Growing and Storing Feed for Livestock
We have reached the point where the cost of animal feed and bedding is becoming significant, and we are beginning to look for ways to economize while still giving our critters the best of care. Through the warmer months we have let our chickens free-range, our geese graze and have gathered greens for our rabbits. Feed costs in summer are much lower for this reason. Winter is the difficult time.
We have 19 chickens (will be culling about 6 or 8 of them soon), three geese and the rabbits - 3 adults and 18 seven-week-old youngsters. Most of the youngsters will become dinner in a few weeks, but I would like to keep a few of the most promising as future breeders. Which means feeding them for another four months until they mature.
I buy organic feed for the chickens and the geese and that is very expensive. The rabbits are getting the standard pellets supplemented with greens and a bit of alfalfa-timothy hay. I'm not thrilled with the pellets, but do not yet have the experience to justify changing their diet entirely. We gradually introduced the greens - dandelions, plantain, clover, chickory and alfalfa - and they thrived on them. But it is getting harder and harder to gather enough for them since the frosts. The geese still forage but it must be harder for them to find enough too. They will eat the chicken feed but they don't seem to enjoy it much and some mornings it looks as though they barely touched it.
Other homesteaders must face the same issues. Here we are now with a whole long winter ahead to learn, share ideas, and plan for the year to come.
I'll get the ball rolling with something I read about in an old copy of Harrowsmith - the "real" Harrowsmith. There was an excellent article on sprouting grains for livestock. I intend to try this to supply greens for my critters over the winter. Anyone else done this? Did it work for you? I have about fifteen pounds of untreated rye seed and will be trying to find oats and wheat and maybe barley as well. I tried sprouting scratch but found that the cracked corn in it tended to make everything ferment or go mouldy.
I hope there will be sufficient interest in this topic to keep an ongoing discussion going this winter. Please contribute your thoughts and ideas.