We’re sure many of you have visited an alpaca farm or come across them in your travels, along with other cute animals like fluffy Irish donkeys or Scottish Highland cows. And maybe your dreams extended to retiring on a few acres and collecting some of these animals. Yes, it’s a lovely dream but we’re here not just to encourage you but to give you the reality check regarding what your life would be like.
Buying your rural property
You’ll need somewhere to keep those animals so let’s look at where you might consider buying. Since covid and the flight to regional, many city dwellers sold their family homes at once-in-a-generation prices and bought in regional areas. This has led to higher prices in regional and rural areas.
Buying acreage in rural areas can be a bit more complicated than buying a house in the suburbs. The process takes longer and you need to do your own research that includes:
Is the property zoned as a bush conservation area? Is the property in a flood or bushfire zone. The former can mean you can’t clear the land while both the latter issues will mean a hefty property insurance bill.
Many rural properties aren’t on town water and need their own water supply. This comes with its own challenges: the property you're considering might have water tanks but before you purchase, you’ll need to ensure the tanks are in good repair. Repair of an older-style concrete water tank can cost around $15,000. Installation of tanks for animal watering can cost from $800 to $3,000 plus you’ll need to provide a concrete base for each tank. Then you’ll need pumps and electricity to those pumps.
You need to check whether or not your property is connected to the sewerage system and if it isn’t, what you need to do. Is the property connected to electricity? Are there solar panels and battery storage in place? What about landline, mobile phone and internet connections?
Ongoing care of the land
Unless you’re going to run some grass-munching animals, you have to consider if you’ll have the energy to mow the grass and weeds or if you can afford to have someone do this for you regularly, especially in a bushfire-prone area.
Keeping stock on your rural acreage
As you’ll know from your own pets, keeping animals requires more work than letting them loose in the backyard, feeding them and walking the dogs twice a day. With sheep, cows, goats and especially for exotic animals like alpacas, donkeys, deer and Highland cows, you’ll be making regular trips to the stock feed store to supplement their nutritional needs. You’ll also need to have them checked by a large-animal vet. Alpacas and sheep need to be shorn at least once a year so you’ll need to set that up with a shearing crew. And if you choose to keep deer (for antler velvet or for venison), remember that deer are regarded as pests so the fences must be at least 270 cm (over 8 feet) high to contain them.
Most animals, including sheep and cattle, need regular checks for ticks and other parasites like worms. To keep worms and other parasites like lice at bay ‒ and your animals in peak condition ‒ you’ll need to drench cattle at least once (and depending on where you live, twice) a year. Horses need teeth checked, hooves filed, they need to be shoed and they need protection from worms, so you’ll need to worm them once every six to eight weeks. Animals are a long-term commitment and there are no shortcuts.
Living on your rural property
Life on a rural property with animals that need constant care is the opposite of a lock-and-leave lifestyle. If you want to take a holiday, you’ll need to arrange for someone to come and care for your animals while you’re away. There are many house-sitting websites where you might find someone to look after your hobby farm but it might be hard to feel trust in someone you’ve never met. So be prepared to take your holidays separately until you find the perfect person or couple to care for your home and your livestock.
Of course, if you’re prepared to share your property with someone who loves animals, you could place your free ad through our Senior Flatmates service. That way, you supplement your income and have someone on hand to cover for you if you wish to travel.
Want to learn more about making the most of your next 30 years?
We’re committed to making life better for the over 55s. Check out downsizing.com.au for more insights and great advice on living life to the fullest.