Friday, 11 June 2010

Growing food for Livestock

Posted by Bel
From Spiral Garden

We have 20 acres of grass which supplies most of the food required, year-round, for our 2 horses, house cow and calves. It doesn’t snow here, and frosts are mild only browning off the lowest sections of grass. The grasses grown here are tropical varieties on which cattle do well, but horses do not always do so well. We supplement the horses with minerals and have a mineral lick available for all of the grazing animals to access as they need it. One of our horses is a bit fat, the other has been affected by the high levels of oxalates in local pasture and doesn’t do so well here. With supplements we hope he can improve condition. It is interesting that they metabolise the same feed differently, like humans I guess.

Choko leaves are a favourite food of our muscovy ducks

When I’m keeping any of the animals in a small paddock, for whatever reason, such as training the horses or keeping a close eye on the house cow or calves, I feed them other plants to prevent over-grazing of that space as well as offer variety. In the larger paddocks there are many shrubs and a wider variety of grasses to choose from.

In addition to the grazing animals we have a few ducks, a few dozen chickens, and several guinea pigs.

Queensland Arrowroot - tubers for us, and leaves and stalks for the livestock

Some of the plants I feed the animals include:

Queensland Arrowroot

Choko Vines and Fruit

Sweet Potato Vines

Ceylon Spinach

Banana Leaves

Pigeon Pea branches - leaves and pods

And ‘trimmings’ from the garden. I normally remove the outer leaves from celery, comfrey, spinaches, cabbages and lettuces. I feed them corn stalks once I’ve taken the cobs for us (and feed them the outer husks of cobs), I throw in any excess herbs – parsley is a favourite, and add some land cress, nasturtium, dandelion and other suitable 'weeds', and kang kong as well. We call this a “salad” and mix it up in big buckets for the animals – choosing what is best for each one. They search through, tasting everything and eating their favourite foods first (just like children) and nibbling on new flavours or discarding bits they dislike after that. Sometimes we will harvest different grasses as well, which grow only in certain areas but I know are okay for stock.

Nasturtiums are pretty and make a nice addition to a salad for humans and animals alike

We also feed kitchen scraps to the chickens, ducks and guinea pigs – each has their own bucket as they prefer and tolerate different foods.

I would like to grow more grains, and harvest more hay, as these are feed items I buy in for the animals, especially the chickens.

I wish we could provide more homegrown food for our cats. They eat mice who dare to venture in or near the house, but otherwise rely on bought food. We don’t eat very much meat ourselves, but I imagine if we were eating more chickens, ducks and beef there would be leftovers for the cats to eat.

Are your animals eating homegrown food? Tell me more…