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!!!