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This article is a quick guide to running a meat and related goods industry. If you decide to base your economy off such then keep in mind that the amount available depends on the breeding rate of your tame animals (how long the offspring takes to be born and mature), the spawning of wild animals, and/or the amount of meat and leather that traders bring.
Note that the meat industry involves many materials which can rot and so requires slightly more micromanagement than other industries.
Summary: Obtain some animals; kill and butcher them to obtain bones, meat, fat, skulls and raw hides; the meat can be used immediately but the hide needs to be tanned into leather and the fat needs to be processed into tallow; finally cook the tallow into a meal, and craft the bones, skull and leather into an end product.
Acquiring Animals and their products
There are several sources for obtaining animals, outlined below. Alternatively you can skip that business and just trade directly for leather and meat. You'll miss out on fat (negligible), and bones though.
You can buy animals on embark. With the exception of cats and dogs, buying animals on embark is extremely expensive, therefore this may not be a smart move. You also get 2 random draft animals for free that drag your wagon, though these are rarely a breeding pair. These can be butchered when needed, or be kept in the hopes that traders will supply matching animals for breeding. This doesn't necessarily mean that you need to buy one: If you happen to have a female, chances are that sooner rather than later it will meet a companion among the traders' many pack animals. Nature will find a way.
Requires: A trade depot, a trader, a merchant, and some tradeable goods
You can purchase animals, meat and leather from a merchant. Animals can either be kept for breeding (see Breeding below) or butchered immediately (see Butchering below). Elves may bring more exotic animals which are additionally interesting for defense purposes.
If you wish to import leather in sufficient quantity to keep your leatherworkers occupied year-round, then you should request leather to be imported from the trading liaisons. It might be necessary that you request every type of leather at low priority in order to ensure the merchant comes back with a large quantity next year (they usually bring excessive amounts even if you don't). You can only buy leather from human and dwarven caravans.
Requires: A hunter and huntable wildlife
Recommended: A dog (or three), leather armor, and a weapon - preferably a crossbow, quiver, and bolts
It should be noted that hunters will ignore some wildlife, e.g. zombie groundhogs. Depending on where you settled your fortress, your biome may have no wildlife at all.
After equipping him or herself, a dwarven hunter will make a beeline towards the nearest wild animal and attempt to kill it, regardless of whether it is one amongst a large pack of hostile creatures[Verify]. Upon killing the beast the dwarf will carry the corpse directly to the nearest butcher's shop, the closest refuse stockpile if none is available, or the nearest meeting area if no stockpile exists. Once he has deposited the corpse, it will be ready for butchering (see Butchering below).
If the hunter kills other animals on his return journey while defending himself then those animals will not be carried indoors. To avoid wasting them you need to change your general orders to Gather refuse from outside (note that selecting this option may have undesirable side-effects).
Requires: Any number of soldiers and huntable wildlife
If so desired, you can order your active soldiers out to kill wild animals by enabling them to "harass dangerous wild animals" in the military screen. This takes some small management, but is particularly useful if a large herd appears and you want to get them all before they emigrate to less blood-soaked pastures; be prepared to process them all, however (see below). Soldiers will not kill or butcher domestic or tame animals.
Requires: Cages, mechanisms, and a mechanic
It is also possible to catch animals through judicious use of cage traps. This, of course, involves building cage traps where animals will walk. Once they are trapped the caged animal (or invader) will be delivered to an animal stockpile and the trap will be reset with a fresh cage.
Cage traps should be built where animals will walk, not where they are when you decide to trap them. Any dwarves sent out to create and arm traps in the animals' midst will scare them away or trigger their aggression. To successfully trap large animals, form a choke point some distance away from them: build walls, dig channels, eliminate ramps to create sheer cliffs, use ponds, &c. to create a continuous barrier to movement.
Leave a small gap one or two tiles wide (depending on how many of the critters you want to trap) and build your cage traps there. If the animals haven't moved off or been scared off by the time you're done, and they're docile enough to not attack once they see your dwarves, use military orders to send a dwarf (or several) around behind the animals and herd them toward the choke point.
Note that when using channels and ponds together to create a choke point, connecting the channel all the way up to the pond's edge will end up draining the pond. If this is undesirable for your fort's water supply plans, be sure to leave a tile between the edge of the pond and the edge of the channel, and build a cage trap or wall instead.
Note also that cage traps cannot be built within a certain number of tiles of the map edge, so when planning your funnels and choke points, be sure to leave four or five tiles as a buffer zone.
Requires: One or more adult females and one adult male of each species and time
Recommended: Cages and/or restraints
If a male and a female of the same species exist on your map then sooner or later (and probably sooner) the male will impregnate the female. No contact between a male and female is needed - pregnacy can and will occur regardless of distance, physical obstacles such as walls or locked doors, number of each gender (beyond the first), and even ownership. (This is often referred to as "breeding by spores".) Even a male in a herd of wild animals outside the fortress walls can impregnate a female locked deep in a lowest level. A female can get pregnant again immediately after giving birth. The only thing that has been reported to prevent pregnancy is caging, but females that are already pregnant can give birth while caged.
Some immigrants will bring pets that might form or complete breeding pairs.
One strategy includes restraining most/all your livestock near your butcher's shop, as a large number of free-roaming animals will reduce your game speed. Additionally it reduces the amount of time it takes butchers to track down and retrieve animals they are to slaughter.
For the same reasons as above, a common strategy is to cage all your young until matured because they do not give the same amount of bones, meat, and fat as adults. (Keep in mind, though, that some tamed wild species take more than 1 year to mature, unlike most domestic animals. For example, it may be excusable to butcher an elephant calf right away for 10 meat and bones, rather than wait 10 years for 16 of each.)
- Cages can hold an unlimited number of animals, so you only need one.
- Caged animals do not path, and therefore, do not consume a lot of processor speed.
- Distinguishing between breeding animals and butcherable livestock is easier when clearly separated.
- Caged cats cannot adopt owners (thus decreasing the chances of a catsplosion).
- You can define a zoo from a cage, increasing overall fortress wealth, dwarven happiness, etc..
Using cage traps judiciously (or taking advantage of the animals elves trade) can sometimes snag you a breeding pair of a wild animal. Tame something unusual and start something crazy, like an alligator farm!
Do note that once a certain number of animals of a particular type are present in your fortress (currently observed to be around 50), that type of animal will cease to become pregnant (existing pregnancies will produce young, but they will not become pregnant again); once enough adults are slaughtered, more will begin to be born.
Animals on restraints still can path (1 tile in any direction from the chain/rope), and that can hurt your framerate. By making a series of 1x1 rooms with doors set to "non-pet-passable", and restraining the animals there, the animals have nowhere to go and so pathing is not a problem. The door keeps them from wandering; the restraint is necessary to get them into the room in the first place. (See Restraint for proper removal technique.)
Pits can also be adapted for this purpose, without the restraint and with multiple animals. The pens idea would be a good idea if pets actually understood non-pet-passable during calculation of paths. Instead they believe they can get through during mental calculations. Cold, hard, reality stops them at the door, but they continue to path as if they could get through, so, they just stand there (until a dwarf comes by and opens the door, at which point they gleefully run past). Pets in cages helps framerate the most, followed closely by restraints, since the search space bottoms out after only 2 moves (corner to corner). Pits, with no access besides (raised) bridges and (closed) floodgates, are also very effective, as pathing will stop as soon as the space of the pit is exhausted, so it's like a restraint with a slightly longer leash. Pens using floodgates would work, although loading the pets in would be nigh impossible without dropping them in from above, as anything in the way of a closing floodgate stops it from closing. It would be quite extreme, but such a collection of 1x1 pits could be an effective way of stopping pathfinding while retaining breeding. One could even use bars instead of floodgates, I think, and have a really proper zoo/cage.
Requires: A butcher's shop, a butcher, and either a stray tamed animal marked for slaughter or one killed by a hunter or soldier
Note: While you can't butcher pets, their offspring will be at your disposal without restriction.
Once an animal has been killed you only have a limited amount of time to butcher the corpse before it rots. If your butcher is distracted by other tasks, this can be highly problematic.
By default a butcher's shop will automatically queue Butcher animal whenever an animal corpse is available, or Slaughter animal for stray animals marked for slaughter. An animal is available if it is taken to the butcher's shop or in a refuse stockpile. An animal is not available if it is merely lying around. Once butchered the animal will yield one skull (even hydras), one raw hide and a number of meat pieces, bones, and chunks - the amount depending on the animal type. The skill of the butcher only affects the time taken for Butcher animal task (Slaughter animal occurs in the blink of an eye), not the amount produced nor the quality.
Meat and fat goes to your food stockpile. Bones, chunks and raw hides go to the refuse stockpile. Chunks have no use and should be left to rot to nothingness, but you would be well put to create custom stockpiles for hides next to your tanner's shop (see Tanning below), for bones next to your craftsdwarves workshop (see Bone carving below), and changing the settings on your main refuse pile to not accept bones and hides.
If the animal is butchered just before it rots, the products of the animal MAY not rot. It is unknown whether the time of rotting for butchering products is based on the time of death of the animal or the time of production of the butchering returns.[Verify]
In some instances - most notably, after rhesus macaque invasions, or killing some other large herd with your soldiers - you may find yourself with more bodies and severed body parts than you can process. In this case it is a good idea to set up some temporary extra butcher and tanners' shops (and butchers and tanners) to process them all before they rot. Butchers are more important because their workshops have a tendency to get cluttered really quick.
Using the animal products
Animal products can support several industries within the fortress: they provide meat and fat for cooking, leather for bags, clothing and armor, and bones for ammunition, trade goods and in desperate circumstances armor. The value of an animal product is multiplied by the animal's modvalue, so items made from common animals are less valuable than items made from rare animals like a giant cave spider or a dragon. An animal's modvalue can be found in the creature raw files.
Bones and Skulls
Requires: Bone carver, craftsdwarf's workshop, and some bones or skulls
Butchering an animal produces quite a few bones and a skull. By setting up a craftsdwarf workshop near your abbatoir you can turn these into useful products, such as bone bolts for your archers to practice with.
The only useful thing to do with a skull is turn it into a totem for trading. Note that totems do not fall under any category in the "Move trade goods to depot" screen, so you need to search for them. Usually however they will be in a finished goods bin and not show up at all, so just transport the bins to the depot.
Meat and fat
Requires: a cook, a kitchen, and some meat or fat
Fat can be rendered into tallow at a kitchen, and then used as an ingredient in meals; if you feel particularly enterprising and have wood on your map, you can instead make the tallow into soap for constructions or trade. Meat can be eaten raw, or used as an ingredient.
Requires: a tanner, a tanner's shop, and raw hide
As with the butcher's shop, the tanner's shop will queue Tan raw hide automatically (by default), the tanner's skill has no effect on quantity nor quality of the leather produced, and the task is time-sensitive because of rot.
It is quite sensible to have a single dwarf as both the butcher and tanner, as you will never need to begin tanning until you finish butchering. You could also make this same dwarf your leatherworker. It may be advisable (or not) to simply ensure that there are no stockpiles that will accept Fresh Raw Hides and to have the tanner's shops in the immediate area of the butcher's shop-if fresh raw hides can be stored in any refuse stockpile, they will instantly be designated for hauling and cannot be tanned until they have been stored. Ensuring that raw hides will not be stockpiled means that they will be available for tanning fresh off the former owner.
Once a hide has been tanned, it will be stored in a leather stockpile.
Requires: A leather works, a leatherworker, and a tanned hide
Once you have tanned hides, whether created yourself or bought from a merchant, you can use them to produce leather goods at the leather works.
Worker type / Labor
- Ambusher / Hunting
- A crossbow or other weapon
- Bolts, quiver
- Leather armor
- Stats buffing
- Archery practice
- Butcher / Butchery
- Tanner / Tanning
- Leatherworker / Leatherworking
- Bone carver / Bone carving
- Cook / Cooking
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