HomePosts Tagged "Livestock"

If you start to raise chickens to be more self-sufficient, you want them to be as productive as possible. But what if they aren’t laying as many eggs as you’d hoped?

The most common reasons that chickens aren’t laying eggs is because they are too young, too old, the hours of daylight are too short, it is molting or the feeding is not of sufficient nutritional value. You might not be able to affect those first points, but you can help contribute to a stress-free environment for your chickens while keeping them healthy and well.

Chickens will typically lay one egg or less during a day and that will decrease with age. Their egg-laying years will typically last for 2-3 years.

If you are experiencing a low yield of eggs from your chickens, check out these tips below to see what you can do to help them lay more eggs.

Quality Feed
You don’t have to go crazy with some cutting-edge feed that’s guaranteed to make your chickens produce eggs the size of a garden gnome. It’s recommended that you use a diet of premium laying mash or pellet, along with occasional fresh fruit. vegetables, mealworms and other healthy treats. If you’re going to change your chicken’s feed, do it gradually substituting it in slowly.

Clean Nests Boxes
One of the most important factors in helping chickens lay eggs is a clean nesting box area with comfortable bedding. You can also make a soft surface with recycled-newspaper pellets which also are easy to toss and replace.

Open Areas
The idea behind free-range chickens is that if they are more comfortable, they will produce more healthy eggs. While free-range chickens might not be a possibility for some urban homesteaders, it’s a great idea to have a larger area with enough area for the chickens to graze on a lawn while still being protected from hawks or other predators.

Calcium
Egg-laying takes a lot of calcium from a hen’s body. Be sure to provide them enough calcium in their diet to keep a steady flow of eggs. Besides a high-quality feed, you might consider mixing crushed oyster shells in a cup of feed. Or even placing a cup of oyster shells in the coop for the chickens to eat when they need it.

 

Inspect Regularly
Try to handle your hens often checking for problems. If they have large cuts, broken bones, etc. it will give you a better idea of how you can help. Are they uncomfortable? Have they been pestered by predators? Handling your hens on a regular basis will help you know how to best help them.

Coop Security
Along with the previous point, make sure your coop is secure from predators. Make sure that animals like raccoons, cats, and other animals can’t burrow or find their way into the coop.

Fresh Water
To stay healthy, chickens need constant access to water. Change the water every day. It might be a chore to do it every day but it will lead to healthier chickens who will lay more eggs.

Parasite Control
Parasites love to prey on chickens. Mites are the most common and can take control of your coop without you even realizing it. Make it a habit to inspect your chickens at night when mites are most active. Mites are a small, reddish-brown insect that scurries around a chicken’s head. If you do have a mite infestation, use a dose of ivermectin (available from a veterinarian) for each chicken.

What Have You Found?
How have you helped your chickens lay more eggs? Comment below to help us know what we can do to make our chickens more productive.


Other self-sufficiency and preparedness solutions recommended for you:

Healthy Soil + Healthy Plants = Healthy You

The vital self-sufficiency lessons our great grand-fathers left us

Knowledge to survive any medical crisis situation

Liberal’s hidden agenda: more than just your guns

Build yourself the only unlimited water source you’ll ever need

4 Important Forgotten Skills used by our Ancestors that can help you in any crisis

Secure your privacy in just 10 simple steps

If you start to raise chickens to be more self-sufficient, you want them to be as productive as possible. But what if they aren’t laying as many eggs as you’d

Livestock keeping requires some research. It seems obvious, but it’s apparently not. It really merits researching in great depth, because there are a lot of investments and there are some issues that regularly crop up, having somehow have escaped a fair number of the people who choose to get livestock. I developed this article because I’m running into some of the same issues, regularly from people who really ought to know better. This is basically a primer on those situations. The information is not hidden, but seems to somehow end up overlooked – repeatedly.

I’m going to hit a few things that I run into (regularly) in quick little bullets. They’re tips for animal safety, the protection of genetic lines (ours and also a buyer’s), and successful breeding. They may be taken at face value, or they’re points for research.

I don’t mean to insult anybody’s intelligence. Some of them just keep repeatedly cropping up. With any luck, old hats will read it as well – if nothing else, maybe for some commiseration. I’d really like them to add the trends they see as well, though. The more information available, the better off all livestock keepers will be.

The Biggies BLUF Style

First off, I’d like to say: Do the research. This article and every other TPJ article about livestock in general and specific species and breeds should only be part. “Back To Basics” is only a primer. There are too many resources, completely free in many cases, for folks to end up as overwhelmed as they sometimes do.

Second: Go buy one of the type you’re going to raise or breed, just one. A spring kid, a rabbit, an aging-out hen, even a calf – although I suggest the smaller animals. Care for it for a season or longer. Then slaughter it. If you can’t, there’s only one animal eating you out of house and home, not a pair or a handful that can continue to multiply until it’s out of control. Even if you hunt, even if you slaughter poultry, make sure you can do it with the next livestock type – a lot of people can’t.

Hobby Farm Animals: A Comprehensive Guide to Raising Chickens, Ducks, Rabbits, Goats, Pigs, Sheep, and Cattle

I mention these two because I’ve volunteered for livestock rescues, I consult on sustainable systems (which include livestock), I’m on several forums, and I have personal relationships with livestock keepers. I have run into livestock costs and numbers getting out of control in numerous ways.

Rescues end up taking on the burdens in a lot of cases – when it’s just too much work or too much effort, too much expense, when it’s too hard to kill and eat an aged-out hen or the fluffy bunnies, when things spiral so long that the whole experiment fails and people lose their homesteads.

So beginners and expanding keepers: Start small – very small.

The Birds & The Bees

Sperm wilts in Summer. This is especially true of rabbits, who already face a lot of physical stress from heat. Litters will be typically smaller and there will regularly be fewer fertile eggs in the hottest periods for all stock. In some cases, you’ll need to plan more frequent and longer exposures to studs to have a pregnancy take.

Hens make eggs. They don’t need males to do it. Males are only needed to make more birds.

Dairy animals need “freshened”. Cattle, sheep, llamas, yaks, camels, and goats…

A.) Must have a baby (and thus be bred) before they make milk.

B.) Only produce that milk for a period of months before it dries up, and they have to have another baby.

Animals lack sexual mores. Livestock has no qualms about inbreeding with parents, siblings, grandparents, and close cousins. Wildlife ends up spread out and thus genetically diverse by numerous mechanisms. They cover more territory than domestic equivalents, and in some cases – like science is proving for wild ducks – they’re rampant adulterers even when forming seasonal or lifetime partners. We take that away from livestock. It can lead to serious genetic faults.

Livestock breeds early. By species, livestock can be breeding by 3-5 months of age. Failure to identify and separate or neuter males leads to inbreeding and overpopulation.

Separation is necessary – breeding I. Livestock will mate again as soon as they’re able. This leads to worn-down females, as well as overpopulation.

By their size, it’s easily possible that these rabbits have all reached sexual maturity – which means half or more of these animals could be gestating another 6-12 rabbits each. If they’re a mother and kits, especially if they’re not handled and examined regularly and a male hid his limas for a while, it’s not just the potential 48 new hoppers. It’s also inbreeding.

Castrating hoofstock creates options. Once altered, especially young, male animals are no longer a threat to the studs, or to our genetic lines and feed/housing budgets. They can stay with sisters and mothers, or go be a stud companion. They can also leave our properties, even if they come from faulted genetic lines, because they’re no longer a threat to others’ bloodlines even if they prove too cute/clever to slaughter and become a pet.

Neuter/Castrate early I. Testes will drop in a matter of days or weeks. The longer we wait, the more the at-home tools to castrate cost and the fewer options we have. By 2 months, some species are already getting too big for some of the less-invasive, non-surgical methods, and by 4 months, anything non-surgical is usually off the table.

Callicrate Smart Bander Kit

Neuter/Castrate early II. The earlier we alter male mammals, the easier it is. One, smaller is easier to wrestle. Two, there’s less time (and pain) involved in either crimping or banding a small mole than there would be for crushing off or wrapping a rubber band around a finger and waiting for it to rot off. Same deal with testes.

Separation is necessary – breeding II. Males are really into the passing down of their genetic material, and they will bloody and kill each other to do so. Wildlife doesn’t fight to the death over sex because the losers have enough room to run away. Livestock doesn’t (usually).

Separation is necessary – breeding III. Stud pigs and rabbits will kill off even their own young, and mothers will attack other pigs or rabbits and the young of a previously peaceful companion. They want the chance to mate again, or to eliminate competition for resources for their own litters or possible threats to their litters (it’s instinct).

Friends are fine. There’s nothing wrong with combining studs or grow-outs from different species while separating them from their original herds, or keeping the cow (and her calf) with the ram. They’ll gain valuable socialization. They can also share in the protection of numbers and combined body heat.

Limit unaltered males. It helps reduce the competition. That can lead to quieter, more peaceful barnyards. Especially with chickens, at high ratios of hens to roosters, you’ll find roosters are less sexually frustrated (and more tired), and thus less like to attack vehicles, other animals, and people.

Breeding affects female health. Pregnancy and lactation take a physical toll on dams, even with proper feed. So does egg production. Even though most livestock mammals can become pregnant again while still nursing the last young, it’s not always the best choice. A break in the cycles for recovery is of huge benefit for both poultry and mammals. Especially with mammals, we can gain years of useful life by providing rest cycles.

Dairy Drive-By’s

Sample goat milk before you buy. Not just any goat milk; that doe’s. If it’s not possible to sample the milk of the doe you’re getting, sample her mother’s and sisters’. While some breeds vary hugely animal-to-animal, most will have some similarity to their nearest relatives, especially if the stud line is the same.

Separation is necessary – Bucks effect milk. Lots effects milk flavor, from breed and feed to how fast we can cool it off, to a tiny little amount of dust.  But bucks really do contribute hugely to that goaty flavor.

Separation is necessary – Milking.  If we want to milk once daily, we can separate overnight after the first milks finish. If we want to milk twice daily and bottle feed numerous times a day, we can separate as soon as the colostrum finishes.

Separation is necessary – Weaning. Livestock will not usually forcibly wean their own young until they are near birthing again or naturally dry off. Even then kids/calves/foals will sometimes try to continue to nurse – even off other dams. This creates undo stress on the dual-nursing mothers, and competition for the newborns losing the highest fat and highest production milks.

Triplets are trouble – the birth. Sheep seem to handle triplets like champs, but goats and especially cattle regularly end up needing help with them – or with the last one, at least. It’s not uncommon for that third to be stillborn, or unable to nurse a first time.

Triplets are trouble – the kids. Between bottle feeding and super-productive dams, there are plenty of survivors. However, one of the triplets is sometimes seriously stunted, and due to competition for colostrum and high-fat milk, is likely to lag behind and be more susceptible to illness for life. Conversely, sometimes one kid is significantly larger than both its siblings and will take a lion’s share, leaving both behind the curve as they split the remains.

Triplets are trouble – the dam. I know people who won’t burden a doe with a third kid, because even if she has enough milk early, it will put enormous strain on her body and she may not be able to maintain that production when they get to the pre-weaning stage and are taking quarts off her. I also know people who milk colostrum and early milk for runts, then bottle feed a different mother’s milk to get enough volume for all three. Time available, the presence of other dams, whether we want to share that much milk for triplets (or cull early) all impact our decisions, as do our future herd needs.

Chickens Are Vicious

(Newsflash: So are geese.)

Roosters are lean & active. The earlier we harvest our male birds, the less tough and “gamey” the meat will be – and the less disruption from excess roosters we’ll deal with over weeks and months.

Roosters are rough lovers. Even within the unaided egg season, hens can use a break from roos. Roosters break and pull feathers as they mate, and their favorites can end up pretty bedraggled. Unfortunately this leads to…

Hens Peck Injuries. Chickens will keep after a flock mate with a visible wound or bare patches of skin, reopening and enlarging injuries, and can end up killing them.

Chicken Saddles & Blue Dot can help. We can cover a love-torn or injured bird in a chicken saddle (or sock sweater for young/small birds) and we can treat with a spray (which leaves blue dots). Ideally, we also use them on uninjured senior animals. If all (or half) of the flock also sports saddles or blue dots, the flock won’t focus its attention on the oddball, and the oddball has a chance to recover without separation.

Separation is necessary – Injuries. Chickens especially may need separated if they have a serious injury. All livestock may need a smaller pen or box to provide recovery, limit activity, or so they aren’t taken by predators while injured.

Chicks need protection. Chicks commonly need heat lamps, special food, and water they can reach. They also slip through smaller cracks, are susceptible to damp grass and cold ground, and fit in more mouth sizes. Whether we incubate and box chicks, or provide them with a broody hen, they need some help.

Chicks can be left in a flock. If a broody hen is of high enough seniority, and a flock is relatively small (under 10-18), hens can raise their nests right there in the existing coop. Otherwise, multiple hens that will sit nests within 4-6 weeks of each other can be removed to an adjacent coop. Being adjacent, having high-ranking, dominant mothers, and being in higher numbers can ease…

Pecking Order – It’s a real thing. It’s when birds use pointy beaks to peck others and establish their dominance. It gets brutal.

Integration of flocks takes time. One, separated and new birds need to be exposed to the flock through a fence or crate for days and weeks, not hours. Two, new and re-introduced birds really need to be of compatible size with flocks, especially big flocks. Otherwise, birds will be injured and-or killed.

Roosters don’t share well. Sometimes birds raised as brothers will share a flock, just like lions sometimes work in pairs. Usually, there’s fighting. And if a stud is kept with hens, and sexually mature baby roo’s are outside that fence, they will …

A.) Fight through the fences.

B.) Crow challenges constantly.

C.) Find new and creative ways to get inside the fence to the hens/rooster.

D.) Regularly become aggressive/more aggressive with other living and inanimate beings. Good times.

Down the Rabbit Hole

Some rabbits get along. Many don’t, especially rabbits accustomed to life in their own cages, and rabbits that aren’t spayed and neutered.

Breeding pairs need introductions. You arrange hutches so that a male can ideally be between two females, so his hutch slides and overlaps two females’, or leave empty spaces he can occupy for at least a couple weeks. That way, they’re accustomed to each other when they’re plunked in together.

Bunnies need buddies. They’re social creatures, just like dogs. Adjoining hutches allows for social interaction, as well as the potential for combined body heat if temperatures dip.

Females go to males. Neutral ground is iffy, but a male entering a female hutch can lead to…

A.) Distraction, with the male sniffing and marking instead of crooning Barry Manilow.

B.) The female taking offense to a male rushing right up to her.

C.) A female taking offense to a male poking through all her private spaces (especially if she’s raised kits in there and has a permanent box).

Bunnies need watched. Even if introductions and mating went well, sometimes you want your own space back, or somebody’s toes get stepped on. Hot weather makes everybody more cranky, too, and rabbits are no exception. Bunnies do their business, then get separated again.

Feeding – Them & Us

Feed is expensive. Whether we’re feeding off forage that takes time to recover, or buying sacks, there’s a cost associated. We need to know how much animals eat, and how many we can afford, before we create situations for breeding.

Meat animals are for eating. Don’t breed animals until you’ve tasted that species’ meat, and don’t breed animals whose meat you don’t like. (Riiiigghhtt???)

Harvest meat by size/age, not season. Big animals might lend themselves to waiting until after frosts, but when we’re feeding ourselves or other livestock off what we raise, we don’t have to wait for some magic season any more. In the case of chickens and rabbits especially, just a month or two delay greatly affects meat quality and flavor.

Eat some early. Doing so can save money on feed and wear on pastures, lower water hauling in late summer, and prevent aggression or breeding within the confines of limited infrastructure and labor. Just because typical butcher weight is 100-350# for pigs doesn’t mean we have to hold a whole litter for 6-9 months, especially the males. Some species lend themselves to waiting at least a while, but we can select 28-day poussin or 3-month pullets, lamb and kid and veal are traditional feasts, and suckling pig is a treat, whether it’s truly <8 weeks or we’re harvesting tender vittles once a month until the last few are freezer-filling beasts.

Nutritional needs change. As animals progress through their life-cycles, the nutrients they need change, as do the amounts of feed they need. Feeding everybody expensive game bird starter or lactating-female levels wastes money.

Feed type matters. Nutrients in bagged feeds & supplements and in pasture/forage/fodder vary, and affect health as well as the time to production or harvest.

Not everybody grazes. Ducks aren’t really grazers at all. In the case of free-range or foraging fowl, the accessible sources for feed changes by age, just as it does for wild birds like quail (quail lifecycle habitat is an excellent research point for creating pasture for poultry).

Llama grazing with sheep.

Worms steal nutrients. Parasites take from our animals. Regular deworming can prevent it. We can also rotate pastures. It limits re-exposure. It also allows pastures to gain height, which impacts hoofstock – worms occupy lower levels with the feces; if the livestock is grazing well above that level, it can break the fecal-oral route and lower belly loads.

Forage-based eaters are different. Free-range, pasture-fed animals that forage significant portions of feed are slower by as much as half-again or twice the time it takes commercial-diet fed animals to reach target weights, and production can be lowered for eggs and dairy as well. They’re also going to be leaner, and meat and eggs will change flavor seasonally.

Predators eat, too. Also, accidents happen and animals roam. Proper housing and fencing – before we bring home livestock – is vitally important. “Proper” varies by species and sometimes breed, and by climate. It’s also affected by rotation plans, keeping style, and the threats within our property and from our surrounding areas, or the natural barriers and safeties we can introduce, to include Livestock Guardian dogs, donkeys and llamas.

Not-So-Short Primer

So that’s the Big List of Bullets that made the cut for sharing. There are others, but I tried to come in under War and Peace, and the others come up more sporadically.

The over-breeding, misconceptions about which livestock needs mates and how often, when we harvest animals, and the inbreeding are biggies. Overpopulation due to males and females in constant exposure, and due to owners’ inability or unwillingness to cull flocks and herds also crops up – constantly, even among manly men who have deployed as grunt infantry and who hunt very similar deer, quail, turkey and duck. I also see a lot of people miss the opportunity to cut feed costs for other livestock or companion animals by using gluts of eggs and milk or meat they don’t want (goats), or who don’t *really* handle livestock and then run into problems moving and vetting them.

Hopefully, there was a nugget in there somewhere for almost everyone – and if not a nugget, some snickers and laughter and the joy of realizing you’re not the only one that ran into a head-scratcher.

Livestock keeping requires some research. It seems obvious, but it’s apparently not. It really merits researching in great depth, because there are a lot of investments and there are some

Managed Livestock Breeding

Livestock keeping is one of the things that those interested in self-sufficiency regularly end up considering. There are factors involving breeding, especially, that can increase our success and let us custom-fit our livestock’s needs to our situations. While some aspects of controlled breeding may seem obvious, especially to experienced livestock keepers, other factors may not have been considered yet, or might lead to a spinoff idea (or a counter point). Those aspects also play a role in deciding which livestock we want – either species or “type” or specific breed.

There’s no one right or wrong way to do things, but applying managed breeding can be especially helpful on a small homestead and for those interested in sustainability. It’s something done on a large-scale by professionals, from meat cattle in Montana to rabbitries all over, and the factory farms that put eggs in the dairy coolers.

The Basics of Managing Breeding Seasons

Some animals are very like wild counterparts and have set breeding seasons. However, most of our domestic livestock are no longer locked into those cycles. That means we can apply the concept of controlled breeding or managed breeding – exposing females to studs at phased intervals that we choose to let us control every aspect thereafter.

The steps to controlled breeding are pretty simple. We work backwards through a lifespan or production cycle, looking at the conditions surrounding us and our animals, to include feed needs and forage, but with other considerations as well for varying life phases.

Seasonal availability of foods factors into wildlife breeding, and can play a part in managing our livestock as well.

We start with the yield we want, whether it’s milk, eggs or meat. Then we look at how long it takes to get there from birth.

The time it takes varies, species to breed to specific location, and by the yield we intend to harvest.

There’s a big difference in the time it will take a sub-adult goat doe to start making us milk than the time it will take a doe purchased after a breeding is confirmed, and between that dairy yearling and wethers raised for meat.

Whether for a secondary product (milk, eggs) or for meat, goats will get there faster than cattle; chickens faster than turkeys.

 

The amount of time that animal will continue producing also varies, both over a single completed cycle or annual cycles, and over lifetimes. We can manage breeding for replacements, inside a single-year cycle or on a multi-year cycle.

Feed quality also impacts production age, with forage-fed animals a little leaner and sometimes significantly slower to yield or with lower total yields. That can affect our management plans.

Chart: Laying hen production cycle by years of production

We might choose to plan kidding outside frigid & damp seasons so the young are at less risk; conversely, kids born in winter or early spring are closer to weaning as pasture becomes available for them, or we might plan on sheltered birthings when livestock is already penned and barned instead of caring for a pasture flock/herd as well as shed queens.

Different breeds within species reach their production sizes and ages in different times, too.

For example, meat goats can be milked, but they tend to produce a very high calorie, high fat milk in a very definite bell curve and for a shorter period of time than a dairy goat that lactates for 250-300 days. The dairy goat’s production will resemble a plateau for a portion of time, then taper off more gently. Knowing that, we might control buck exposure to meat does very differently.

 

Because of bagged feed and hay, and years of tinkering, we can control when they’re bred and thus condense our birthing and harvest seasons – or spread them out if that’s the goal.

Once we know the ages and plan the birth months, we count back through the gestation period to the ideal breeding season.

 

Factors in Controlled Breeding

Whether we’re old hats or just getting started, controlled breeding can help us. Counting backwards lets us consider what the pasture or barn looks like for birthing, our own schedules, other demands for our time such as busy garden and tree-crop harvests, predictable expenditures and income fluctuations, and even travel and vacations.

It lets us consider viable sperm counts in high summer heat compared to the rest of the year, body condition of the dams, and food availability of the type that our young – and their nursing mothers – need most in those cycles.

The two NRCS sheets from “Controlled Calving Seasons” here  are really nice examples of factors to consider, as well as nice visual representations.

The first page looks at the practice of controlled breeding with pro-con breakdowns for Winter, Spring and Autumn calving. The second page uses a pie graph to visually represent the life stages and nutrient demands of female cattle for beef production.

The time-frames differ, but most laying hens, meat breeding stock, and dairy goats have body stresses and peak production cycles similar to the dairy cattle shown here. The number of years they can repeat those cycles differs hugely, as do the amounts of feed, fencing, and human labor to reap the harvests.

Whether its meat or dairy, mammals or poultry, the basic tenets hold true. The goal is to help tailor breeding for times when livestock best fits our intended harvest goals and can be produced the most economically.

We can create the same breakdowns for when we allow hens to sit nests, taking into account the protein needs of the young as they grow as well as when we want a replacement nest of layers to get brooded so that we’re getting the most out of our feed.

We might also look at winter weather, or it might be pasture condition from typical summer droughts that most drive our timing. We might cycle the most and largest livestock around our water capabilities or freezer/canning capacity.

Available feed – and the nutrient content of feeds – and pasture conditions at different life stages should play a role in selecting breeding-birthing periods.

The general factors can be applied even if we don’t segregate breeding studs, by helping us choose what to do with each set of young.

By working through the factors such as in the NCIS sheets, we might discover that it’s far more economical to be culling one or another set, whether they’re intended for meat or to expand or replace dairy or egg producers.

We can earmark various litters or nests as keepers versus poussin or suckling harvests, fryers versus roasters, looking at when they’ll be producing or ready for harvest, and the inputs to get them there, and the “costs” on our pastures and breeding stock.

Example – Three Nests

Say we’re working toward sustainable laying flocks, and we know laying birds can produce in as little as 5 months (which is also a common meat harvest age for some breeds and species, especially free-range), but they might take as long as 8-9 months depending on species or breed, feed, the light amount and light quality, and the season they’re born.

Nest One – Laid & hatched in May

Feed: Whether it’s April showers-May flowers (and lots of bugs for the bug-hunting chicks, with relatively light growth they can easily get through) or bag feeds, they’re eating pretty good.

Production Month: It’s October before the first would start squatting and they might do their starter eggs before light really dims. Many breeds wouldn’t be ready to lay until December. A fair number won’t be laying their first eggs – or sizeable, yolked eggs – until they’re nearly a year old or older in spring due to winter’s light or feed.

Nest Two – laid and hatched in August
Feed: Some places still have flowers and bugs especially if we build bird-friendly feeder gardens/orchards and mulch walkways and pens so worms and critters will be in there decomposing the vegetation layers underneath, or maybe we’re restricted to worm bins and feed bags already; pastures tend to be tougher or becoming played over.

Production Month: It’s 5 months to January, 8 months to April, 9 months to May. In some climates, May might still be a little early on light needs, especially for new girls, but it’s close.

Note: I fed Nest Two 3-4 months less time than Nest One, with significant production for both starting the next spring (unaided). I might be better off harvesting Nest One for my freezer earlier in the year.

Nest Three – laid & hatched in October

Feed: Highly, highly variable by climate; most of U.S. and Canada are in grains and pumpkins and potatoes, tree seeds and fruits, with pastures thicker and taller and tougher or already munched down, and frosts already there to be a threat to young birds, or knocking on the door at birth. Then-maturing new layers are eating heavily during winter and spring’s regrowth months for a lot of places.

Production Month: It’s five months to March (which would be the earliest new layers x2 – both season and age by breed), 8-June, 9-July.

There are advantages and disadvantages to each.

Nest One gives me more eggs from the replacement flock the earliest in the next year, because the more mature hens are popping out in spring ready to be full-on laying stock even for late bloomers. Nest Two isn’t really far behind them, and if I bag feed exclusively or significantly, I saved a quarter of a year or so on them.

Nest Two will have lessened dependence on heat lamps early on, but climate will dictate whether they’re fully feathered for autumn-winter chill.

Nest Three is being fed for parts of autumn and the winter – when I have to feed all three nests anyway – and is still growing up during early spring and into early summer, but if I pasture, they get the bug-caterpillar season for some of their later-stage protein needs in addition to the potential of forage plots that include autumn grains and tree seeds-nuts that are full of good things for them.

From backyardchickens.com – The age of the birds entering winter corresponds not only to their size (flock integration) and feather cover (heat), but also the content and amount of feed they require during the stored-feed seasons.

Other Livestock & Aspects

That’s for laying hens. If they’re meat birds that I want to harvest at three to nine months by breed and type and feed system, I might run a smaller nest of all three, so there’s fresh waiting for chomping at intervals. Or, it might work better for me to raise a spring flock I can fatten all summer on less bagged feed, then freeze or can in autumn – leaving the seed-nut-grain forage for keepers and layers.

With dairy goats, I might control breeding so I stagger my does and births to get milk year-round. Or, maybe I plan kids for weaning and growing out for meat over summer pastures and so I can use the milk glut to fatten a pig or feed my dogs over summer.

I might choose to condensed breeding so that I can still travel over the holidays, or I might delay breeding so a neighbor isn’t babysitting during kiddings.

I might also time either mammals or fowl to account for the temperature, to lessen my reliance on heaters, and to allow for integration in winter after spring-summer separations. The joy of controlled breeding is that we decide whether it’s more or less convenient for us to provide heat and shelter and special feed for young and mothers separately during spring or summer, or to shelter them when the rest of the livestock is also penned and barned.

My separation and integration cycles might include my rooster or buck, for timing the next round(s) of raise-outs, for decreasing the number of snug houses I need, or to give my girls a winter break from the stud.

Existing coop systems might help me decide on breeding schedules, or instead I might design my coop systems to account for my intended production harvest – and thus controlled breeding in sets.

Infrastructure & Controlled Breeding

How I plan to raise something like poultry comes into play with infrastructure as well as timing the breeding. Controlled breeding goes down to the specific animals, even. For example, letting a broody hen nursemaid for me instead of incubating.

Is she senior enough to handle flock control or will I still need to separate each nest of young? Do I want to plan it so I have a separate flock of mothers with their nests? Does my flock have enough pasture and interests enough to keep them from harassing juniors in summer, but maybe not in winter?

I might plan my chicken lot with a primary coop or run, but smaller areas beside them or a fence-divided hen-house. That way I can let chickens sit and raise turkeys and ducks or their own young, but keep those hens better integrated, and have a “keeper clutch” that’s not quite up to body size for the main flock going in other attached sections to make transitioning them into the main flock a little less bloody.

Conversely, I might end up designing my breeding plan based upon existing infrastructure.

I might have every other input covered, but I just can’t afford to build adjoining chicken runs, to build a water system that fits my time budget for four pens of birds at different sizes plus the rooster, or to weatherproof or hen-proof a building to the level I’d need for a winter birth – not yet.

My intentions, needs and abilities matter, and affect or can be affected by the timing of my breeding, births, and harvest times.

Planned Parenthood – Critter Style

Managing breeding and birth and harvest periods can be big. With any luck, this article has had something for everyone, new or old hats. Hopefully the idea of separating studs from females is not entirely unheard of, but maybe some of the factors that play into our planning of those cycles introduced some aspect or consideration in that timing for everyone.

At base, maybe, everyone interested in livestock will at least crunch numbers and examine or reexamine their natural resources, and maybe even consider some of their infrastructure and inputs from a self-sufficiency aspect, then create a more efficient system.

Managed Livestock Breeding Livestock keeping is one of the things that those interested in self-sufficiency regularly end up considering. There are factors involving breeding, especially, that can increase our success and

This is the second article looking at ways we can cut our dependence on commercial feeds for our livestock. The first article primarily dealt with historic feeds and ways of storing them and some of the feeds that are rarely seen in small-scale production in the U.S. As stated in the first article, our modern livestock – even a lot of the dual-purpose homesteading breeds – are accustomed to certain types of feeds, heavy on mass-production mono-culture grains and hay. Those feeds tend to produce the fastest results and be cheap and easy to access.

However, they do contribute to the financial cost of keeping livestock and they require certain cultivation methods that may not be available to everyone. Substituting fertilizers and water-hungry crops for tubers and less-common grains may be part of the solution to making our livestock resilient to a small personal crisis or a major regional disaster. It can help us weather some of the ups and downs in pricing, as with droughts that send livestock feed and grocery bills skyrocketing.

There are some other ways we can increase our self-sufficiency and resiliency, though, even if it drops our livestock’s production to historic levels and takes a little longer to finish our meat stock. There is no one way to do anything, and no solution is going to work for everyone. However, having some backup ideas and methods in place as alternate feeds is rarely a bad thing, especially if we’re counting on meat rabbits and chickens, eggs, and milk in a collapse or Great Depression situation.

 

Rule of Thumb – Rabbits to Goats, Chickens, & Pigs

There are a couple of rules of thumb that can apply to our livestock and what we provide as a base feed or supplement. The first is that if hares can eat it, so can goats. Happily, chickens and pigs will eat almost anything – especially if they see other livestock going after it. Most feeds safe for rabbits will apply to them, too.

The Rabbit Food Pyramid

The Rabbit Food Pyramid

The rabbit point comes in because of all the lists available out there for pet or show rabbits. Some of the feeds for rabbits come right out of our kitchen gardens. Some of the feeds in those lists lack the roughage both hares and goats need to keep their guts processing. Others offer some excellent ways to increase the feed availability for livestock using something that already exists.

One example is trees and tree hays. Rabbits and goats can happily consume a wide number of trees, some of which may already be on our property and in need of pruning, such as willow, apple, maple, elm and mulberry.

Tree hays are little different from using a fodder like locust and calliandra that’s fed green. We can treat a surprising number of trees just like we do grasses and dry limbs at peak nutrition to pull out for hay or add to our silage. Like grasses, tree leaves are at their highest nutrient content before they flower and start directing energy toward fruits.

That allows us to selectively harvest small green boughs that would be pruned in another season normally, selecting for branches with lower impact on our future fruit harvest. And since the flowers themselves are sugary powerhouses and pollen is an excellent protein source, collecting limbs that bear those is only a bonus.

rabbits eating tree leaf and branch

Rabbits, tree branches and leaves

 

The richest tree fodders can only be used in limited number to modern rabbits, because they have sensitive digestions. Once it’s hay, instead of a leaf or three for a large meat rabbit, up to 20-40% of their grass hay can be replaced by tree hay. The larger branches themselves can go to rabbits, goats and chickens, too, even a couple of inches across should you prune something that large. They’ll strip the bark in some seasons, and rabbits will use chunks to help keep their ever-growing rodent teeth under control.

Soaking tree hays can help increase the interest and palatability for finicky livestock. Individual leaves can be soaked, or branches can be righted and stuck in a bucket of water for 24-48 hours to soak up liquids. Chickens won’t eat quite as many of the tree hays, even soaked, and pigs regularly need them soaked and sometimes mixed in with something like turnips and grasses. However, both are a little more willing to eat silage.

Don’t use the whole branches for silage, just the leaves and the tenderest tips that cattle in bare lots are willing to nibble.

Tree Fodder & Fruits

Cattle - lucerne tree fodder

Cattle consuming tree lucerne

 

There are actual trees like the black locust and smaller options like pea shrub that are being studied and cultivated as livestock feed replacements, especially in places like Africa with limited irrigation and poor soils. There are mixed feelings about keeping livestock on tree fodders, there are mixed research results, and studies tend to focus on one aspect of feed or another – it’s hard to get a comprehensive paper on DM, protein, digestibility and palatability all at once. Still, if livestock is part of the plan, it might not hurt to look into some of them. A lot of U.S. climates can mimic climates found somewhere in Africa – where a lot of the research starts and focuses still.

Fodder and forage trees and shrubs can be managed for human harvest and transport, or planted along outsides of fences or inside curbing poles and fences that limit livestock’s reach. Quickly rotated pastures can also allow the trees and shrubs to mature and grow back.

Native trees and shrubs that can be used for grass and hay replacement for rabbits and goats include American sycamore, blackberry, dewberry, raspberry, roses, hackberry, gooseberry, alder and mesquite. Livestock can eat currants, but currants and some of the other soft berry shrubs tend to not respond as well to “pruning” as brambles and gooseberry.

Other options for livestock include planting trees that drop seed or nuts, either for human harvest and fodder, or for livestock to forage on its own. Elm samaras can be collected green or brown to use as a fatty nut or seed supplement as well. Acorns are another example. There are a wealth of oaks out there that produce at different times, produce in ebb-and-flow cycles, develop acorns for two years instead of one, and produce different sized acorns. Most nuts are too valuable for livestock, but somebody with thriving hazelnut/filbert thickets might run in goats and then pigs or chickens.

 

Goat climbing and eating black locust

Goat climbing and eating black locust

There are the conventional fruits such as apples and pears. For me, the focus on fruit trees for livestock is largely on storable fruits that can go from tree to cellar. Most tree fruit is going to be too rich for domestic rabbits and a lot of cattle and horses, but pigs and chickens seem just fine with even large portions of meals made up of pears.

“Weedy” fruits like wild plum and mayhaw need absolutely no help from me to grow, but will produce some goat forage and fruits for pigs and chickens. Shrubs like chokeberry and chokecherry can be used alongside chicken tunnels and moats and runs, with the birds helping themselves to berries that protrude or drop within reach, and humans harvesting the berries they can’t reach – berries which don’t look like “normal” human or livestock foods and that dry well for later feed.

Rule of Thumb – What we eat, they eat

A lot of livestock feeds are already made from things that humans can consume – corn, soy, wheat, sunflower, millet. In the first livestock feed article, we pointed out things like tubers that store well. We can also take a look at local foraging options, and encourage what are basically weeds to use as feed. I wouldn’t try to forage for a goat’s entire diet, although there are things I can plant (and protect) that they can forage for themselves.

Sheep eating Kudzu

Sheep eating Kudzu

Cattail in the four or five human-edible stages is happily and healthily consumed by everything but cattle and horses. Reed grasses (avoid European phrag like the plague) provide a storable seed. Chickens and hogs will dig chufa. Don’t plant the stuff for heaven’s sake, but if kudzu is nearby, it makes a nice flower jelly and its leaves are readily palatable to even cattle.

Wood sorrel, henbit, low clovers, plantain, purslane, and dandelions are so routinely cursed by gardeners and lawn-growers, but they provide an enormously beneficial mix of protein- and micro-nutrient heavy foods, with the benefit of being enormously palatable as well as cold hearty. That means we can stick them under some plastic or grow them in tiers of soda bottles in our windows in winter, and be providing fresh foods to our livestock, even in just dribbles. That keeps our livestock healthier and more ready to transition back to pasture grazing.

Wood sorrel, henbit and chickweed are also tall enough and “heat”-tolerant enough that we can use them in grazing frames inside chicken runs, letting the birds munch them down as far as they can reach but having them grow back faster because the birds can’t get all the way down to the roots. They’ll hold up to grazing and manure better than just wheat or barley grasses.

Chicken grazing frame

Chicken grazing frame

Cheno-family lamb’s quarters, mallow, amaranthus pigweeds, shepherd’s purse, most of the sonchus thistles, any strawberry plants to include the invasive “weed” variant with little or no flavor, and wingstem or Iron weed can all be consumed by rabbits, goats and chickens. Most can also have leaves and stems dried to provide roughage or healthy supplements throughout winter and early spring.

Check out what Sam Thayer says about your area and your local foraging guide. Nettles have to be treated for livestock the same way they are for us, and some wild edibles are too time consuming, but there are others that can increase our feed (and pantry) potentials without a great deal of work because the weeds grow like … well, weeds.

Alternative feeds for your livestock

Using a mix of intentional forage and fodder trees, increasing the use of fruit trees and shrubs to harvest green grass and dry hay replacements or increase silage content, and looking at the wild edibles in our areas as a way to increase livestock feeds can make a difference in both resiliency and livestock costs, especially if we’re running small flocks and herds.

You need to slowly transition livestock to new feeds, especially if they’re accustomed to 1-2 base feeds, but livestock is just like humanity – we all do best with a variety of foods. Livestock is especially dependent on gut microflora to help them break down foods. I’m sure you’ve heard the “starving with a full belly” nugget. Before commercial feed and penned livestock was so prevalent, there was also “spring sickness” or “green dribbles” that came in part from livestock being able to access pasture again after winter, eating their heads off, and ending up with upset stomachs. Slowly transitioning livestock and keeping them on a variety of feeds can help limit those conditions because their guts stay primed to consume them.

Some other nuggets to research, especially for game birds like ducks and young poultry that need higher proteins, include black soldier fly farms, algae and duckweed aquariums, and worm bins or troughs. Fast-breeding minnows will change the flavor of eggs and meat, but can be kept in pretty small tanks with low energy needs. There’s also barely-sprouted grains (the ones that barely have any “tail” showing when they’re offered). I’m not a major fan of sprouted fodder systems (the kind that grow root mats and green shoots in trays) as a primary livestock feed for anything more than a couple of chickens or rabbits, but then, I’d also rather grow and re-grow rotating flats of mixed weeds and wheat grass for them in winter because it’s a lot less costly and labor intensive. Just remember that while some livestock like chickens and rabbits can be vegans and have lower protein needs, the game birds like ducks are not really grazers – they need seeds and-or live foods and the higher calories and proteins those offer.

There are a world of livestock feed options that don’t begin with slicing an alfalfa bale or cutting open a bag of pellets. Even if we choose to stay with grains and conventionally farmed feeds, having the alternative foraging and fodder options gives us a fallback and gives us something to shoulder as we walk around, giving our livestock extra nutrients and variety that can help keep them healthier.

This is the second article looking at ways we can cut our dependence on commercial feeds for our livestock. The first article primarily dealt with historic feeds and ways of storing

One of the hardest cords to cut for homesteaders is dependence on commercial feeds. Our modern livestock – even a lot of the dual-purpose homesteading breeds – are accustomed to certain types of feeds, heavy on mass-production monoculture grains and hay. Sometimes planting options seem limited, sometimes storage space is at a premium, and sometimes we struggle to figure out what folks did before Buy’N’Large made kibble and meal mix cheap and accessible. There is no one way to do anything, and no solution is going to work for everyone. However, I’ve put together some ideas for root vegetables and their tops that can cut some of our feed bills and feed dependency and alternative or “forgotten” ways of storing and using grains, legumes that might help cut feed costs and increase resiliency and self-sufficiency.

The methods here can be applied from sprawling homesteads to suburban homes and lots. Some of the tips actually apply to humans, too, especially the storage tidbits. There will be another article on alternative livestock feeds that will have even more help for smaller lots with livestock like rabbits and a couple of ducks or goats, and will also include some alternatives that are feeding people and animals on a larger scale in other parts of the world.

Corn Storage

Corn can be collected sweet or allowed to dry on the stalk for grinding and feed types, and an awful lot of livestock is happy with rough-grind “cracked” corn. Dry corn can also be soaked overnight to become more palatable and attractive to livestock. Natives used to dry corn on mats, both shucked and rubbed from the cobs or still attached to cobs, and colonists regularly had stacked racks that allowed good airflow beneath a roof for further drying before corn is transferred to a bin. Corn will keep better (stay dryer) if it’s left on the cob. Leaving the cob on can be space consuming, however. White folks have traditionally used large silos and smaller cribs for dry corn. Once it’s dried on the stalks, husks that have been left on can also be braided into ropes or wider bands, then suspended from ceilings in barns, cellars or homes. Birds and rats are still a risk, but it can be a space-saving way to store corn compared to old-style cribs, since it can go right over our heads, livestock heads, or additional storage areas.

Common grass grains

For households that are putting in limited amounts of grass grains like wheat, barley and oats, each square foot is precious. When there are small amounts, such as turning one or a few 5’x20’ plots and 5-10 pounds of seed into 40-65 pounds of grain or next-year’s planting-for-consumption stock, it’s incredibly important for that seed to dry properly. On a small scale, the cost of specialty machinery may not be available, especially at first, despite the time it can save.

Old-school stooking of stalks helps get them up into the air and at least somewhat away from some pests. However, if a corn bin has drying racks, or there’s a shed with wide doors and enough power to run a box fan, heads can also be cut from the stalks after bundling into stooks, and the bundles hung upside down in tiers, similar to old tobacco barns or even overhead in homes and barn walkways. Doing so cuts down on the amount of floor space needed while protecting the grains from rain, and increases protection against pests.

Old tobacco shed (braided corn or inverted grain bundles can be stored from racks and chains as tobacco once was)

Old tobacco shed (braided corn or inverted grain bundles can be stored from racks and chains as tobacco once was)

Storing corn and other grains overhead, even once bagged, can save space on the floor and shelves for harvests of apples or* potatoes, autumn and winter squashes, yams, and sweet potatoes, or for jarred and dehydrated produce.

* Potatoes and apples in the same space will make each other ripen/rot faster, but pears, yams and sweet potatoes get along like white on rice with pretty much all other crops once they’ve had their cure period. Since grain storage is ideally drydry, crops that like bins of damp sawdust and sand like carrots and turnips aren’t really great sharing space with corn, oats, barley, teff, buckwheat, or any other grain.

African grains

Millet and teff are incredibly difficult and time consuming to mill, but poultry can handle them easily without that step. Teff also makes a good hay and an excellent straw. The major advantage to the relatively rare teff is that this African crop is accustomed to some pretty harsh conditions, nutrient-depleted soils, and hand- and low-mech harvest. Millet is largely seen in game plots and songbird feed, but has plenty of nutritional value and some of the millets can handle pretty much any conditions. Both millet and teff are available in varieties can be had for serious clays, droughts, flood-drought, and saturated field tolerances, which can make them a huge asset for small homesteaders trying to cut feed-store cords.

Millet and corn kernels can also be turned into a type of silage for storage, or the entire still-green plant can be used – as can other grains, legumes, and leafy plants.

Silage

Silage is basically a type of fermentation that produces a high-moisture feed. Haylage and oatlege are basically just specialty types of silage. Brits produce a version called balage. In World War II, farmers sometimes used silage made from turnip and rutabaga tops to help get their breeding pigs and cattle through spring.

It can be created small-scale in heavy-duty contractor or special-purpose bags, in kegs and casks, by round-bale equipment and covers, or in bins from 5-10’ stock tanks to pits and shelters measured in meters. The green matter is chopped, packed down in layers, and covered. Sometimes something absorbent and lightweight like finished straw or chaff is added on top or a sweetener like honey or molasses or tree syrup is used in the layers. The important part of any silage process is to press out the oxygen, and to cover it against reintroduction of oxygen and precipitation.

Silage

Cows munching on silage.

Silage can be beneficial in that the starting moisture content is very high. A hay harvest that would be ruined by dews and rains can still become safe animal feed by converting it to silage instead.

It’s not pretty, but just like it got some of our heritage and rare breeds through World War II, in a disaster, the waste-not, want-not aspect of using the tops of storable feed and food crop, “ruined” hay crop, or a grain crop that isn’t going to get all the way to our frosts and freezes to feed our livestock may make it worthwhile for some raisers.

There are naysayers on the topic of silage as animal feed, so do research about the nutrients of various components and methods. Ducks and turkeys can’t have it and I haven’t seen a horse willing to chomp in, but most goats, cattle, pigs, chickens, rabbits, and donkeys could have at least part of their diets replaced, putting that much less pressure on hay and grains for winter and spring.

Roots & Tubers – Swedes, Beets, Sweets, Yams, Radishes and Turnips

Along with pea hay and straw, something farmers haven’t done in a while is maintain big stacks of root veggies along with their tall stacks of hay and straw, or keep tubers in big cellars to haul to their calves, rams, and steers. Forking forage turnips and swedes to cattle and pigs used to be just part of daily life, especially early in winter, and it wasn’t uncommon even up until the 1950s for British farmers to shred or grate swedes to a consistency we’d use for drying apples or potatoes, then use it for weanling cattle and goats, or “slop” them for their meat chickens and pigs.

Turnip Slicer

Image – Turnip slicer from WWII

Britain’s farming directives in response to World War II offers us a fair number of clues for hard-times livestock feeding, and one of the other fabulous nuggets that came out of it was the cooking of slop for pigs. Cooking makes things like potato and sweets and yams safe to eat, skin to “meat”, and boiling allows things like junk meat from pest animals to be included.

Although they aren’t as traditional, most of the cellar- or pit-worthy long-storage root crops like African yams, Chinese yams, and sweet potatoes can be used the same way for our vegan livestock (oca can be used for some livestock in low quantity, but those New Zealand and South American “yam” is a gas-producer capable of twisting up even goats and pigs). They tend to be low on protein, they aren’t the calorie powerhouses of grains, but they work well for stud stock, meat stock, un-bred stock, and things like rabbits and chickens that convert leafy foods efficiently.

Forage and sugar beets and turnips can be had relatively inexpensively as deer plot and pasture-improvement seed. Daikon-type radishes are available in the same genres, but some of the field-improving radishes are bred to produce a spongy biomass and then dissolve in a pretty short amount of time, so we need to pay attention to what we purchase.

BeetFodder

Image – Dairy cattle on forage beets.

Some livestock will eat a daikon radish as-is, but some will pass it unless it’s been boiled – and it’s as much animal-to-animal as it is species or breed. Introducing new foods should progress slowly, but livestock that is regularly exposed to a variety of foods is more likely to nibble something new when it’s mixed in with the old favorites.

Things like sweet potatoes, radishes, turnips and beets are double winners, because both the tops and the roots are edible – for us and for livestock. They can either be grazed early and allowed to develop roots later with pasture rotation, pigs can be rotated in after goats and cattle to dig up tubers (not sweets), tops can be culled and delivered to livestock as green food a little at a time to avoid serious stunting where climates are less forgiving and then the roots can be harvested, or tops can be removed and fed or added to silage when the tubers are being harvested.

Some of the root veggies are ideal to grow in spring, others in the heat of the year. With yams and sweets on the Southern summer end of the spectrum and swedes and Daikons on the shake-off-frosts end, there’s a livestock augmentation in the root crops for pretty much everything but ducks, horses and turkeys. Even donkeys can chomp into some cooked radishes, yams and sweets along with their hay.

*Ducks can nibble some, but they aren’t really supposed to be grazers; they really need grain seeds and more proteins than root veggies provide.

Apples and Pears as Fodder

Images – Hogs on apples

Images – Hogs on apples

 

Chickens and hogs have historically been scrap compactors, turning odd ends and wilted produce into nummy bacon and eggs, but, again, evolution means they’re not quite as good as it as they used to be. Look for foraging-capability in breed and lineage descriptions (sometimes in percentages and sometimes a rating system), and try to buy from people who at least partly pasture raise their livestock.

Goats, sheep and cattle will chomp into apples, pears and plums as well as the chickens and pigs that go ga-ga for them, but chickens and hogs can handle a higher amount of sweet fruit in their diet. Chickens can also easily handle crabapples and wild plums. Using even just windfall and wormy fruit from existing trees or planting some storage and needs-to-cure apples to our tree fruit can help increase the amount of nutrients and calories we produce on our property, especially if we’re able to situate chickens and rabbits under the canopy – stacking our food production into an even smaller footprint.

Extra bonus: Most meat stock that is finished on apples, pears or beets ends up with really excellent flavor once it’s in the pot. At least a week, but up to a month with a diet supplement or change in those directions can make a huge difference. They still need access to hays while finishing. In Southern climes where sweet potatoes will grow in abundance between traditional crabapple and wild plum hedges, they can have the same effect on hogs, lambs, kids and chickens, making for some seriously succulent eats.

Growing & Storing Livestock Feed

Another article is in the works looking at alternative livestock feeds, things that go even further out on a limb than turnip-top silage and researching African grains and tubers (like tree hay and tree fodder options, and boosting protein for game birds and young chicks).

Even with more traditional foods and feeds, we can start impacting our livestock costs by looking back at history to see what was used – and how – before we depended on fuels and electricity for delivering kibble. We can learn a great deal especially looking at hard times when farmers and small raisers had to make due with limited feed options, such as in Great Britain during World War II and Cuba during the initial months and years of the oil embargo. Those methods can help us figure out how to cut costs and how to develop a sustainable plan for our modern livestock should we ever need it.

As mentioned, modern livestock – even the heritage breeds to some degree – has half a century or more of the Green Revolution under its belt. They are accustomed to pressed and formed feeds in large part, the condensed calories of grains. Modern livestock is largely built for enormous feed conversion, which may be slowed or delayed with certain types of feed, and in many cases, they won’t have correct gut microflora to immediately switch to something new. Always keep good stock records of production and feed, and always transition feeds slowly for livestock, especially small and young livestock.

One of the hardest cords to cut for homesteaders is dependence on commercial feeds. Our modern livestock – even a lot of the dual-purpose homesteading breeds – are accustomed to