What are you going to feed your animals? We have raised animals for many years, dogs, cats, chickens and goats, mainly. As the world has evolved into a place where we are no longer as sure of the animal feed supply as we once were, we have begun to question the sustainability of maintaining our animals should the SHTF. Thus, the title, when there are no pellets. There are many people that write and talk about storing up 500 pounds of animal feed or extra hay in case things get bad and they can't buy anymore. Take dog food, for instance. Eventually, that food will run out. Then what are you going to feed your dog? Are you going to let it go because you can no longer feed it? And if you do, will it leave? It has always been dependent on you. Are you going to eat it? Most people would cringe at reading that sentence, but if it comes down to you or your dog, what are you going to do?
Sustainability. It's something we contemplate regularly. The projects we work on are geared toward sustainability. Why start a new project, especially involving responsibility for another living creature, if it's not sustainable? We have gradually started trying to grow more feed for our chickens and goats. Luckily, these animals can graze and forage for most of their own food, for most of the year, should the need arise.
Our cats will have plenty of rats and mice to eat. But what about our Great Pyrenees, Pearl? She doesn't eat a whole lot, but she does need to eat. That goes back to storing 500 pounds of dog food. But what is dog food?
Most dog food and cat food is made out of corn and other assorted ground grains.We supplement the cats' and Pearl's diet with scrambled eggs from the chickens and milk from the goats. It's good the goats and chickens can forage for themselves, but would some grain be nice? Yes, and you can raise some grain if you try hard enough. But you're going to have to have a way to grind, or crack it for them to efficiently digest the nutrients inside. And if it is truly an SHTF scenario, you're not going to be putting all that energy into raising grain for your animals, you're going to be raising it for yourself.
When we butcher goats, we save the organs, fat and some grisly meat that we don't eat for dog food. We bag it up and freeze it, then add it to the dog's diet on a regular basis. This, along with the milk and eggs, cut down on the amount of dog food she eats, and also has the added benefit of being a natural food source, which is much healthier than what's in that bag of dog food. So if we ran out of dog food altogether, it wouldn't be a big shock to her system to change over to these other foods. We would need to find a way to preserve this food for the dog instead of relying on the freezer. We would probably can it when we canned some of the meat for ourselves. Sounds kind of familiar, right? Canned dog food.
We have a friend that raised pigs every year for meat. A portion of their diet was always road kill. Yes, road kill. This friend would keep a container in the back of her truck and whenever she found a dead animal on the road, she would load it up and take it home to her pigs. She was different sort, and lived a life of sustainability with solar panels and a wood cookstove long before Y2K and the prepper movement came along, but it's another example of how to manage.
Now, if the SHTF we're not going to be driving around gathering road kill, but we could trap things like opossum, raccoon, skunks and the like. This could feed our dog and cats, and it could also feed us as well. Until not so long ago, in the area where we live, people
ate mud ducks, opossum, squirrels, raccoon, cotton tail rabbits and of course, deer. If people from
this area ate these animals for food, then dogs and cats can too. Not so long ago, dogs and cats lived off of the leftovers from their owners, and will probably will have to again. We have never done this, but I do know someone who has recently begun to learn how to trap animals the old fashioned way. They caught a racoon and cooked it like a roast, eating only small portions at first to see how it might affect their bodies, which I thought was wise. They thought it tasted good, and just so you know, by watching these folks, you would never expect them to be doing these activities. It goes to show, that looks can be deceiving.
So, if you're thinking about getting animals to increase your ability to raise your own food and become more self-reliant, stop and think about how you will feed them if there are no more pellets. Some animals that are great
meat producers, like rabbits, require specialized pellets when grown in hutches. We researched rabbits more than once because of the great feed to meat production ratio, but it always came back to the reliance on specialized feed. That is not something we wanted to be dependent upon. I know some will comment that you can raise your own rabbit feed, but today's commercial rabbits are extremely sensitive to dietary changes which greatly affect their behavior. Therefore, rabbit will not be on our diet, unless of course, it's wild rabbit, and we have some big, fat, wild rabbits around here.
So, how are you going to feed your animals when commercial feed is not readily available? You can't just say, "Time out, I wasn't ready yet!" and expect your livestock or pets to wait six months or a year while you get ready. I know we're not ready, but we are working on it, and we're trying to be realistic about it. If you know that something is coming, and you're trying to live a sustainable lifestyle, then don't play head games with yourself. When you alter that rabbit's feed it is going to kill and eat any other animal it has access to. And don't think that your lap dog is going to revert back to it's wolf ancestors and start
hunting for it's survival food. It ain't gonna happen. We know that when we turn our chickens out to forage, our egg production is going to drop. Some of the weaker animals may not make it. When we quit feeding our goats grain, the milk production will drop sharply. These are just the realities of raising animals. Will our domestic animals eat foods raised in the garden? Hopefully. Will they eat meat and internal organs from trapped animals? Absolutely. So, give some serious thought to how you're going to sustain your livestock and domestic animals, especially if you are depending on them to provide you with food and protection. It's your responsibility. Think about it.
Until next time - Fern