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Cheap feeds for homestead livestock.

Good quality forages, properly managed, is generally the cheapest feed for most livestock.

When cleaning out poultry house litter, the normal homestead practice is to use it directly as fertilizer or to compost it for later use. However, composted poultry house litter can be used as a livestock feed and can constitute up to 80 percent of the volume. For example, a starter ration for calves might contain 20-25 percent litter, a ration for lactating or growing stock might contain 50 percent litter and dry cows can be wintered on a ration which is as much as 80 percent litter. The other ingredient is normally a grain, such as ground corn. Poultry house litter should be stacked under shelter and allowed to heat well in order to kill disease organisms. See the Nov. '92 issue of Progressive Farmer.

(The above makes me wonder if the litter under rabbit cages might not also be used for livestock feed in the same manner as poultry litter.)

In Humus and the Farmer, English agricultural writer Friend Sykes noted his Galloway beef cattle had a fondness for urine soaked straw from horse stalls. It was later found urea in the urine helped to make the straw more palatable and more digestible. In the book Sir Albert Howard noted it was a common practice in the Orient at one time to feed horse manure and stall straw to water buffaloes, which were their milk animals.

Louis Bromfield ran steers with his pastured pigs in order for them to have access to their fresh manure. From it they obtained vitamin [B.sub.12] and partially digested fiber and grains as a supplement to their diet. Bromfield also provided fresh cattle manure to their confined chickens for the same reasons.

Waste fiber from cotton mills is being used as winter cattle feed as it has about the same feed value as fescue hay. These mills were paying up to $10 per bale to have the waste fibers hauled off. There has been concern expressed in past issues about the amount and type of pesticides and other chemicals used to grow cotton and the potential for chemical residue to be in the waste products. However, some cotton farmers are now growing cotton under organic conditions in order to sell it for a premium price to certain mills. Cotton gins and mills should know if they are handling this cotton as it would have to be separately handled. For additional information on cotton grown under organic conditions see the Nov./Dec. '92 issue of The New Farm.

Silage for chickens

Silage and haylage can be used to feed livestock other than dairy cows. If you live near a dairy, you may be able to buy it by the garbage can full fairly cheaply. In Gold in the Grass, Canadian writer Margaret Leatherbarrow noted they gave their chickens all the silage they would clean up from morning feeding to noon. They found it cut their concentrate requirements in half and significantly increased the percentage of Grade A Large and larger eggs. And the eggs were likely of a higher quality. (This book is available for $20 postpaid from Raveaters, 9049 Covina St., San, Diego, CA 92126.)

In the Jul./Aug. '92 issue of Countryside, Kerry Kersteter noted he was utilizing spent malt from a micro-brewery to feed his livestock. Spent malt is an excellent supplemental feed and is likely to have a slight akoholic content. Friend Sykes also noted it had long been known alcohol will increase milk production and butterfat in dairy cows and it was sometimes used in competition by giving a bottle of whiskey to a cow before the test. Grape pulp may also be available from small wineries.

In colonial and later times, hogs were fed on what was readily available. They were allowed to range in forests to live on mast, rounded up in late fall and provided grain in order to harden the fat. Likewise, in New England fishing villages, hogs were fed almost exclusively on raw or cooked fish wastes until a month or so before butchering. To avoid a fishy taste to the meat, they were then switched to grains. As aquaculture enterprises increase (e.g., pond-raised catfish), there may be a source of fish wastes near you from small processing plants which can be obtained at a reasonable price. Other potential sources may be: 1) waterside bait and tackle shops which provide a cleaning table, 2) shrimp boat operators, since each net run also catches what are considered to be trash fish, which are generally tossed overboard. You might be able to work a deal to where they put these (and shrimp heads) in garbage cans for you on their last night out for a reasonable fee; and 3) many pay fishing lakes have the policy of not allowing any fish caught to be put back. They may be injured (and thus more susceptible to diseases) and if caught a couple of times, fish can become hook shy. While they may grow to good size, they are not catchable, yet eat their share of the feed. Thus, check with pay fishing lakes to see if undersized or fish cleaning wastes are available to be hauled off. Whole fish have a higher feed value.

Up until about the late 1930's, many farms interplanted corn, field beans and pumpkins to be hogged down in the fall and winter. Cheap pumpkins may be readily available in your area. Check with market stands, garden centers or other places which sell halloween pumpkins. Chances are they would be interested in either giving away leftover pumpkins, or at least to sell them for a fraction of their prior price. Farms which grow pumpkins for these markets leave undesirable pumpkins in the field. These might also be available cheaply. Pumpkins should be stored out of the weather and will shrink up like deflated basketballs. Both hogs and poultry will relish the fermented pulp and the seeds.

There may be cheap livestock food next door if you live next to a commercial crop producer. just about all livestock have been used to glean fields for the corn, wheat, beans, etc., missed by the harvester. This benefits the producer if switching from, say, corn to soybeans, in that it reduces the volunteer corn in next year's bean crop.

Sheep have been run in fruit orchards to keep down grasses and to clean up fallen fruit and hogs have been used to clean up in nut orchards after the harvest. Again this can benefit the producer as some fruit or nut pests lay their eggs in fallen fruit or nuts and then the next generation emerges to attack next year's crop. Livestock harvesting this fallen fruit or nuts breaks the cycle. Thus, gleaning with livestock can be a win-win situation and is made even more practical through the lower cost of modem hi-voltage temporary fencing. (From a nutrient transfer point of view, it would be better to allow animals only a few hours access at one time in order for the manure to be spread in your fields, not on the area being gleaned.)

In Approved Practices in Feeds and Feeding, Cassard and Juergenson mention running capons with fattening hogs. However, I question the wisdom of this practice. On the farm in Wisconsin, Dad raised meat chickens in a lot next to the hogs. The hogs would just kind of lay low until a chicken stuck its head through the fence for some morsel on the other side. The head, and as much as could be pulled through, then became lunch for one of the hogs. However, this raises some possibilities. One problem of commercial poultry raisers, or egg farms, is what to do with dead birds. You may be able to pick these up every day or two for feeding to your hogs. Check with your county ag agent on the possibility of disease transmission, as they may need to be cooked (or microwaved) before being fed.

Commercial confinement hog raisers also need to dispose of dead baby pigs. Cooked, they should make dog or chicken feed. This may be a bit gross, but run through a yard chipper and cooked, they might even be fed to your own hogs.

Food scraps from food outlets can be used for hog feed. Most states require commercial garbage (e.g., plate scrapings) to be recooked before being fed, but this both increases the feed value and the hogs won't pick and choose nearly as much. One would still have to be on the lookout for utensils, wax-paper products or non-food refuse. See the Sept./Oct. '91 Countryside for feeding hogs on pizza restaurant refuse.

If you can find a cheap source of molasses, it can be sprayed on dry grass to get livestock to clean up neglected areas or on low-quality hay or straw to make it more palatable. I have seen bale after bale of round hay bales sitting at the sides of fields wasting away since the farmer hasn't used them for whatever purpose. These might be available for the asking. Sprayed with molasses, they might be winter roughage for your livestock. I recall hearing of one person who cuts them up into manageable slices using a long-bladed chainsaw. A cross-cut saw could be used to finish the cut if the chainsaw didn't reach to the center. If mixed with water, a 3-gallon garden sprayer could be used for small area application.

Check with places with retail or wholesale produce (e.g., groceries, roadside markets, Saturday farmer's markets or wholesale vendors) on what they do with their trimmings, rejects or overaged produce. They may be willing to set these out back for your pickup. Offering to pay a few cents per pound and providing the containers would likely sweeten the deal.

Also check with the operators of local landfills to see if any food processing plants in your area are disposing of processing refuse which might be of use to you. Examples are pulp; rejected loads (e.g., a boxcar which sat too long for the perishable crop to be used); vines and pods; or tops, roots or trimmings. The plant might he willing to dump these on your property saving itself the landfill dumping fee.

There are problems if you hope to be a scavenger. Even free foodstuff comes at a price when you figure in transportation costs and your time. Ideally a source would be on the way home from work and always available when you arrived. You need to be reliable, which may mean having to pick up the refuse every day, even though you might only need it for, say, spring to late fall in the case of raising freezer pigs. The quantity offered under a take all or nothing deal may overwhelm you. If nothing else, excess organic matter could be buried in a trench in the garden which progressed across it to build humus and subsoil, layered in a compost pile or just dumped in a field to let earthworms and other soil life incorporate it to build up fertility.

Last, and perhaps most important, would be the difficulty in balancing rations. Don't hesitate to use the services of your state's Agricultural Extension Agency.

Do you have a cheap source of livestock feed to share?
COPYRIGHT 1993 Countryside Publications Ltd.
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Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Scharabok, Ken
Publication:Countryside & Small Stock Journal
Date:Mar 1, 1993
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