Growing Green Fodder for Livestock

For some years I’ve been interested in growing fodder as a way to feed livestock cheaply & to save space. Hay takes up so much room. I’d see those ads where the farmer is pulling a grassy mat out of a tray & feeding it to cattle. Most of these ads were for the large systems that are housed in a building or trailer where the temperature is controlled & watering is automated. They came … Continue reading

The Fodder Fix to Exorbitant Hay Prices

Drought is the biggest enemy to livestock owners. It causes a scarcity of feed & prices rise to the point that farmers cut way back on how many animals they can carry through the winter. We had a bad year in Michigan & decent hay is going for $8/bale. Who can afford that? There is a way to cut your hay consumption in half and feed livestock cheaply.

Fodder is grass grown from oats, wheat, barley or rye seeds. It only takes 7-8 days from seed to maturity & requires no soil to grow. It is easily grown in the house; mine is in my basement. I buy non GMO seeds from a local farmer and pay $8.25/50# of oats & wheat. This will yield about 250# of fodder costing roughly $0.03/pound compared to $0.16/pound for hay at current prices. I can grow enough to feed 6 Shetland ewes, 8 butcher lambs, and a colony of 5 adult rabbits (2 of which are nursing litters) plus 3 fryer bunnies. A bucket of sprouted oats is fed to 15 chickens. We raised 5 pot belly pigs almost exclusively on oat fodder & they taste amazing.

Fodder & oat sprouts ready to feed

Our fodder growing system is simple and requires twice daily maintenance.

Related Posts
Growing Green Fodder for Livestock

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FarmTek Fodder Pro 2.0 Feed Systems

Siberian Peashrub: a Non-GMO Livestock Feed Alternative

While researching field peas as a protein source for poultry and hogs, I stumbled across the Siberian Peashrub (caragana aborescens). Further investigation convinced me that this shrub would provide solutions to a couple of problems on our homestead that we’d love to correct.
The first and obvious problem is finding plant-based alternatives to GM soy to provide adequate protein for our animals. Reading the following sentence sold me on the value of this shrub for feeding chickens and ducks. “During World War II, the Siberian peasants reportedly carried their chicken flocks through the winter feeding the seed of one small woody pland, Caragana arborescens.” (Snell, 1983).
Even though we are 150′ from the road, we hear and see a fair amount of traffic. Which brings us to the second problem, privacy. Growing 6-12′ tall with an equal spread, the Siberian Peashrub is large enough to serve as a buffer between us and the road. In fact, one of its uses is as windbreaks for farms and fields.
It is fast growing, cold and drought tolerant, tolerates poor soil and begins bearing in 3-5 years. The shrub has food value for humans, livestock and wildlife. The leaves can be used for dying my wool to a lovely azure color. The shrubs is widely used as windbreaks and screens. It is perennial and fits well into a permaculture or forest garden design. I think I’ve found the perfect plant.
What do you think?

Resources
http://www.gardenguides.com/taxonomy/siberian-peashrub-caragana-arborescens/

http://www.ag.ndsu.edu/trees/handbook/th-3-7.pdf

http://www.hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/duke_energy/Caragana_arborescens.html#Cultivation

http://www.sagebud.com/siberian-peashrub-caragana-arborescens/

Further Reading
The Small-Scale Poultry Flock: An All-Natural Approach to Raising Chickens and Other Fowl for Home and Market Growers–With information on building … feed, and working with poultry in the garden
Harvey Ussery

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Non GMO feed: Field Peas

At this time last year, I was trying to source field peas as a soy replacement to feed to my chickens. The only places I had any luck finding these peas were feed companies that stocked them in the spring for planting. I can’t find anyplace in Michigan to buy these peas at any other time of year.
From living in the South, I think of “field peas” as black-eyes, white acres, cream peas etc. I’m pretty certain that the field peas being referenced as livestock feed are different. The best I can determine is that the livestock field peas are the same as the dried split peas sold in the grocery store. Great news! Now I can experiment.


I put some split peas out in separate containers for the chickens and ducks. I didn’t want to mix it with their grain because it would be harder to tell if they were eating it. They turned up their collective beaks and bills at it. I left it there for a couple of days; they showed no interest. I soaked some for a couple of hours and boy were they “fragrant”. Maybe the smell would attract them. The ducks dove right in. The chickens also ate some, but weren’t as gung-ho as the ducks. They ate them better the second time I put them out. By the third day, all the poultry was eating split peas without hesitation. Next, we will see if they will now eat them dry.

I dug around online and found a couple of resources for anyone who is interested. One is a small book that was published in 1911 that contains information for using field peas as livestock feed. You can read the book at this link. “Something For Mother’s Dinner/Peas and Pea Culture”

 

This is a bit of interesting information about returning to using field peas for feed in Northern Michigan:
Field Peas for Northern Michigan
The next step is ordering enough untreated “seed” from my feed dealer to carry me through a year. Some will be fed and some will be planted to see how practical it is to grow and how much space it requires to feed my birds all year. If I have the Super Worms in full swing, I’ll need to grow less of the peas.

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Update on Non GMO Livestock Feed

Summer passes by so quickly when there is so much to do. I didn’t realize it had been so long since I’d posted to this blog. I’m sorry I left you all hanging on the whole non GM livestock feed experiment.
Duckweed
Growing these tiny plants did not work out. I started with a small amount that was separated into several containers. Some were placed under fluorescent lights, some had a small amount of sugar or sheep manure added to the water. One container only contained the plants and well water. It seemed that at first the duckweed was growing and multiplying and then the growth stalled and finally died. I’m not sure why. Anyone with ideas please post ’em.
Comfrey
I have this already established in several places and non of my animals have really eaten it much. The goats would eat it about mid afternoon after it had been warmed by the sun. The chickens have never been very interested. I dried some leaves in the dehydrator, crumbled them and mixed them with the chicken’s feed and they relished it.
In order for this to be practical, I need a couple more dehydrators. In a less humid area the leaves could probably be hung to dry. Here they tend to mold. When we have more dehydrators in place, this will be a viable substitute for soy.

Super Worms
This was slow to take off because the worms had to morph to beetles in order to produce more worms. I started with 50 worms on March 21 and presently have 20 beetles left from the original worms. Through trial and error and continued research I learned a lot.
Bedding/Feed
The worms and resulting beetles were originally bedded in raw oatmeal. After the first group of beetles was given a chance to reproduce they were moved to fresh bedding. Occasionally, I looked through the old bedding for signs of hatching worms and never saw any. Further research showed that the beetles reproduced better in fine oats. I ground new bedding up in the blender and put them in that. The newly hatched worms are almost threadlike and show up clearly in the ground oats. The original whole oatmeal bedding eventually did yield some surprisingly big worms. I think it was hard to see the small worms and I just didn’t notice them.
Spoiled Food
One big mistake I made was throwing away the spoiled food. Later I read that the darkling beetles lay their eggs in decaying matter. After that, all dried up food was saved in a clear plastic container. I went through it the other day and collected 50 superworms.
Hiding Place
The beetles like to hide and half a cardboard egg carton serves as the perfect hideout for them. They spend most of their time under that carton. This keeps the baby worms safe that are hatching in the now ground oat bedding. It also means I don’t have to keep moving the beetles to new containers to keep the babies from being eaten. Transferring the beetles is easy. All I have to do is pick up the egg carton since most of the beetles have attached themselves to the inside.

The comfrey and superworms worked out the best. I won’t fool around with the duckweed again unless someone can tell me an easy way to propagate it. More dehydrators are needed so I can go full steam to have enough comfrey to feed 12 birds. I started with 50 super worms on March 21 and still do not have enough worms to even give my chickens a taste 5 1/2 months later. Since the worms should be 6 months old to breed, it will be about the end of October before there are breeder worms. Hopefully by next spring we will have dehydrators in place and containers full of superworms and beetles.

What ideas do you have to replace the GM grains in livestock feed?

Paid Endorsement Disclosure: I may receive commissions/revenue from affiliates or advertisers for endorsements, recommendations, and/or links to products or services from this blog. It doesn’t change the cost to you and helps offset expenses on this frugal homestead.