I read and researched all of what I would need for my family. So I decided on goats for milk and meat sooooo good and better for you than just about anything out there. Not to mention the yummy cheese. Pigs for meat, very yum yum homemade sausage ahhh. Of course chickens, my favorite, eggs and meat.
The rest of our animals are for pleasure not eats. Not to say all chickens, pigs, or goats are to eat. We do have "pets" who are life long buddies. It's important when you have kids they understand it's food, not friends. But occasionally a few steal your heart and you just can't help but name them.
We have made some costly mistakes, (I would put a number to that but Hubby reads these, some things are better left not knowing ) but we learned and adjusted. So here is what I've learned and maybe can save you a few...
Animals- Decide what you want then read up on the different breeds. Each has pros and cons only you'd know which would fit your agenda. Example: I chose Yorkshire pigs because they're mothering breed, large, and have large litters. Lots of food for a family plus allows some feeders to be sold to compensate. Also do well in AZ, if they have plenty of mud! I chose Nubian goats for their butterfat and beauty. Such cuties!!
Be careful where you buy your animal from too. Go see their housing, are the animals healthy, is it clean, download a checklist of what to notice. Don't assume the owners being 100% honest just because you are. Sick animals are costly!
Environment- Know your area! Find out whats in your soil somethings are hard to change. Some animals need extra supplements because of this. Some veggies as well. Also be very concerned of what starting this will bring and take precautions. Example: We didn't use to have bobcats, rabbits etc but man it's like they called their friends!!!!! So that change everything even to allowing the kids out sometimes.
Shelter- Different shelter is needed for different animals. Also for different stages of life. There's no such thing as a community barn! Except in story books. If there is I ain't never seen one. Example: Just for my goats they need an area they use day to day, a breeding area, kidding area, milking area, sick or injured area. If your planning chickens you can't keep too many roosters together or too many roosters to hens ratio, they'll be bald! They could also get seriously injured! Pregnant sows need to be away from any boar. Boars will actually ram the sows stomach to try to get her to miscarriage just to mount her again. Although if the animals do work well together, and I have a few that do, you can keep them together. I have 1 goat, 2 pigs and a chicken that are friends and they do well together. In fact they'd break fences to be together.
Feed- If your fortunate enough to live where there's actually grazing available, I am not, great. But you'll want to read up on the type of feed they need. I feed as natural as I can. Once the garden thing works out they'll get a lot more of it. But different animals, and stages of their life, require different things. I was told there was a universal feed "COB" there is not! Some were missing nutrients vital for growth and productivity. Read read read.
Slaughter- If you want to do your own slaughtering, personal choice, be prepared!! Like I said nothing goes as planned all the time. But I highly recommend seeing someone do it for you first before you attempt it on your own. Reading only gets you so far, so talk to other people around your area, or they person you buy the animal from. Chances are they'll do it for you free or a small fee. Example: Our first slaughter was of some of our chickens. I read, printed pictures out and gone over it in my head several times. (See Vermont Farms link to the right. Great pictures and directions). But when it came time to do the deed, not so easy. I had the boys out helping us and it seriously was difficult. I raised these guys from chicks. But I grabbed the head just like I rehearsed in my head, pulled it down, placed the knife to his neck closed my eyes and slit. AHH. But I did it! Yea I was so proud! Then he flapped just like the book said it would. I left it for a few came back to take it down and clean it, just then he flapped again!! Oh my goodness he wasn't dead! So sad I cut this poor guy left him and he wasn't even dead yet!! I just couldn't believe it. I felt horrible. But we finished it off and that was over! Needless to say I couldn't do another one ever! But Hubby found a guy that showed us and man was he good. He didn't even need a knife! It was instantaneous, like a chicken per second! We live we learn.
These are a few things I've learned so far. Main thing is it takes money! Even when it all goes right. It's a very expensive getting set up with out-buildings, supplies, medication, tools, not to mention the animals themselves. Anywhere from $3.00/chicken to $250.00/goat. Which has probably been the cheapest. But knowing what your eating, where it came from, how it lives and knowing you did that is priceless.