The Road Home

The Road Home
There is no place like home.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Researching a New Feed Ration

The more I read about and learn about GMO corn, the more I wish we could totally eliminate it from our diet, even though I know that's close to impossible. We do have a few cans of store bought corn in the pantry, which I don't even like to eat anymore. But, for me, the biggest stumbling block we have is the feed we give our animals. So, more research and more reading.


We used to have our goat and chicken feed mixed according to our own recipe at a small, family owned feed mill. This location does not have that option, so we have been mixing our own. Wheat was one of the ingredients we used to include that has not been available here. A few days ago when we were at the feed store, I noticed a bag of wheat bran that I didn't remember seeing before. I didn't know what the nutritional value of wheat bran would be for goats, so I came home and looked it up. According to Storey's Guide to Raising Dairy Goats, wheat bran has 13.3% digestible protein and rolled oats have 10% . Hmmm....okay. The alfalfa pellets we use have 17% protein and the sweet feed has 10%. 

Summer 2013
The ideal protein ratio for milking does is around 12%. So, what I am trying to figure out is a mix of these grains, minus the GMO corn chops we are currently feeding, that would give me about a 12% feed combination. Another thought I have had is sunflower seeds. Black oil sunflower seeds are very nutritious for both goats and chickens. We grew our first ever sunflowers last summer and actually had seeds to harvest. This summer I hope to grow hundreds of sunflowers all around our place with the plan to harvest them for animal feed.

So, the new feed ration we are going to try is:
  • 6 parts rolled oats
  • 4 parts sweet feed
  • 1 part alfalfa pellets
  • 1 part wheat bran
  • 1 part sunflower seeds
For now, all of these ingredients will come from the feed store. This combination will give me a feed ration of about 11.5% protein. Of course, the protein content is always dependent upon growing conditions.

Summer 2013
I am also going to start several patches of comfrey this summer. Right now I have one plant in my herb bed. I have ordered and received 5 more roots which will begin bed number two. Then the next step will be to start comfrey seedlings. 
Once I have them up and established, I will plant bed number three. Comfrey, also called knitbone, has long been used as a medicinal herb and as a supplement for livestock feed. It is very high in protein and vitamin B12.


Another crop I am going to try to get established for supplemental livestock feed is plantain. I have read about it for a number of years, but didn't really pay much attention to it. When I was ordering some more herb plants from Crimson Sage, I ran across plantain again, right after I had read another article about feeding it to chickens. I have been wondering what I could grow that would supplement our chicken's diet more naturally than grains. It would have to be something that is easy to grow, pick and dry for winter use. So I ordered some. I will let you know how it grows and how the animals like it.

Fall 2013
The third thing I am going to grow more of this summer is kale. I have a few rather sad looking plants that made it through our cold winter. After reading this article, I started picking off some of the bottom leaves and feeding them to the chickens. They took to them right away, but the goats didn't seem to care for them. I will try feeding them to the goats again after they have started producing newer leaves.

Summer 2013

We will try our hand once again at growing carrots, sugar beets and turnips for the animals. Last summer, our fall garden didn't produce much of anything. I got started late and the weather didn't cooperate very well either. If we are really going into another Maunder Minimum, we will see how that affects our ability to produce plentiful gardens like we have in the past.




We may all be learning to garden a little differently if the quality of our sunlight and warmth are affected by decreasing solar activity. Another thing to learn more about so that I can adjust our growing habits to match what nature is providing.

 



There are many things to take into account when pondering feed rations for both animals and humans. Learn all you can, put it to good use, and hold your family close. They are the most important thing there is in your life. Don't let anyone, or anything, convince you otherwise.


Until next time - Fern


20 comments:

  1. When we lived in Michigan, we bought our goat feed from the local mill. It was a granola-type feed, with whole and chopped grains. When we moved here, I took the tag from one of those bags and made the rounds of the local feed stores to find something similar. No luck. Here I can only buy pelleted feed. It's not what I want to feed my goats, and I need to revisit this and do something better.

    Have you looked into chickweed for the chickens? It's another item on my list.

    Kathi at Oak Hill Homestead

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm sorry - duckweed, not chickweed.

      Delete
    2. Kathi, it's a challenge to provide something healthy for producing livestock, but I want to try. No, I hadn't heard of duckweed, so I looked it up, and it looks like we would need a pond or something to grow it in and we're just not set up for that. I will keep looking, though. Thank you for the information.

      Fern

      Delete
  2. Ralph and I have been discussing livestock feed alternatives for some time. Mangel Wurzel's are something we want to grow. IF we can find the initial Non GMO seed. I found this article about them at a very good blog.

    http://thefarmersmuseum.blogspot.com/2011/01/mangel-wurzels.html

    That you can feed the tops and the root helps but we are not sure how much land we will need to grow a supplementary stock of them.

    I have used Bran in my Show cattle ration and it is a very good feed, critters like it and it is good for them. You explore areas of self sufficiency that need discussion!

    God Bless you!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Fiona, R.H. Shumway's carries a lot of heirloom and open pollinated varieties of seeds and some plants. I got my mangel beet seeds from them.

      http://www.rhshumway.com/

      http://www.rhshumway.com/dp.asp?pID=02605

      You can buy the mangels by the ounce, 1/4 pound or by the pound. They have other seeds at bulk rates as well as the typical seed packets.

      Thank you for that site. I really like the way they chop up the beets for feed. That is a great idea. I have wondered if we ever grow some good root crops for the animals how we would chop them up. The tool they have is interesting. I have never seen anything like that before. So, thanks again.

      It's good to know that wheat bran is a good feed. I wasn't sure and don't know anyone that has used it before.

      Blessings,

      Fern

      Delete
  3. The whole back of our orchard is full of plantain. We have multiple varieties growing wild one our property. My Mom raises chickens and they are allowed to free range. They eat every speck of green they can get access to, but will not eat the plantain. It's very fibrous, making it very hard for them peck off a piece. The other animals like it though. The bonus about it is that it has a very long strong tap-root, and with it being fibrous the chickens can't scratch it up, and the bees love it.
    The chickens do love our comfrey, beet greens, and swiss chard. I think the beet greens, and swiss chard grow faster than the plantain, and provide lots of minerals.
    But thats just my two cents.
    If you ever need any mullein seed let me know. I would be glad to send you some. I've got tons. Not sure if it's good to feed the the animals, but its good for the ears.
    Kimberly

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I appreciate the information, Kimberly. If the chickens won't eat the plantain, I hope the goats will.

      Do you grow and pick the greens for the chickens, or do they get to pick their own since they are free range?

      We have mullein that grows wild here and the goats won't eat it. Thank you for the offer and for sharing this information. It's a great way for me to learn.

      Fern

      Delete
  4. Would it be possible for plant a stand of OP corn suitable for your area and then harvest it by hand?
    We do that with our Early Butler corn. The nice thing about hand harvesting is it doesn't have to be done all at once and is done well after the hot weather.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We had talked about trying that, but most of our ground is very rocky and not very fertile. The second challenge we see is how to store it in our humid environment so that it won't mold or rot and the varmints can't get to it. Growing enough corn for our animals just seems to be too labor intensive and beyond our reach right now. We still grow some for human consumption in the garden, though.

      Thanks for the idea. Maybe someone else can benefit from it.

      Fern

      Delete
  5. Flax seed as a supplement was something I was thinking about today. I used to boil a batch twice a week and mix the gelatinous mass into my show cattle ration. Once they got used to the "wet" feed they loved it and it is very good for them. I have included a very good read about flax, maybe it would help with your chicken feed?

    http://davesgarden.com/community/forums/t/413650/

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That is an interesting thing to know, Fiona. I do have some flax growing seeds, but I haven't gotten around to deciding where to grow a patch. When I do, I want it to be able to reseed itself and be self-sustaining. Boiling a gelatinous mass sounds rather yucky, though, don't you think? (-:

      Fern

      Delete
    2. Now that you mention it I should have worded it differently!

      Delete
  6. Root crops as animal feed is usually seen in northern climates. Harvest of tops as green feed before withering is a common practice but is labor intensive. Harvest of roots should be well after heavy frost that is needed to drive sugars into the roots from the leaves. Storage of the roots should be in trenches covered with earth deep enough to protect from a hard freeze. I would not feed red beets to animals as a large part of their diet as they contain oxalates which can cause kidney stones in humans and some animals.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This is very good information, thank you. Our hope is to grow some root crops, but I'm not sure how many we may be able to grow or how well they will store here. Many winters it is in the 50's and 60's in December. We have much to learn and experience yet. Again, thank you for the information. It is appreciated.

      Fern

      Delete
  7. Have you investigated Jerusalem Artichokes as food for your goats? You can feed the tops to chickens and livestock (I assume goats can eat them) and harvest the tubers for your own consumption.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, we have. We actually have a small patch started and more coming in the mail to start another patch. They will eventually be part of the mix for the animals and for us. Thanks for the reminder.

      Fern

      Delete
  8. Sunflowers are a wonderful source of protein and healthy fats for the animals. I grow them, pumpkins, comfrey, kale, nettles,oats, and op heirloom corn. I never seem to have enough to last until the pastures come green, but it's getting better each year.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for your help, Odiie. I have seeds to plant for nettles and pumpkin, but I haven't included them in my plans for animal feed....yet. I need a good place to start a patch of nettles that I can just let go and reseed. I have had better luck growing winter squashes than pumpkins, even though they are just about the same, I'm not sure why. I know the seeds of winter squashes and pumpkins are very nutritious. Your success in growing these for your animals gives me hope that I can do the same. Thanks again.

      Fern

      Delete
  9. Best wishes with your feed experiments! Thanks for sharing on The HomeAcre Hop! Hope to see you again today!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Lisa. It is going well so far.

      Fern

      Delete