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It would be almost impossible for us to grow 100% of the feed we need for our animals. Since we live in the North, we have a short growing season and a long cold snowy winter. But we do grow what we can.
Our pigs and chickens have their own garden here in the Valley and they even do some of the work in there for us. We offset a lot of the feed costs and you can too. Here is how to grow your own animal feed.
How to grow your own animal feed
The Animal Garden has about 3000 sq feet of veggies grown mostly for our pigs and chickens. (I say mostly because I’m not above going down there and forking up a nice bunch of carrots or beets to sell, if I’m running out of those in the Main Garden.)
I plant my seeds and seedlings very close together to help keep down the weeds. As the plants grow we can thin them out and feed the them to the animals. Over time we are picking larger thinnings and still letting the other plants grow.
Because the vegetables are going to the animals, we don’t always have to pick them fresh in their prime. The larger the plants get, the less feed we have to buy. Over the season, this adds up to hundreds of dollars.
In this garden we have collards, broccoli, carrots, potatoes, swiss chard, mangels and sugar beets. Many of these are later season vegetables, so we pick seasonally to feed the pigs and chickens.
By September we have finished the chard and broccoli and still have the mangels, beets, carrots and potatoes to feed off. Often we will feed these root crops off to the pigs until mid November when they are butchered.
We have a woodstove down at the barn. Every day during the season, we fire up the stove with canners on top full of veggies. How long the food lasts depends on how many pigs we have. When we had 6, we fed one full canner load in the morning and another in the evening.
Just some of the veggies picked for a meal including beets, sugar beets, rutabagas, turnips and mangels. We try to fill one wheelbarrow a day – this will fill two canners to the top and then some.
That’s a whole lot of natural organic livestock feed right there! Think of how delicious this meat will be since it has no chemicals or preservatives, plus the pigs have been eating healthy fresh garden vegetables.
We chop the leaves off to give to our the hens. They also get some of the cooked vegetables too, but they love all the leaves fresh. They make quick work of them – when it’s hot and sunny out, I bring the leaves into the coop or at least into the shade for them, so they don’t wilt as fast.
Sometimes I tie a big bundle of the leaves and hang it upside down for them to grab at. They love that and it keeps them entertained – they eat every bit!
The roots and stalks go off to the pigs. They will eat them raw, but if you feed potatoes they should be cooked. Don’t ever feed potato or tomato leaves to your livestock; put those leaves on the compost and they will be fine for decomposing. But animals and humans should not eat them.
One canner will get fed to these 3 pigs in late afternoon along with their grain. The other will be fed the following morning with their breakfast grain.
Pigs really enjoy garden vegetables. It’s good for them and it gives their pork a wonderful flavour. When we eat pork from pigs we have raised and pastured, we KNOW what we are eating.More importantly we not what we are not eating – chemicals or preservatives.
Nothing but awesome naturally raised pork. And the pigs have had a wonderful life while they are with us. They get to run and play, wallow in the mud and sleep in the shade of the willows.
There is labour involved in growing an Animal Garden, there is no way around that. But, if you put in the time you can grow your own animal feed for the cost of the seeds.
Using Pigs and Chickens to Clean your Garden
Come late Fall just prior to butchering, let your pigs into the Animal Garden.
They will clean up whatever you have left for them. They’ll root up the soil again tilling it with their noses. They’ll fertilize it too for the following year.
Chickens can be let in after your garden is well established. When seedlings are young, they are a temptation to chickens and they will massacre your garden in a very short time. By mid-summer, you should be able to let your chickens in there to gather some of their own food.
If you are concerned about them doing too much damage, you could put them in your garden about 2 hours before dusk. When dusk rolls around, the chickens will most likely already be back in their coop.
Start to grow your own animal feed – you will be surprised at how much money you can save. Let your animals do some work for you while they are with you. They love to work and you will love the benefits.
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