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

Monday, June 27, 2011

Rising Feed Costs

Feed costs have been steadily rising for quite some time and don't really look to getting any better. The whole country has been under less than optimal growing conditions this year. So what is a farmer to do? Many farmers switch to cheaper feeds. This can be a good thing and it can be a bad thing. I know around here my feed schedule changes somewhat according to the seasons. Also, according to budget sometimes I have to re-evaluate my feeds, amounts or ingredients. At one time I could feed a cheap horse feed and my horses did fine. As my stallion has aged is requirements have become different and I have had to switch to a more expensive feed for him. The thing is that the cost works out to about the same. As his new feed is higher quality and easier for him to digest, there is less waste and he is doing better on it. So one of my feed tips is that while that one bag might cost you double the cheaper bag, it might work out to be about the same total cost in the end. With my older stallion I have found the same issue with hay. I don't grow my own hay so I have to buy it. He doesn't chew hay well and will oftentimes simply walk away out of frustration. The hay does him no good. However, I have found that if I purchase bagged hay that he can eat all of it and in the long run with one bag of hay costing 13.00 I get 5 days of hay for him and no waste. With traditional baled hay 2 bales would last 5 days and cost me 12.00, but over half of the hay would be wasted. So my tip number one is that while cost can be a consideration don't let that be your only consideration. Don't be afraid to re-evaluate the feed needs of your critters and don't be afraid to adjust with the seasons. During the summer my mare stays fat as a tick and if I fed her the same year round she would be severely overweight. Even during the winter she holds weight and condition well with little feed, but in the summer I need to back off on grain requirements for her. My second rule of thumb for us is to evaluate livestock numbers. If feeding livestock means that my feed bill is larger than my grocery bill would be then some livestock must go. Whether that be to freezer camp or sold, the numbers would have to be reduced. I try to keep my numbers down and don't add more than necessary. I simply have to stay within a budget. For us this is not a hobby and must remain practical or it is simply too expensive to continue doing. So tip number three is to look at your livestock numbers, evaluate your needs, and cull your numbers if necessary. Tip number three is to grow what you can. We grow black oil sunflower seeds because that is one of our most expensive ingredients. The advantage to growing your own is that the critters can eat the whole plant, not just the seeds. So you actually get more feed value from growing your own than buying them in the bag. I also plant extra of everything that I grow because whatever I don't use for us gets fed to the critters. Even my horses are used to eating squash, turnips and thinnings from the garden. When I shell peas the horses and goats get the hulls. When I snap beans the horses and goats get the ends. When I pulled up the broccoli stems they were chopped and fed to everyone except the chickens. Rising feed costs don't seem to be slowing down, so doing what you can will save you money in the long run. Blessings, Kat


Kelly said...

I spoke with a large goat farm owner and she said a lot of hay is being exported to Japan so that's keeping costs high too. We recently chose to sell off most of our herd, as the price is too high to feed them all. Two will provide us with plenty of milk to do all the dairy products we use and selling dairy around here is touchy (which was one reason we grew the herd). Another tip is to make friends with people that have trimmings to dispose of. A few months ago I asked an elderly man at our church if he could use a dozen eggs a week and he was thrilled. He also likes to garden and do yard work (I think he's 82 but he's still going strong) and after I gave him eggs he started bringing all the clippings he has. There's stuff left at least once a week, more like 3 times most weeks. It's not enough to feed all of our goats, but it helps to supplement what they get.

Kat said...

Yeah, lots of herd sell-offs around here also. Right now hay is not too bad, but it will start to rise soon if the drought continues. I know I will be downsizing my herd by at least one and possibly more. I have decided that I won't retain any kids this year. Some will be sold, but most will go in the freezer. I grew my herd with the thought that I would sell a few herd shares to supplement costs, but no one seems interested in herd shares. So, I will downsize for now. Thankfully, the rabbits are not being bred right now so they eat only what I pick for them from the garden and around the farm. They are happy and healthy with that. We will see what things are like when breeding season gets here in a few months. Blessings, Kat

Kelle said...

Ihear you on this and we too are doing as you are feeding anything from our garden to our animals that we can. The chickens are never picky, but the cows and turkeys certainly are, so it's a matter of watching who eats what and making the adjustments, so there is little to no waste. We've been letting the chickens and turkeys free range from 5pm til they go back to the roosts( usually around 8:30pm) This helps them to consume less grain and hay tailings during the day and we also suppliment them with lawn clippings.
We have sunflowers growing everywhere, some we seeded and some self sown from last summer, we also planted hulless barley, millet, Indian corn and extra squash, turnips and salad crops. just for the animals. Our animals also enjoy herbs and spent flowers, you just have to be careful to know if any are poisonous to an particular breed of animal. Same goes with dropped fruits.
We've also adjusted the amount of animals, chickens in particular to make them more effcient and suited to our needs. The older hens are now canned and ready for Fall and winter soups and casseroles. The young( meat chickens) are in the freezer and we've already enjoyed a few roasted, BBQed and fried chickens this summer :o)
Have a Happy Independence Day!