Today's Quote

“If people let government decide what foods they eat and what medicines they take, their bodies will soon be in as sorry a state as are the souls of those who live under tyranny.” Thomas Jefferson

Saturday, May 14, 2011

The Feed Situation-Livestock

Last week I was low on feed wheat so I went to my local feed farm (I buy my feed right off the farm). They don't grow all the feed that they sell, but what they don't grow they buy from local in state farmer's that do. Well, I got bags of feed wheat came home and opened the first bag and found......mold!!! I opened another bag hoping the first was just an anomaly and found mold again. It was very obvious that this wheat had been stored for a long time and was the scrapings of the silo. I took all the wheat back and told "Dan" about the mold. He apologized and explained that he was having a hard time getting feed wheat and didn't know when they would be bringing any fresh wheat. So I got oats as there is not much of a difference in nutrition. However, this brought to the forefront something that I have been studying for quite some time....alternative livestock feeds. Not only is the price of feed rising at a tremendous rate (50% increase in the past 6 months, some more than that), but what happens if there is no feed products to be had. The rabbits are pretty easy since most of the year I can pick weeds and such to keep them fed and going along with veggies from the garden. In fact that is mostly what they eat anyway and only get a significant amount of grain during the production months. The chickens too are easy since I don't feed them anything but kitchen and garden scraps now. But then there are my goats and the horses. The horses especially. During much of the year the goats have plenty of browse and the only ones getting any extra in the form of purchased feed are the milkers and those in the latter stages of pregnancy. Anyway, in the olden days of farming turnips and mangel beets were livestock crops. During the winter Victorian farmers typically would feed the wheat chaff and grind the wheat stalks. Not much nutrition in that but it kept their stock alive through the winter. In the south it was common to grow corn for winter stock feed and I can remember my grandfather talking about when he was a boy the mules got corn and then they would grind the cob and they would eat that. So I have been experimenting and starting to train my stock to eat something other than store bought grain. I had a bumper crop of turnips and collards this year. I have one horse that loves both, one horse that will eat them a little bit and one that looks at them like they are a pile of manure and walks away. The goats will nibble at them but are not real interested. Now I have a bumper crop of broccoli, but it got too hot and so no heads on the broccoli. I have harvested all the leaves and stems and put up as much as I wanted. Now, we are experimenting on chopping the stems and the large leaves to see who will eat that and who won't. We have doubled our sunflower production. Sunflowers provide a double benefit. They usually must be thinned and so the thinnings can either be dried for winter feed or fed green for feed now. They grow quickly and are hardy. They produce seeds high in protein and essential fatty acids. The seed heads can be dried and stored for winter feed, don't forget to save some for planting next year. I don't have a critter around here that will turn up there nose at sunflowers, seeds or plant. Everyone will eat them. So I just planted another patch and when the first is ready to harvest then I will plant right behind for a fall harvest. Sweet potatoes and squash are two other crops that make great livestock feed. Sweet potatoes tolerate even the poorest soil, in fact it seems they prefer that. The vines are highly nutritious providing both protein and calcium. The potatoes themselves are loaded with vitamins and minerals and they store very well. We will be increasing production of these as well. Beet greens are loaded with all sorts of vitamins and minerals while the roots are a good source of phosphorus. We will be planting more this fall. We won't be increasing our corn though since we only feed corn in the winter to the horses. Ruminants simply shouldn't be fed corn since it is like feeding them sugar and changes the acidity of the rumen. But horses can definitely use the extra calories simply to keep warm. Corn doesn't have a lot to offer except in the way of energy. We don't feed it in the summer and only use that for winter. Things might change though if the feed situation gets desperate. So my point of this whole post is to take a look as see what you can do to feed your livestock and what you can train them to eat. And yes, you will need to train them to eat alternative or old timey feed crops if they are used to nothing but grains or commercially prepared feeds. Hopefully, these ideas might get you started on your way to producing your own alternative feeds.It might be time for us to think about fencing off that acre for wheat production. It looks like it might come in handy. Blessings from the farm, Kat


Kelly said...

A bale of hay here went from about $8 to now $14.75-for 80-100 pound alfalfa. Can you say ouch? I thought it was just because spring was late coming and the supply was getting low, but turns out it's the price of gas more than anything. We definately need to be able to grow more of our own feed, but I've been postponing because we're SUPPOSED to be moving. Kinda stuck, so not sure what to do. This time of year we can let the goats go to the creek and nibble on the various trees and weeds, but that doesn't help for winter. To use any of our acre for growing winter feed it'd have to be fenced, and we haven't wanted to put money into fencing if we're just leaving soon. Pray for an open door to where we should move!

Kat said...

Definitely praying for an open door! Blessings, Kat