating a pen for pot-bellied pig area outdoors, allow for at least 130 square feet for up to two pot-bellied pigs (with larger pigs needing more space).
While pot-bellied pigs are genetically diverse and come in a variety of sizes depending on breed, they generally can weigh between 90 – 150 lbs and 16 – 30 inches tall.
If digging holes in your beloved land makes you cringe, a pot-bellied pig is not for you. These animals habitually “root” with their snouts, both as play and as digging holes to lie in. This is an important protective behavior given that pigs don’t sweat, and use the dirt as a cooling mechanism against the heat of the sun.
To avoid health problems for your piggie, you’ll need to follow a diet of pellets specifically formulated for pigs, supplementing with veggies as treats. Vegetables are not only a low-sugar treat option, but they also hydrate, too. As with all animals, your pigs will need constant access to water. Check on water availability frequently as pigs often splash in it.
Pigs need regular hoof care; otherwise grooming requirements are not all that time-involved. Pigs only shed once a year, in the springtime.