Growing a goat garden: when goad feed hits $19.50/cwt, it's time to shop for alternatives.
Recent articles on alternative feeds take on a new meaning when goat ration is $9.75 per fifty pounds; plain COB (corn-oats-barley), $7.50 per fifty pounds; rolled barley, corn or oats $6.75 per fifty pounds; alfalfa/grass hay $155 per ton or plain grass hay at $70 per ton.
It isn't cheap and easy any more to just call up the hay man and have some alfalfa or alfalfa/grass hay delivered. Grain has priced itself out of the reach of the average homesteader, except where it has to be fed. The old timers advice of feeding goat kids a lower protein ration over a longer period of growth time begins making more sense.
Every year we produce a big garden for our own use and for canning, freezing, drying and other methods of preserving. Why not utilize the same for our animals as several COUNTRYSIDE readers have also suggested?
I have an area approximately 100 x 200 feet, fenced with metal posts and 16' hog panels about 30" high. This year I planted it with sorghum, millet, sunflowers and mangels. I alternated the long rows with strips of already growing grass. The grass made walking amongst the rows easier for me when controlling weeds and provided a footing for the goats when they started eating in the fall. The only fault I have with it was that after the plants began growing they became so large that I couldn't keep the grass mowed as short as I would have liked. In the end it didn't matter--the goats ate it too.
I would have preferred to use a graduated harvest approach to offering this to my does. As it was my old boss doe lead a raiding party up the lumber pile, conveniently located right next to the fence, and a feast was enjoyed by all. Still, it furnished almost four weeks of supplemental foraging for my herd of 35 does. When they finished, weed control was not an issue.
Having saved my own seed for several years, the cost of planting was minimal. I did purchase some sorghum from R.H. Shumway, PO Box 1, Graniteville, SC 29829, whom I highly recommend. Good seed, reasonably priced. I am also looking at the spring sales of wild bird seed which occur about the time I am thinking of buying seed. If you are careful to read the label and find one whose contents match your needs it might be a cheap alternative. It might also bring you plants that you don't find desirable.
When I clean the barns during the winter, the straw and manure are spread on the garden area and around my trees, shrubs and flower beds. There is always a certain amount of seed from oats, wheat, etc. in the straw and this usually germinates and begins growing early. I gathered this as it came to head and fed it to the poultry. They were glad for a green treat and once again it saved a little on grain. It also furnished an extra treat for my goats.
This year I rototilled 12" to 14" strips in the grass. Next year I am going to plant circles instead of rows. Sunflowers in the center with grains radiating out from them. Then I can still have the grass, but will have more maneuvering room around it with the lawnmower. I think it will be more aesthetically pleasing also.
Last spring our local dairy goat association offered at their annual dairy goat conference a speaker on herbs for goats. Her name was Diana Manseau, 7M Farms, 24312 US Hwy 89, Montpelier, ID 83254. She has a catalog with chemical free alternatives for goat health as well as formulas which she sells mixed. She gave us samples of her remedies, showed us how to make poultices, pills, and ointments and suggested that we consider planting a hedgerow for the use of our goats when they were not feeling well. She said that the goats will pick and choose the herbs they need to stabilize their systems.
Which was one reason why I planted more sage plants, dill, mint and other herbs. I gathered wild mallow, plantain, thistle, comfrey, horse-radish leaves and dandelion for use in the herbal bag balm that I make, and an additional amount to feed as a tonic during the winter.
Because I keep grow lights on all year for my African violets, I also brought in my small sage plants, after trimming them severely for dried use later. I intend to let them grow through the winter for replanting outside in the spring.
Talk to your friends and everyone else about herbs. One delightful friend, knowing that I enjoy and use herbs and flowers, brought me the "dried out" and rather sad looking plants from the farm store where she works when they were ready to just throw them away. Repotting, trimming, and a few weeks of careful watering and I had a full supply of chives, cosmos, spearmint, peppermint, applemint, orangemint and fuschias for the year and cuttings for the next year also, under the grow light.
Have you checked with your farm store to see what they do with the broken bags of grain? Ours used to sell them for half price. Usually very little was spilled and none of that was put back in the bag. The bag was just taped and set aside. I guess we all used too much of that, so they no longer make it a practice. But it doesn't cost anything to ask.
Don't be bashful about asking for any "special" feed plans or discounts from your feed store. One of our local ones has a buy ten bags, get one free coupon. Do they tell you about it? Not likely. The other store offers a discount when you buy more than ten bags at a time. Ten bags, not a thousand pounds. It could be five 50 lb. bags and three 25 lb. bags and two bags of alfalfa/oat/molasses hay mix. They don't publicize that one either. I guess they think it is just for us regular customers that buy enough products to get it automatically.
My chickens, the Cornish Crosses, thrived on goat milk and I didn't have any leg problems that are usually associated with that breed either. They were 8 lbs. at 12 weeks.
Our smaller grocery and produce markets often throw out usable produce. While many have regular customers who pick this up, they will sometimes give you an extra bag or box of trimmings from lettuce, celery, carrots, etc. if you ask.
The dogs and cats eat table scraps and I cook rice and grains for them regularly. We have a canned food grocery outlet nearby that furnishes rice and other grains very reasonably. $2.50 for a 25 lb. bag. The problem with that is, when they have it you need to lay in a good supply because they may never have it again. It keeps you thinking of ways to use the alternatives that they do offer in the best possible way.
I use my extra eggs and milk to help on the dog and cat food bill as well as to increase their protein intake.
Late in the summer I carefully gather bundles of weeds and other edibles such as amaranth, lamb's quarters, plantains, etc. and dry them as "treat" bundles for the goats and poultry during the winter. Just be sure to place them where the seeds won't fall out and germinate. Weeds have wonderful abilities to reseed, and I see no reason to help them.
Whenever I get tired of all this handwork and "grubbing" I think of that saying from the depression days, "Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without." Don't be afraid to ask people for things you see going to waste. It isn't begging: it's the ultimate in recycling.
I don't think you can put a price on salmonella free chickens, meat without the extra E. coli touch, milk sans bovine growth hormone, and pork without a supplemental helping of antibiotics. The cost for extra feed for livestock is not a great deal when you compare it to the actual cost of hospitals and doctors for repairing the human body once you have helped it to ill health by feeding it all those nice free "additives." Certainly my mental health is improved by knowing that what goes in my mouth isn't going to come out in some other portion of my body as an unpleasant side effect.
There are many alternatives to the high price of livestock feed if we open our eyes to the options we have around us. It will take more time and more effort. But we wouldn't be operating on a "homesteading mentality" if those things mattered anyway, now would we?
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|Publication:||Countryside & Small Stock Journal|
|Date:||Mar 1, 1997|
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