Some tips on planning a smallholding
There are many things to think about when planning a smallholding, here are a few:
- Set out your goals
- Do your research
- Look into training
- Find a mentor
- Understand the legal requirements
- Be prepared for hard work
Set out your goals
It is worth taking the time to work out what you want to achieve. Smallholding life encompasses many things; are you looking for self sufficiency, full time business, make a living or just keeping a few hens or couple of sheep or pigs. Is your focus fruit, vegetables or animals or a combination of these? Do you want to keep bees?
Answers to these questions will help you to pick the right sort of smallholding. If you already have a smallholding, you need to factor in what you have into your goals. For example, each type of animal has different needs in terms of land, pasture and winter quarters.
If you are looking to keep animals, will they be pets or do you want to make money from them.
Finally, how much time have you got? Building new sheds, fences and vegetable patches from scratch can be a lot of work.
Do your research
The internet is a blessing, there is a wealth of information online. It’s worth taking the time to read up a bit on your chosen areas.
There are also a range of specialist books on all aspects of smallholder life, from growing vegetables through to animal husbandry. If you know people already living the life, then ask them for their input.
A little research can go a long way. For example, knowing in advance that keeping a couple of cows will require 2-3 acres of pasture, a winter shed and thousands of pounds worth of equipment will help you decide if it is worth it.
Look into training
As well as books, there are a range of training courses aimed at smallholders. These can be found across the UK. Ideally, find courses that offer hands on experience. That said, there is no real substitute for doing it yourself.
The key thing is, the more you know about what you are doing, the more likely you are to succeed. This is especially true with animals. If you get it wrong (and you will), animals die. It can be hard to take.
Find a mentor
A local mentor can be hugely helpful. This is particularly true if you are new to activities such as keeping chickens, keeping livestock, keeping bees and even growing vegetables. A local mentor will know what works best in your area; the best vegetables to grow, the right breeds of livestock and so on.
Also, if you choose to breed animals, having someone nearby to help when the birthing starts is not only helpful to you, it is good for the animals. It can also save you a lot of mney in vets bills too.
They can also help work out what happened whan things go wrong.
A good plan will help you a lot. Bear in mind that it will take a lot longer than you think. In smallholding (and farming), everything has an annual cycle. If you are planning to generate income, it will probably take years to get things going properly.
You will also need to purchase equipment. For vegetables, this can be anything from greenhouses to netting, mulch to paving slabs. For livestock, this include a range of items for handling and feeding them. You may also be setting up sheds and shelters.
Allow a budget to purchase what you need and time in order to install them. Talking of money, you also need to plan the finances carefully. A smallholding can eat into your savings at a frightening rate.
Ideally, it is best to start small and expand in time.
Understand the legal requirements
If you are planning to keep livestock, you need to get the paperwork in order. As well as a CPH (County Parish Holding) number, you will need to register with the relevant bodies. Note these are different depending on where you live, i.e. different in Scotland, Wales, England and NI.
You also need to know the paperwork required form moving animals. Each type of animal is handled by a different agency and these agencies all use different methods.
You also need to keep detailed records of medication administered to your animals.
Be prepared for hard work
Looking after livestock on a daily basis can mean a big change in lifestyle. During winter months, you will be feeding the animals daily. This means sourcing, storing and moving large amounts of hay.
In the summer you have to inspect animals daily. Like people, they can get ill and also can get themselves into trouble. Stock fences are little more than an invitation to stay. Sheep can jump fences, pigs and cows can take them apart. Our sheep have taken gates off their hinges on more than one occasion.
On top of that, there is plenty of maintenance needed, fencing, painting sheds, fixing stuff. It’s all good fun but it all takes time and effort.
This Smallholding Life
In our book “This Smallholding life”, Adrian draws from personal experience to take you through the highs and lows of life on a smallholding, and how small or quick decisions can have a major impact on your life. From the depths of losing a cherished animal to the highs of making your first sale, this book takes you on a fascinating journey. A real insight into smallholding life.
It describes many of the challenges you will face – physical, mental and financial. This book offers guidance on what is really involved and what you need to think about when moving into this life. It will inspire you to take the plunge, but with your eyes open.
In this book, Adrian will show you how a bit of planning can go a long way, how the key to this life is finding the right balance for you and how this smallholding life is a life worth living.
Available in our shop (paperback – UK and EU only) or via Amazon (paperback and ebook).