What is “Smallholding”?
“Smallholding” seems to be a bit of a buzzword at the minute. Smallholding, is using a small piece of land for farming. Everyone seems to be either thinking about setting one up or have already got theirs sorted. You might even know someone who has started keeping a small number of chickens in their backyard. Even though this might sound like they have just bought some new pets, it’s actually classed as a smallholding as the chickens count as livestock. So, as you can see, you don’t need to have masses of land on which to set up a farm. You can start to keep small livestock and grow a few crops in your own garden if you want to!
However, whether you want to set up a little smallholding on your current property or have plans in place to start something a bit more substantial, there are a few steps you will need to follow to ensure that it is all above board.
Start Off Very Small
One thing to remember is that you will need to start off very small. This is especially important if you don’t already have any experience of looking after livestock or growing crops. If you start with a smallholding that is quite large, you will end up overwhelmed and it could become a very stressful situation. So, just getting a few chickens to keep in your backyard could actually be the best option for you. Once you get used to looking after the birds, you can start to expand onto a larger plot of land and get some more livestock and start growing crops as well.
Research The Best Crops Or Livestock For Your Region
Did you know that farms have to carefully select the crops and livestock that they grow depending on their region’s climate? Plants and animals are best suited to specific climates and types of weather. If you go for the wrong species, then they probably won’t flourish in your smallholding. For instance, Highland cattle will thrive in cold climates, but they could be extremely uncomfortable when kept in regions that experience high temperatures all-year around. Crops are the same. As you can see on the Grain Brokers website, extreme weathers can reduce crop yields of certain pants. So, be sure to do your research and figure out which is the best type of crop and livestock for your region’s climate.
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The chickens love a bit of sweetness this cold time of the year, so every morning I bring them a few of the many apples still on the ground in the orchard. It was also a super pleasant surprise when I discovered that our white bird which is completely identical to its white Araucana father is in fact a hen and not a rooster. And is the one responsible for the small turqoise eggs I’ve been collecting the past week. But it also means I need to find a new rooster somewhere before spring when the agressive wild pheasant cockerels come looking for partners and try to break into the yard like last spring! I’m crossing my fingers that one of my neighbour @ruralandocean ‘s lovely Silk chickens is a rooster ?
Plan Your Year
One of the most important aspects of being a good smallholdings owner is knowing how to plan well. You will need to plan your entire year out in advance so that you know exactly what needs doing each month. Your jobs and responsibilities will change a great deal depending on the season. For instance, you will need to plan when you can let your livestock out to pasture over summer. It’s also important to bring them into their stables in plenty of time before winter sets in or else they could be prone to a number of health conditions. Likewise, you will need to know when the best time of year to harvest your crops are before they end up going bad in the fields.
Secure The Smallholding
It is very important to keep your smallholding as secure as possible. You will need to make sure that any stables and other outbuildings on your property are correctly locked so that no one can get in to steal expensive equipment, tools, and even the animals. It is a good idea installing some CCTV so that you can keep an eye on everything. Plus, the CCTV will provide you with handy evidence should anyone try to enter your property.
Take Out The Necessary Insurance
It is also your responsibility to take out sufficient insurance for your smallholding. There are a number of policies that you will need to get to ensure that you are financially protected should anything go wrong. Firstly, make sure that all the buildings are insured so that you can claim for any maintenance or fixes that need to be carried out. You can also get livestock insurance. This will pay out if your animals are ever struck by a disease and you face the expense of large vet bills or replacing them. If you end up running the smallholding as a business, it’s a good idea to take out some business insurance so that your income is not affected if there are any issues with the company that prove to be too problematic.
Network With Fellow Farmers
There are lots of networks up and down the country. You will find it beneficial to join the nearest one to you. This is a great way to get to know fellow like-minded people in your area. The network can become an invaluable support for you. Whenever you need any help or advice regarding your smallholding, you can simply reach out to the network and see if anyone can help you out.
Go Back To School
If you are completely new to the world of keeping animals and growing crops, it is a good idea to see about starting a course in agriculture. There are lots of different courses that cover various aspects of running your own smallholding, and they are all aimed at different skill levels. So, whether you are a complete novice or have kept some livestock in the past, you will almost certainly be able to find a course that is suitable for you.
Prepare For A Lot Of Paperwork
Many people think that running a smallholding will be very hands-on and practical. That is true of course, but you shouldn’t underestimate the amount of paperwork that goes into it as well. There will be a lot of documents to work through when you are in the process of getting a smallholding set up! Lots of people find that setting one morning or afternoon aside each week to dedicate to paperwork can help them keep on top of all this important admin.
If you follow all of these golden rules then your new smallholding should be quite successful!
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