How Much Land Do You Need?

Posted on 2023-08-21
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[Question] How much land do you need?

[Answer] In general an acre of reasonably good pasture will keep a cow for a month. Six goats or sheep equal one cow. A horse equals one cow but is harder on pasture due to the horse’s close cropping of grass.

You can divide your acreage into smaller paddocks and rotationally graze and squeeze a little more out of it.

Horses are pretty good at digging through snow for the grass underneath, which means that you can stockpile pasture for them. Our cows have done a little of this, but once we get five inches they will quit trying. Our goats are convinced that there’s nothing to eat in the pasture when there’s a couple inches of snow on the ground even if green grass is sticking out of it, plus they have a massive aversion to walking through snow.

How much you need depends a lot upon how you want to manage your farm. I have a friend with two acres who keeps 2 cows in milk, their calves, and a steer. She has a couple of chicken coops, a small orchard, and a small pig pen. She also keeps bees and has raised bed gardens, plus a small exercise yard for her dogs. She feeds hay year round. It’s remarkable just how much she is able to do on that two acres. We have 80 acres and keep a little more in terms of livestock but also graze our animals from April through most of November as well as make our own hay.

[Addendum] She and her husband have done so much with their place. It looks like one of those have-it-all-on-two acres books! They have sheds that include firewood storage and a workshop, garage space, and a spot for their tractor. The layout is very natural looking and doesn’t feel like everything is crammed together either. They have a fantastic relationship with their dairy farmer neighbors from whom they buy hay.

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