Should You Raise Livestock or Rely on Hunting when SHTF?

One of the questions that pops up frequently for preppers is should you raise animals for meat or rely on hunting when SHTF? It’s a fair question but there are a lot of factors to consider when you’re making this choice.

In this article, we’ll walk through the advantages and disadvantages of each method for securing meat for your family. In the end, your decision will be based largely on your personal preferences and living situation. So what factors should you consider?

Location, Location

One of the first things to consider when deciding whether you should raise animals for meat or rely on hunting to secure meat for your family is your location.

Raising animals for meat means that you must have the land and infrastructure to house those animals as well as a method for feeding them until they are old enough for butchering.

There are some animals you can raise that require less space, such as poultry, fish, and rabbits but if you live within the city limits, zoning laws can be restrictive even for these small animals. Be sure to research the zoning laws for your exact location to make sure that you can effectively raise the animals you are considering.

In the same way, your area may have restrictions on hunting that will limit your ability to secure enough meat to provide for your family. If you have your own property and plentiful wildlife, hunting to secure meat may be more reliable for you.

If you are hunting on property that is open to others, you need to take into consideration that if SHTF and more and more people try to hunt that area, animals may move farther away or become more skittish or simply more scarce, making it harder to hunt them reliably.

Skill Level

In order to choose the best method for securing meat for your family, it’s important to consider your current and potential skill level. If you are an experienced hunter, it may be easier for you to rely on hunting for meat provided your location has sufficient wildlife.

Anyone can learn to hunt however it is a skill that takes time and lots of practice to master with any kind of reliability. You will need to have the skills to track and catch a variety of wildlife in order to provide sufficient meat to feed a family.

You’ll need to know where to find animals during different seasons of the year and how to use a variety of hunting gear and methods including snares, pit traps, firearms, slingshot, bow, etc.

If you are considering raising your own animals for meat, you must learn how to care for them on a daily basis, how to encourage and time the breeding of the animals, as well as how to keep them healthy until they are ready to butcher.

You will need to learn what nutrients are required for the type of animals you are raising as well as their exercise and social needs. Both ways of securing meat will mean that you need to master the safest ways to butcher, clean, and store your meat until you are ready to eat it.


Another factor to consider when deciding which method to use to secure meat for your family is your current budget. Raising your own animals requires at least an initial investment for breeding stock as well as for building a barn or another suitable structure to house your animals. This method also requires ongoing costs for growing or purchasing feed for your animals.

Costs to feed animals can be significant depending on the type of animals you raise and what you choose to feed them. Commercial feed for animals can get expensive and may not always be accessible, so you may need to bone up on ways to grow your own grain such as oats, corn, or barley. If you don’t have sufficient grass and water for your animals, you will need to supplement with commercial feed.

If you plan to rely on hunting for meat, you will need to invest in the gear, clothing, and equipment needed to hunt successfully. This can include camouflage clothing, special detergent or spray designed to mask your scent from animals, firearms, ammunition, and other weapons, fishing gear, as well as materials for snares and traps.

If you have the skills, you can make much of what you need from natural materials, which is a great advantage in the event SHTF and traditional retail resources become unavailable.

Resource Availability

For those who are preparing for a SHTF type event, you need to consider how you would feed your animals if commercial feed wasn’t accessible. Water may also be scarce if public utilities are inoperable or water rationing goes into effect, so make sure you have a plan to secure enough water through rainwater catchment or other natural resources. Be sure to consider any zoning laws or water rights laws for your area that might restrict your ability to collect and store water from natural resources.

If you choose to rely on hunting to secure meat for your family, you have to consider animal hibernation and migration patterns that could mean animals are less scarce during certain times of the year. A widespread situation, such as SHTF, could also result in many more people hunting, which could also reduce the number of animals available to hunt.

Your Own Interests and Preferences

There’s no denying that some people enjoy hunting animals much more than others. Although anyone can learn the basics of hunting, only those who can truly learn to enjoy it, will be able to invest the time and effort it takes to master it successfully.

Successful hunting often requires the patience to sit for long periods of time without anything at all happening, sometimes several days in a row.

Raising animals and coming to terms with butchering them after you’ve cared for them also takes a certain type of person. You have to be motivated enough to get out there every day to feed and care for the animals in bad weather, whether you are sick, injured, or exhausted.

The advantage of raising your own animals is that it’s much easier for someone else to pitch in for a day or two to feed and water your animals if you are out of commission whereas you can’t just send someone else out to hunt for you if they haven’t learned how to do it successfully.

Other Pros and Cons

Hunting can be less labor intensive than raising your own animals but it’s also less predictable. Bad weather and increased noise or activity in the area can negatively impact your success on any given day. Raising your own animals can be tricky because you have to worry about disease that can wipe out your herd with very little warning.

When you raise your own animals, you can have control over what the animal is eating and thus over what goes into your body, whereas with wild animals, you run the risk of eating an animal that is sick or has eaten something toxic or contaminated.

Most people who hunt for meat will be lucky to catch enough to feed their own family all year long but when you raise your own animals you can often raise surplus that can be sold or bartered to other people as a way of securing additional cash or other items you need.

All of these points are things you need to take into consideration when deciding which method to rely on for securing your family’s meat.

After looking at all of the advantages and disadvantages of the two survival food plans, our recommendation is that you rely on neither method completely. A better one is to prepare yourself and your family to do some of both in order to secure enough meat for your family.

If your personal preferences, situation, budget, and other factors make raising your own animals more feasible, than make that your main source of meat, but learn the basics of hunting and/or fishing as a backup.

If hunting makes more sense for your area and other factors, plan to hunt as your main source of meat but choose at least one low maintenance type of animal to raise, such as chickens, fish, or rabbits, which can be a backup for periods when your hunting is unsuccessful.

By preparing to obtain meat for your family using a bit of both methods, you’ll be in the best position to consistently provide protein for your family now, and in a SHTF situation.

Which method for securing meat for your family are you currently using? If you’re not using either of these methods yet and are relying on store-bought meat, how would you survive if grocery stores and other retail food was suddenly inaccessible to you? Share your thoughts and plans in the comments below.

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6 thoughts on “Should You Raise Livestock or Rely on Hunting when SHTF?”

  1. So if someone tries to take the deer I just dressed, I’ve been practicing situational awareness, and pull my 38 out of my hunting vest and kill HIM. ?

  2. Megann,
    For starters, I would invoke the preparedness mantra of ”Two is one and one is none”, so having multiple solutions to problems gives you a better chance of at least one of them working. That only takes a slight rewording of this article title from “Should You Raise Livestock or Rely on Hunting when SHTF?” to “You should Raise Livestock AND Rely on Hunting when SHTF?”
    I’ve been hunting for more than 50 years and teaching hunters for more than 25, and the one thing we stress in all of our classes is the need for patience in the field.
    We tell students it is called ”hunting” and not ”shopping” for a very good reason since only about one third of Ohio’s deer hunters kill a deer in any year. I suspect the statistics for other states are similar.
    Thisis when hunting is only practice by a few, to add some meat to the freezer, and not because they will starve without that meat. Now think of everyone and his brother (or sister) out in the field, desperately trying to bag a meal, It could be utter chaos and having thousands of desperate people out hunting could take a turn for the worse.
    You have bagged a deer and are busily field dressing it with your firearm lying on the ground beside you. I watch from cover until you are nearly finished and then take that deer away from you @ gunpoint.
    Things could get dicey in a hurry, and even if you have skill & luck on your side, hunting will be neither easy nor reliable, where raising livestock could be.

    • I agree wholeheartedly. Unless one is in a remote location, hunting & fishing would be very dicey especially after a few weeks of hunger. Of course, having one’s own critters in an area with many other people would be very dangerous. It would take organized effort with an enclave or neighbors to defend. If you think I don’t trust other people, you would be absolutely correct. Desperate times = desperate people.

    • I totally agree Ohio Prepper, which is why I ended the article saying a balance of both methods is a better option. Good point about someone taking your kill though–totally could happen!


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