Sunday, May 25, 2008

how much does a rutabaga weigh?

or beet? or parsnip? or kohlrabi?

i ordered several root crop seeds for experimental animal feed. i estimate we'l be feeding 7 goats and 3 sheep this winter. those 10 will eat an average of 40 pounds per day. multiply that by 6 months (182 days) and that equals 7300 pounds. wow.

i don't expect to grow that much but you never know. the complete list of what i hope to grow (we'll be eating most of these too):
swiss chard*
several winter squash varieties: pumpkins, buttercup, etc.

* marks those i will leave in the ground and cover for protection.

this year, i hope to rate their yield vs. weight and compare that list to what the animals prefer. then next year, i'll grow more of what they prefer. w/in 3 years, i hope to get them mostly off grain and onto root crops for winter feed (plus hay - see below).

i feel that i cannot truly be self sufficient with animals if i'm always needing to purchase our feed for the animals from outside sources. i don't want to be one of those 'homesteaders' who raise a whole menagerie of animals to be self sufficient and raise their own feed but yet still be dependent on others to feed their feed. did that make sense?

we have plenty of land that can be better utilized to accomplish this goal. we are taking over the back field that the farmer usually farms and turning it into a hay field. there are two types of hay i'm interested in: a mix of clover, vetch and alfalfa and a mix of oats and peas (grown together and harvested when oats start to turn). supposedly, the latter is good if you have poultry in with your goats/sheep as they will scratch and eat the oats that fall out of the hay. we hope to keep our turkeys in with them. we'll cut these with a mower on the tractor and then hand rake it and pile it loose in the shed. if need be, we have a sickle to cut it with.

i am very excited that we are approaching this goal. from day one of owning animals, i've wanted to be able to provide them their feed. the $20 worth of seeds i'm investing in will hopefully be a great start. i was just reading this morning how someone was growing 4 - 90' rows of parsnips and a few rows of carrots to feed their 2 cows during the winter. it's great to see others are attempting this as well.

i also am growing some black sunflower seeds. that started when i discovered several had sprouted from the goat bedding i had covered the potatoes with. they love these sunflower seeds and they are expensive. i hope to set up a small patch and see what my yield is. they will make a yummy treat and also a good supplement for the does in milk.

carla emery's country living book also has some great information on feeding animals in this manner. the whole 'what did people do before they could go to rural king and buy grain for their animals' aka the pre-cornfed diet.

has anyone else had any experience with this method of feeding livestock?

next, i'll be researching what to grow to feed the chickens during the winter.

in other news, the pesky rabbits have been taking out my cayenne pepper plants one at a time so greg fashioned me some mini pepper cages out of hardware mesh. they are dinky but hopefully will keep any more from disappearing (i've only got 3 left).


Robbyn said...

Tansy, I'm so encouraged seeing folks jump aboard solutions for growing their own animal/poultry supplemental feed! I'll be following your progress with great interest with an eye towards the day we might be able to have our own livestock and attempt the same...can't wait to see what things on your list you find the animals prefer :)

I saw a wonderful article a year ago about growing chicken feed, and am passing along the link in case some of their ideas might be useful to you....

Kathie said...

How very exciting! I too look forward to reading how this works out for you.

tansy said...


thanks for the link. it sounds like she feeds some of the same things i'm planning for the goats/sheep which is what i was suspecting. that will help me in my planning.


here's hoping you'll be reading about success!

Gina said...

In the past I've grown turnips for the goats (and rabbits when I had them). I also grew several rows of sunflowers and shared them between the goats and chickens. However, I was never able to grow the entire diet for winter and had to buy grain from places like RK and I purchased hay from some sheep people nearby. Winter is definitely the challenge for the self-sufficiency thing. That part made perfect sense to me and so far I have been one of those homesteaders.

the new place offers a little better land layout and we already have two acres in hay that needs to have a first cutting. This is where snag number two comes in. We don't own a tractor yet or have animals trained to help us out, so we will have to hire the hay cutting out, most likely. This bothers me. I bought a beet seed that is supposedly for livestock, but I haven't planted it. This palce is like starting over and I haven't got the gardens laid out well yet (I have our food one mostly in, but will need to find a good spot to grow animal feed).

Anyway, long comment, but I will be interested to hear what works out well for you and the creatures!

Nita said...

Hi Tansy, I just wanted to stop by and thank you for the link to my farm blog. It looks like we are reading some of the same blogs.
Here's to a good growing season.

MMP said...

Hi Tansy,

We grow and feed sunflower to our goats. In the fall, the Sunflower stalks are another good source for the gaots. As we harvest the heads, the goats are happy to eat the foliage. It replaces a little hay anyway. Another odd one I have found is Japanese Knot weed (or mexican bamboo). My goats love the foliage and it is very fast growing. I wouldn't suggest cultivating it because it is an alien invasive, but if you have existing patches, You can get some good out if while controlling the weed.

We also are looking at growing more of our own animal feed. One of the things I worry about, particularly with the goats, is trace minerals. Do you plan to depend on loose minerals or are you finding other solutions? Copper and selenium are big ones, but I also find I need to supliment zinc. My commercial feed has added minerals (they are on the bag tags) and I am trying to figure out a way to replace the minerals as we move away from bags.

Keep writing about it.

hillbilly2be said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Danielle said...

I'm working in this area as well, though with our 5 acres, we'll never be completely self-sufficient. But I'm okay with that. Folks have bartered and bought for a long time.

We don't grain our sheep or our goats. We hay our small bit once early in the season in the manner you described, but after that we purchase hay—this year hopefully from across the street. I also supplement our dairy goats during lactation with alfalfa pellets.

The pigs, chickens, and now our dairy cow are the animals that really send our feed bill sky-rocketing. I'm doing a test plot of different grains this year, including hulless oats, which are supposed to be an excellent pig feed. I've also planted extra pumpkins for the livestock and plan to do the root crops as well. I'm hoping to over seed the grain plot with beets after harvest and before moving the pigs back on for the winter.

I look forward to hearing about your discoveries on this front!

JenQ said...

I have also been trying to figure out ways to feed my animals that is both cheaper AND more self-sufficient. My thoughts for the chickens is growing worms....both redworms AND mealworms. Haven't done it yet but working on it. My other bright idea is to figure out a good system to sprout grains on a larger scale. Last summer I sprouted oats for my horses. I think it's a good way to increase the value and volume of a feed including the sunflower seeds. The only problem is figuring out how to do it in the winter and on a larger scale. I want to feed sprouts to my horses, alpacas, pigs, chickens, goats etc etc etc.

I found your blog this morning after I got up to check on birds outside and found that something had gotten one of my ducks. Sounds like we have many of the same interests and aspirations. My friends and family think I am insane....when I looked at your goal list - I knew I had found a kindred spirit :)

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