It’s trendy right now. “Dual-Purpose Farm Animals.” And for some farmers, homesteaders and animal lovers, they are absolutely happy with their choice. We wouldn’t want it any other way. An animal is a live creature. And if you decide to invite an animal to live with you, under your care, we hope that no matter what, you will be happy with your choice and take care of them to the best of your abilities. Always.
Dual-purpose Farm Animals – What are they?
Taken straight from the Merriam-Websters Dictionary. “Having breed characteristics that serve two purposes.”
These are examples of some common Dual-Purpose Farm Animals that you may be familiar with.
- Dexter Cow
- Shorthorn Cow
- Simmental Cow(in US is mostly used for beef, where in other countries used for dairy)
- Australorp Chicken
- Speckled Sussex Chicken
- Rhode Island Red Chicken
- Muscovy Duck
- Cayuga Duck
It is said that there are dual-purpose goats and sheep as well. However, we don’t have any experience, yet, in those two categories and I would feel odd speaking about them.
If you have never heard of any of these Dual-Purpose Farm Animals, that’s OK too. It’s good to know that there is such a thing, just in case you are in the market for a farm animal at some point. Now you will have some knowledge and know there are options.
Are They Really?
The whole point of a Dual-Purpose Farm Animal, is to, well…serve two purposes. A dual-purpose cow, would be one suited for dairy and meat. A dual-purpose chicken or duck, would be one suited for eggs and meat. Dual-purpose goats and sheep? For meat and milk or meat and wool/fiber.
The only problem that we can see as farmers is, you can’t have both. You can’t have a cow and get milk and meat from it. It is either one or the other. A chicken can give you eggs, but if you use it for meat: No eggs. Same with a duck. Do you see where the problem lies for us as farmers?
We Get The Idea
Yes. We do understand the principle. And yes, you could raise a dual-purpose farm animal and use it for one purpose for a time period and then decide to use it for meat after several years. I would question however, if most people have the real ability to move in that direction. Raise an animal, milk it everyday, collect it’s eggs every day, brush it’s coat every day, talk to it every day, for years: and then decide one day that it is time to serve it’s other purpose. I suspect that most would not ever make it to the second part of the dual-purpose.
Standard Breed Cattle
For our farm, our focus has always been on standard breeds. We have a small herd of Hereford cattle. Their purpose is meat. We do have cows of course that we keep as breeding stock, but they are still beef cows. They do give milk, but only to their calves. Beef cows do not produce enough milk to nurture a healthy calf and give milk to the farmer on a regular basis. They have been created to use their energy for growth. Their own growth or as the milk goes, the growth of their calf. When our cows are born, we know what their purpose is. It makes it easier when the time comes to serve that purpose. Until then, every cow/heifer/steer or bull in our herd is loved and taken care of to the best of our ability.
We have laying hens and we have meat birds. Do we have egg layers that could be used for meat? Yes. Actually, my personal favorite top two breeds of chicken are, the Speckled Sussex and the Australorp. However, when we get our chickens as day old chicks, we get all females, which means they are for eggs. We choose breeds that characteristically lay many eggs per year, are good foragers and have some sort of a personality trait we are looking for. Our laying hens live in a very peaceful environment, with lush pasture, bugs, sunshine, shelter, fresh water, all natural feed and room to run, dust-bathe and roost.
Our meat birds: well, that about explains it doesn’t it? Yes. They are for meat. But please, don’t let that give you an impression that they are looked at in a way that is anything less than with gratitude. Cornish Cross is the breed that we have raised for years. Our customers rave about our chicken and we are pretty satisfied with them as well.
Baby chicks are raised in the barn when they are young so that we can keep the temperature regulated and keep a close eye on them. At about 3 to 4 weeks, they too are moved out onto lush pasture and get every bit of the same benefits of being outside in the fresh air. In addition, we give them shelters with covers, so that the areal predators can not get to them. We want our meat birds to live the happiest, healthiest lives possible, until it is time to serve their purpose. And even then they are treated with care and respect.
To Each His Own
We would never tell another farmer what breed or breeds they should raise. That is certainly a very personal choice with many variables to consider. Farming or homesteading will look different for everyone. There is no one “right way”. There are many “wrong ways” and most of them you figure out as you go. What we would encourage anyone to do is really think about what animals you want to add to your life. Think about what their purpose will be. Think about all of the care they will need. And make sure that you are truly prepared to put the time, effort and money in. Consider the character traits of each animal and make sure that they will be a good fit in your particular situation.
The Best of the Best
Our thoughts are: decide what farm goal you have and find the best suited animal for that job. There is a breed out there that is specific for that purpose. In doing so, you will get the biggest bang for you buck as they say. Instead of an animal that is decent at this…and… decent at that. We choose the ones that were created specifically with strong traits and ability to meet our needs.
Your best of the best is going to be different from ours. But know that if you put time in, you will find a good fit for your farm or homestead. If farming is not your thing: encourage someone else and support them so that they can be the best of the best and serve the purpose they were created for.
-with many thanks, Staci