Thursday, August 14, 2014

Feeding Your Livestock Post Collapse

Any Homesteader, Prepper or Sustainable living enthusiast just isn't worth their salt unless they are also planning on keeping their own livestock just as well fed as they are themselves.  I have covered this a few times under the various "Carrying Capacity" posts.

In today's world at first this seemed like a pretty insurmountable problem. Everyone is so used to driving to the feed store for a couple bags of some grain mixture or getting the local farmer to drop a bale of hay off many don't realize how much work feeding livestock can actually be.

This just in time inventory of stock feed supplies has also caused a problem with many people keeping more livestock than they can realistically provide for once the trucks stop rolling.

As I went around and began talking to my favorite research resource, namely the most ancient retired old farmers I could find, it became obvious to me that most livestock owners today also had tunnel vision as to what they could feed the animals under their care. These old guys started telling me stories of their Grandfathers putting in fields of melons, Sweet Potatoes, Corn and other vegetables or grains and then feeding the stock out of them far into the Winter months.

I began experimenting with various garden crops to see what could be fed to my sheep and what couldn't or shouldn't be fed. Melons, Cucumbers, Squash and Pumpkins have become a staple feed for my two dry lot rams all Summer now. They have become adept at catching Cucumbers flying through the air and opening up Pumpkins to get at the goodies inside as well.

Nothing is more hilarious than watching a ram run around with a Pumpkin stuck on his head.

This year I tried another experiment that panned out fairly well. Corn.

I put in a pretty sizable plot of Corn last year and got lucky in that it was a pretty good year for it as well. By the end of the season I had about two bushels full of over ripe Corn on the cob that I allowed to dry out over Winter.

It used to be just about every small farm had it's own Corn crib which is something one rarely sees these days but I now understand the value of such a building. The Corn I kept and dried stayed usable for grinding and as an animal feed all Winter and I have been feeding it to the rams on the cob as well and they love it. Dried cob and all.

Now many of you maybe thinking "Duh... Sheep like Corn" I had no doubt about that. What I was really testing for was how well Sweet Corn would store and remain viable as a dry feed when only air dried and in small amounts. Many crops can keep in the right conditions but often spoil when trying to save them in smaller amounts. With only two bushels to save I thought it would be a good experiment to see if I could keep it all Winter and it did well. I placed it inside an old wooden ammo crate and kept it out of the weather but not in a temperature controlled space. I did have some vermin damage though, although not enough to matter overall.

This tells me that growing and storing enough Corn for both Human consumption and Animal feed is possible even on a smaller scale but it would take careful planning to make sure you have enough. Smaller livestock also require the dried kernels to be cracked before being fed and this wouldn't be a bad idea for larger stock either as it opens up the calories stored inside.

The second plant I added to my feed lot list this year were Sunflowers. They also proved a real hit and acceptable ram fodder although they will not eat the large stalks. The rams seem to love the seeds as well although I do not know if large quantities of the seed shells would hurt them as yet. This is another grain type crop that can be dried and mixed into a homegrown stock feed for the Winter months as well.

Next on my list should be accounting for average yields and determining how much I need to grow and store per animal.

That I think building a Corn Crib might be on the agenda too.

Keep Prepping Everyone!!!


  1. Along with food stores, how much pasturing are you planning for as staple or supplement? Can they graze year round in your area or just during the spring, summer, etc.

    1. Izzy - I am in the middle of figuring my pasturage v. hay producing fields out at the moment. I also have the advantage of about 350 acres down the road to draw on as well. I currently call that the Summer pasture and then in the Fall we will move the old ram down there with his harem for Winter.

      Eventually I plan on about 10 acres of pasture that is divided into three sections for rotation. But I have to wait until the useless old nags die off before I can put that plan into action.

  2. I can't hardly grow corn here because of coons and deer, I would have to grow grain such as wheat and barley for a couple of years and hunt the coons to extinction before I could hope to have any corn crop. People used to hunt them but have forgotten how I guess. Since I wouldn't be driving to the grocery store, a whole lot of critters will be on the menu. Hogs will be an option and depending on the breed, they can forage a big area and get it in shape for larger animals. There will be a lot of experimenting but feed as we know it will disappear with the cheap oil that produced it.

    1. Sf - Yep it will. I imagine the coons will disappear after a collapse as well. Might take a little while longer but I bet they make someone's menu before too much time goes by.

      Pigs will more than likely become a much more sought after live stock option too I bet.

  3. Goats will eat sunflowers stalks and all. The seeds can be saved to press for oil orto eat though we used them as bait for pigeons as well.
    The gentlemen from Sunnybrook farm hit on the reason why you used to hunt racoons. It wasn't just for hats :-).
    If you build a corn crib or grain store don't forget to stand it on cornstones. Having it off the floor these stones or a modern equivalent prevent rodents from accessing the building.

    1. Good advice. I been looking into building one but haven't settled on a type yet although yes it will be off the ground. I would like to find a spot where I can keep it out of the vertical rain as well.

  4. I feed black oil sunflower to my horses. Probably @ 50lb bag to 300 lbs oats ratio. Sunflowers are a good source of protein, especially if you are feeding an underweight animal. Since I started feeding to my (pleasure) horses their hooves are much harder and coats are shiny. While everyone else's horses had strangles, weird colds and such, mine are healthy. (and they are not pasture rats, they average 15m a week/trail riding/team penning)

    If you grow corn, feed not only the corn, but the corn husks and corn stalks. Recently froze 30 doz. ear of sweet corn, steers got all the husks and cobs. (cut them first so they don't choke) My own field of sweet corn will be cut down into sizable pieces to be fed to the steers after the sweet corn is harvested. This is called green-chop. But don't feed to horses because they are not ruminants, they can't process corn and shouldn't because it's too high carb. High carbs = founder. Chickens like to eat the silks. It's good for them, too.

    My steers get scraps of everything. When I can potatoes, they get the rotten ones and the potato skins. When I make sauerkraut, the steers get the outer cabbage leaves and hearts. When my green beans are done producing, I pull the entire plant out and feed it to steers/calves. My steers love watermelon rinds, cantaloupe rinds, when I have more than the chickens can consume. Also beet tops (greens).
    People laugh at me that I treat my steers like pigs, but they love it. And *they* are tasty.

    Be careful how much you feed to animals that are not used to 'greens' - may cause diarrhea. My steers have very limited pasture. THey don't care if it's wilted. Out west they feed cows the scraps from every food you can think of. Salsa scraps, Cottenseed hulls (not food but you get my drift) wet brewer's grains.

    If you have the cash/storage to store some economical feed, go with beet pulp. It's about $14/50lb bag. Horses, steers, goats/sheep like it. MIx with some water and some cinnamon, just enough to fluff it up. Used this for a pony that was prone to founder and heading towards metabolic problem with big, fat neck. Reversed that. Beet pulp is fiber, so it can't be used solely, but is a good substitute if you are low on hay/forage. I feed a couple times a week to save on senior/hay. About a 3qt scoop per animal with some oats added.

    For chickens, I buy a bag of mixed bird seed. THrow it on the ground and water it occasionally. A mixture of milo, grains and grasses come out of it, feed to chickens. In the winter, I put oats in a big pan, water and grow green oats to feed to chickens for a boost til the grass grows. I've seen where some people use those concrete barrier form things and grow large portions of oats for winter forage. Or in pans inside. Oats are pretty hardy and will germinate in cooler temps. Just don't let it get to where it has heads on it. You want to feed it in the grass stage.

    If you are lucky enough to have a cow, get some pigs to feed excess or spoiled milk. I have a book of poultry management from 1950's and it states to feed chickens milk in their alfalfa ratio, as a mash (calcium). No need to buy oyster shells.

    Corncribs are not that hard to construct, We put ours on a concrete slab and pull the feed grinder right up to it. We bought ours from an old farmer for less than $200. We wrapped a tarp a round the west side to keep corn drier.


    1. fjord - Good advice there sir. We use beet pulp for the older nags around here although old age is finally limiting the amount we feed of it.

      Wish I could find a good used feed grinder though.

    2. Farm auctions. Small scale farmers droppng out due to regs. Consider a roller mill also.

      Also groundhog radish. Used for soil compaction and deer plots
      Most animals like em. Seed is cheap. Can harvest as needed.


    3. I have heard that beets of some type used to be used occasionally too around here.

  5. Another pressing problem in post collapse is guarding your livestock
    Not only from roaming hordes. But what about -you need to feed the collective becausr they have nothing. I can see tbe town council pulling this.

    1. Anon - No doubt. That is something I have long thought about myself. I am not a big believer is being worried about looting hordes from the cities because I doubt they would last long enough to be a real threat this far out but Government looting is a whole nother issue.

  6. An old timer (90 years old) told me that while mules can be a pain in the neck, they do about the same amount of work as horses, and eat about the same amount as horses when working, but when they are off-duty (winter) they eat only half as much as horses.

    Oxen are very slow, but with their multiple stomachs can eat a lower quality of food.

    The English were able to switch from Oxen to Horses early because they used coal, rather than firewood, for their heating which allowed them to dedicate the larger amount of pasturage need for horses.

    1. Ayup.

      And mules rarely need their feet trimmed or drink as much water (can go 4 days without a drink if they are in pasture) or colic as much (they tend not to over-eat). My mule will eat all kinds of shrubs (with no bad effects) that my horses won't.
      he also doesnt require shoeing and never slips on the road.


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