This article is a quick guide to running a meat and related goods industry. If you decide to base your economy on 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.
Summary: Obtain some animals; kill and butcher them to obtain bones, (organ-)meat, fat, skull/horns 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 (or make soap with it), and craft the bones, skull, horns and leather into an end product.
You can buy animals on embark, and doing so even allows you to chose from male and female animals. Since you need only one male to breed, an example way to kick-start your meat industry is to embark you could embark with one bull and 3 cows. Note, though, that with the exception of cats, dogs and poultry, buying animals on embark is extremely expensive. You also get two random draft animals on embark for each wagon (usually one wagon with two draft animals). These can be butchered when needed, or be kept in the hopes that traders or immigrants 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; see breeding, below.
As with most industry goods, you can purchase both animals and processed meat and leather from caravans, allowing you to vary your dwarves' diet without having to establish a meat industry proper. Note however that trading will never give you hair, horns, skulls, or bones in general. If you want to keep your leatherworkers constantly occupied, buying up caravans' (often vast) collections of leather is cheap way to get your fort clothed quickly.
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. Elven caravans are interesting in that they often bring a small number of tame caged animals with them, which may be useful as pets (such as silvery gibbons) or for defense purposes (such as grizzly bears).
In all but the most inhospitable of places, there will be some
running food wildlife frolicking in the biome. An ambusher armed with a crossbow and a quiver full of bolts can and will attack these animals, cautiously approaching them ("ambushing", their speed and chances of not being noticed being dependent on their skill) before opening fire at their quarry with crossbow bolts. Hunting is a very outdoorsy activity, and will take your hunters well past where you can establish reasonable defenses; in addition hunters will occasionally do stupid things that will get them maimed, such as hunting lions, or worse still, killed in grisly ways, such as attacking elephant families.
Upon a successful kill the dwarf will return the kill, carrying the corpse back to the nearest butcher's shop to be torn apart, or the nearest refuse stockpile if no shop has been built yet. Hunters are rather single-minded; when hunting, they will ignore other animals besides their quarry, even if others are more easily attacked or less dangerous to do so against. Although multiple kills happen, hunters generally only return their quarry, or quit when they run out of bolts. To avoid wasting perfectly edible corpses, you need to change your standing orders ( ) to Gather refuse from outside, although this will enable much more than ambusher kill returning.
Hunting makes an erratic but, when done by a skilled ambusher, very worthy meat source. It takes the bother of pasturing animals away, but comes at the trade off of defensibility. Many players on mature fortresses are simply too concerned with enemy sieges and the like to send dwarves out too far, and will thus disable hunting jobs on their dwarves.
You can order your soldiers out to kill wild animals by selecting their squads or the soldiers individually (for a basic outline of such actions, see attack). This takes some 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, as you do not want your potential foodstuffs to rot away if your butcheries are overloaded. Soldiers will not kill or butcher domestic or tame animals. Take note that soldiers will attack animals regardless of the target you've given them, as they will attack the nearest non-friendly creature in sight when told to move somewhere or kill a target.
Your soldiers must generally be very agile to catch up with a running animal before it leaves the edge of the map, and attacking with melee always carries the risk of getting your soldiers maimed or killed, so as you might expect military hunting is mainly for the crossbow dwarves.
It is also possible to catch animals through judicious use of cage traps. Building cage traps where animals will walk will ensure that some of them will be caught; trappers can then haul the occupied cages away and reset them with fresh cages. You can increase your chances of catching something by baiting the trap.
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 (worse) trigger their aggression. As such most of the animals that you will end up caging will be small vermin, which cannot be turned into meat and, besides low-value pets, cannot be turned into anything particularly useful, except for the few that can be processed into extracts - see below.
To successfully trap large animals you need to build choke points into your map. The destruction of ramps to create sheer cliffs is the easiest way to force them to go down a particular route; with the construction of walls, ponds, channels, and so forth, you can force them to walk right through your cage traps. This is additionally interesting for defense, which is probably your primary goal: anything that will funnel animals will funnel invaders too, and caged goblins make good target practice once pitted.
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.
When a male and a female of the same species are present on the map, sooner or later the male will impregnate the female. Animal reproduction requires absolutely no contact between them, and in fact will occur regardless of distance, physical obstacles such as walls or locked doors, number of each gender, and even ownership. This has been jokingly referred to by players as spore-based breeding; even a male in a herd of wild animals outside the fortress walls can impregnate a female locked deep in the lowest level, and females can get pregnant again immediately after giving birth (much like dwarves). The only thing that has been reported to prevent pregnancy is caging, but females that are already pregnant can give birth while caged (also much like dwarves).
Some immigrants will bring pets or stray animals with them, often to the effect of forming or completing breeding pairs. Remember that you only ever need one male: the only non-butchering product male animals produce, besides reproduction, is wool, and only a few of them. For this reason having one male bull and ten female cows is a good idea.
Using cage traps judiciously (or taking advantage of the animals elves trade) can sometimes snag you a breeding pair of wild animals. These can be used to establish crazy schemes, like alligator farms and giant eagle hatcheries. Tame something unusual and start something crazy if you get lucky enough! All tamable creatures can be tamed, but it can take a long time for exotic animals and they will slowly revert to wild state if left unattended; a skilled animal trainer is a real blessing in this regard.
There is currently a per type population cap, currently observed to be around 50, past which animals will not get pregnant; existing pregnancies will mature to term, and once some adults are slaughtered, the population can begin moving up again.
Tame animals with the [GRAZER:<value>] token (most herbivores) need to constantly munch on grass to survive, and as such require a pasture containing grass, cave moss, or floor fungus to graze upon, or they will starve to death. Elephants and rhinoceroses in particular are bugged at the moment; they cannot eat fast enough to keep up with their grazing needs, and as such will slowly starve to death if tamed.
Pastures are simple enough to build (unless you've embarked someplace where it rains fun). Designate a grassy area as a pasture activity zone ( - ), set ( ) the animals to be released onto the pasture, and your dwarves will haul the designated animals to it - this does not require any specific labor, and much like harvesting food, will be performed by all dwarves, even those with all hauling jobs disabled. Once in the pasture, the animals will munch on all the grass they need, as long as there is enough of it.
Pastures can be easily depleted if the herd of animals on it is large enough; in addition, having too many animals on a pasture at once will lead to fights, which can seriously maim and injure your livestock. Since an above-ground pasture requires a significant plot of land, it is a major security concern - having enough grazing land for your animals while also keeping them protected from invading goblins is an important concern. A solution is to use the fact that livestock can graze on floor fungus and the like as easily as on regular old grass, and wall off a pasture inside of a cavern layer or set them loose in your underground tree farm.
A strategy to improve your framerate is to restrain most of 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.
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, and have a really proper zoo/cage.
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. Some tamed wild species take more than 1 year to mature, unlike most domestic animals; this makes it excusable to butcher, for instance, elephant calves right away, as they take ten years to mature.
- 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, and so on.
 Internal pastures
The livestock of a large meat industry requires a lot of pasture space that might not be safe on the surface. Creating an underground pasture is more secure and relatively simple after discovering the caverns. Floor fungus and other such underground "grass" will begin to grow anywhere there is soil or mud. You can take advantage of this by digging out a large room in a soil layer and waiting for floor fungus to grow. You can also create pastures in stone layers, but it will need to be cleared of all excess stone and irrigated to create mud. Drain the water and wait for the floor fungus to grow. Keep your dwarves away from that level to prevent plant trampling, and then wait a bit for it to grow dense enough to support your livestock. Forbidden doors and hatches or a restricted area traffic designation can be helpful for this. Once ready, make a new pasture and move the livestock underground.
You can further irrigate the level to boost growth by emptying a body of water into it such that it spreads over it before evaporating. The easiest way to do this, and the easiest way to create an internal pasture is to dig out the topmost layer of soil (if your map has any) or rock and then either redirect some river flow or drain some small lakes to provide the necessary water.
 Slaughtering and butchering
Animals can be marked for slaughter in the animal status screen. Animals marked for slaughter will queue a "Slaughter animal" task at a butcher's shop, be dragged to there by an idle dwarf and put down; this is instant and doesn't require a butcher.
Once an animal has been killed (be it by slaughtering or hunting) you only have a limited amount of time to butcher the corpse before it rots. If your butcher is distracted by other tasks it is quite possible to lose the foodstuffs, so make sure to keep a number of butchers ready. An animal corpse or body part is available if it is taken to the butcher's shop or in a refuse stockpile within a certain distance of the shop; it is not available if it is merely lying around, so a corpse stockpile near your butcher's shop may be necessary. The skill of the butcher only affects the time taken for the butcher animal task, not the amount produced, nor the quality.
To keep your animal population growing you should preferably butcher the males except for one of each species you are breeding, because one male is enough to impregnate all the females. The number of males does not affect how frequently the females give birth as long as you have at least one (which can also be a pet).
Once butchered the animal will yield one skull (though hydras produce more than one), one raw hide and depending on the animal type a number of (prepared)(organ-)meat pieces, bones, and potentially horns, hoofs, fat and cartilage. Meat and fat goes to your food stockpile. Bones, horns, hoofs, hair, cartilage and raw hides go to the refuse stockpile. Cartilage has no use and should be disposed of, but you would be well put to create custom stockpiles for hides next to your tanner's shop (see Tanning below), for bones/horns/hoofs next to your craftsdwarves workshop (see Bone carving below), and changing the settings on your main refuse pile to not accept bones, horns/hoofs and hides. Hair can be weaved into low-value thread, but not into cloth, so it is useless outside hospital (note that it doesn't rot, so it has to be dumped manually).
If it takes too long for the butchered parts to be hauled into the stockpile, the food will rot and miasma spread. To prevent this, it is advisable to build the butcher's workshop outside of the fortress, near refuse piles (you may want it inside the walls though). The fresh air prevents miasma spreading. Miasma doesn't spread through diagonal openings, so a clever architect might isolate the smell in a 3x3 room with the shop.
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 or mandrill 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 butcher and tanner workers) to process them all before they rot. Butchers are more important because these workshops have a tendency to get cluttered quickly. Setting up a new workshop takes but a moment, so one might even construct a whole chamber of them and suspend the butchering job in all the cluttered shops.
 Animal products
The value of an animal product is multiplied by the species' multiply value; items from common domestic animals like cows and horses have a multiplier of 1x, which pales in comparison with those made from more exotic wild animals (usually between 2x and 4x, although some, like elephants, hit 5x); the distinction for the highest value multiplier goes to the dragon and the roc, whose meat is worth 15 times that of an ordinary cow's. An animal's value multiplier can be found in the creature raw files.
The primary output of the meat industry is the titular meat. Meat comes in two flavors: meat proper, that is the muscle tissue removed from the animal, and prepared organs like prepared brain, tripe, sweetbread, and so on. Both can be either eaten raw or cooked into a meal.
Butchering an animal also produces some number of units of fat, which can be cooked into a proper meal, or processed into tallow at the kitchen, a very valuable input in the making of soap. Soap plays an important role in staving off infections when performing operations and cleaning wounds in your hospital, as well as increasing happiness from dwarves being able to clean themselves; it's recommended to stock your hospitals and baths with at least some bars of them. See soap on the exact details of processing.
Tallow can also be cooked, however, tallow is a small unit of food and as such will reduce the size of the resultant stacks, and is more useful as a soap input anyway. For this reason you're usually better off turning cooking off in the kitchen status screen.
Butchering an animal produces a number of bones. Craftsdwarves with bone carving enabled can turn these into bone crafts or bone bolts at a craftsdwarf's workshop, or a bone crossbow at a bowyer's workshop. These in turn can be traded, used to equip your marksdwarves, and used for practice, respectively (bone bolts are better than wooden ones, but inferior to metal bolts, and thus should not be used extensively militarily).
Skulls are special in that unlike bones, they can only be used to make totems at a craftdwarf's workshop, for trading. Virtually all animals produce a single skull when they die; the only exception is the hydra, which produces seven. Totems do not fall under any category in the "Move trade goods to depot" screen, so you need to earch for them. Usually however they will be in a finished goods bin, so just transport the bins to the depot.
 Hooves and horns
Animals with hooves and/or horns will produce generic "horn" once butchered. These can be used to either create horn trade goods or decorated finished goods with horn at a craftsdwarf's workshop.
 Raw hides
Butching produces a raw hide, or scales or chitin (currently unusable), depending on the animal. Raw hides can be tanned at a tanner's shop and made into usable leather, an input into the leather industry. It's quite difficult to have a meat industry large enough to keep a leather industry fully occupied, and caravans arrive with tons of it for cheap anyway, so your meat industry will be at best a supplement in that regard. As with the butcher's shop, the tanner's shop will queue a "tan raw hide" job automatically; 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. However, there is no outstanding reason to do this. 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.
Some animals drop hair when butchered, which can be woven into thread at a farmer's workshop. However, animals hair cannot be used to make cloth, which means that the only use of hair thread is for suturing in hospitals and stitching decorative images on clothing. Hair thread can be dyed.
 Cartilage and nervous tissue
Ivory is used to decorate things at a craftsdwarf's workshop. Besides the obvious elephant tusks and so forth, teeth are actually also considered ivory for the purpose of decoration.
 Secondary products
You don't necessarily have to slaughter your animals to get something useful out of them, as specific creatures can also produce some products while alive.
Tame female egg-laying animals will produce eggs at intervals, which in turn can be used to feed your fortress on a more interim basis then butchering. Egg production is a viable way to keep a fortress fed, and in areas where setting up a farm will be difficult, starting out with some poultry can be essential to survival. Animals that can lay eggs are poultry (easily acquired), reptiles like alligators (only if you're particularly elfish), and some more exotic animals like dragons and giant eagles (only if you're very lucky). Female egg-laying animals will claim a nest box, and lay a clutch of eggs. These can be allowed to hatch into young animals (to replace the ones sent to the butcher), or collected into food stockpiles and cooked into meals at a kitchen.
You can also milk tame female mammals such as horses, cows, and so forth at the farmers workshop with an empty bucket and a dwarf with the milking labor enabled. The resulting milk can be used as a cooking ingredient or turned into high-value edible cheese at the farmers workshop by a dwarf with cheesemaking enabled (it cannot, however, be eaten raw).
Wool can be produced by shearing one of three animals: llamas, alpacas, and sheep (also trolls, but only goblins can do so). It can be woven into wool thread and then wool cloth; for a full discussion on the uses of wool, see the textile industry.
Worker type / Labor
- Ambusher / Hunting
 See also
|How do I make steel?|
|How do I make glass?|
|How do I make cloth?|
|How do I make soap?|
|My items are 'stuck' in a workshop; how do I stop this from happening?|
|Back to the Main FAQ|
|Primary Industries||Wood industry - Stone industry - Farming industry - Alcohol industry - Fuel industry - Fishing industry - Meat industry - Metal industry - Beekeeping industry - Poultry industry - Extract industry|
|Secondary Industries||Armor industry - Weapon Industry - Finished goods industry - Soap Industry - Glass industry - Gem industry - Textile industry - Ceramic industry|
|Tertiary Industries||Military - Health care - Trade|