Animals on small acreage farms can provide food, weed and vegetation control, as well as enjoyment from riding, or interacting with them. In fact, there are countless benefits of having livestock be a part of your land, but they come with a high level of commitment and maintenance.
Animals will likely need some if not all of the following, a barn, shed, or fencing for protection and containment. Animal health, management and well being are also important concerns of new owners. There are a number of guidelines to aid livestock and poultry owners on the space requirements for animal comfort, health and well-being. Plans and guidelines range from basic to elaborate depending on animal needs. The key for animal owners, is to provide a healthy environment for their livestock/poultry that will aid in maximum production and minimum input for maximum profits. If animal owners are interested in the animals more as a hobby than a production enterprise, expenses and performance efficiency may not be as important, but animal welfare, health and well-being continue as a high priority.
Owners need to consider their own resources, the property space available for their animals and then adjust animal numbers and production according to the land allotted for each animal. A number of additional factors to consider in animal space requirements include: the local environment (weather and temperature variations and seasons), size of animals within the specific species to be housed (ponies vs. draft horses), type of flooring to be used makes a big difference on drainage and manure handling requirements (cement vs. earthen flooring), if animals are to graze or be fed harvested feeds and/or some combination of each, and other such variables.
Remember to also check local zoning ordinances before purchasing animals and building buildings to make sure you will be in compliance.
Pasture Management - Animals on pasture should have access to a windbreak or other shelter to protect them from cold winter winds, hot summer sun, and wet, rainy weather. When introducing livestock to pasture in the spring, it is wise to limit access for a few days to decrease the chances of colic or founder from an abrupt change in diet. Begin by turning animals out for 30 minutes the first day. Increase gradually over a week or two. After the adjustment period, it should be safe for them to remain in pasture full-time. More resources are listed at http://extension.usu.edu.
The young growing calf, hard working horse, or pregnant mare may have higher nutritional requirements than pasture alone can provide and may necessitate the addition of a grain mixture. All animals should have free choice access to trace-mineral salt. Also, all animals need access to adequate quantities of fresh water. The average horse will consume 10-12 gallons of water each day.
Parasite Control - This is a vital part of every heath care program. Manure is the primary means through which parasites spread. Manure often contaminates the feed, water supplies, pastures, paddocks, and stalls. Proper manure should be composted or spread on unoccupied posture to sun cure. Harrowing or dragging pastures during hot dry weather helps disperse the manure deposits and kills parasite larva by exposing them to the sun. Dragging should not be done where animals are grazing because it distributes the larvae across the grass making it more accessible initially. There is little advantage to grazing cows and sheep with horses. However, horses following ruminants (cows) or vice versa is beneficial. The parasites that are specific to horses do not reproduce in cows so the parasite population is reduced.
Bloating - Pastures that contain a large percentage of alfalfa or clover pose and increased risk for bloating animals. Make sure animals are not hungry when they enter these fields, and watch them closely.