(BPT) - Animals play a meaningful role in the lives of their owners. In fact, most people consider their furry friends part of the family. And while dogs and cats tend to be the most common companions, nowadays, the beloved family pet can come in many different shapes, sizes and species.
Families across the country are opening their hearts and homesteads to various types of livestock, proving once and for all that not all pets have paws.
Leanne Lauricella, founder of the popular rescue organization Goats of Anarchy and a consultant for Tractor Supply Company, has experienced this firsthand. Lauricella cares for more than 40 special needs, orphaned and disabled goats, as well as two pigs, and while she loves her hoofed herd, she says families should be aware of the unique challenges that come with raising such a pet.
'It's common for people to see a cute baby pig or goat and think, 'I want one!'' says Lauricella. 'These animals are adorable and make for great companions, but they do require a special type of commitment from their owners and it's important for people to understand the responsibilities before deciding to adopt.'
To help determine if livestock adoption is right for you, and to provide some tips for families who are getting started, Lauricella and Tractor Supply give us a glimpse of what life with livestock really looks like.
They get big
It may sound obvious, but many would-be adopters forget that the once small, adorable baby animal they adopted will one day grow into a full-fledged adult. A pot-bellied pig, for example, may start out nice and little, but it will hardly be considered a lap animal when it reaches a whopping 100-250 pounds.
They like having friends
The majority of farm animals thrive in a herd or flock, and having companions is extremely beneficial to their long-term health and happiness. Before you get started, make sure you have the time and resources to care for multiple animals.
Adjusting your lifestyle
It's important to note that your new animal isn't going to adjust to your lifestyle. With farm animals, Lauricella says, it's the other way around. Livestock animals generally rise with the sun, and when they do, you will too. And remember, there's no snooze button on a hungry goat.
A space to fit their needs
Livestock animals need space to roam, but don't underestimate the importance of also keeping them properly contained. While the size and strength of a fence will vary depending on the animals you plan to adopt (you can research containment options for specific animals at TractorSupply.com), quality fencing should always be a high priority. The last thing you want is for your animals to outsmart their fence and roam into a nearby farm, field or neighborhood.
Caring for them when they're ill
All animals are susceptible to illness, but livestock animals have a higher risk of contracting infections than their indoor counterparts. Veterinarians can help determine the right medical plan for your animal, but it's vital for new livestock owners to identify a livestock veterinarian before their animal gets sick.
Be sure it's legal
Livestock laws differ from place to place, so if you have plans to bring home a new pig or goat, it's a good idea to check your city ordinances and homeowners association to be sure your new pet is allowed by local rules.
Know where to go for supplies
From feeders, food and treats to containment and healthcare, adopting livestock means shopping for a whole new set of supplies, and it's important to know where to go. Tractor Supply Company, the nation's largest rural lifestyle retailer, offers a comprehensive selection of products for equine, livestock, pets and small animals, including items necessary for their health, care, growth and containment. For more tips on getting started with a variety of animals, visit Tractor Supply's Know How Central online or visit a store during June's Purina Days, Tractor Supply's nationwide celebration of the partnership between families and the animals they raise.