Of all the alfalfa pellet brands I can buy locally, I've always bought Standlee. It's been the one brand that contains little to no alfalfa dust, plus, they've had a non-GMO statement on their website regarding their alfalfa sources. Until recently.
Recently Standlee changed their packaging, new look and all. I have to say I wasn't impressed with the new bags, especially when I discovered how easily they burst open. But that wasn't the real problem. The real problem was that after offering it to my girls, they wouldn't eat it. They all walked away from their feeders with quite a bit left in the bottom.
That raised a huge red flag in my mind, so I went back to the Standlee website. Instead of the non-GMO statement, I found this one. You can click it to see for yourself, but the bottom line is that they now use "a limited amount of GMO Alfalfa". That's extremely disappointing, but hats off to Standlee for at least disclosing the GMO status of their feeds!
So I'm looking for an alternative. I know quite a few of you may be quick to mention Chaffhaye (the new alfalfa darling of the goat world), because Chaffhaye manufacturers promise their product will always be GMO free. I did look into it. However, the nearest dealer is about 135 miles away. At $15 per 50 pound bag, that makes it a better deal than the 40 pound bags of alfalfa pellets selling for $14.49. But the distance keeps it off the range of realistic possibilities because I buy weekly. A weekly 270 mile trip for alfalfa would be ridiculous. Perhaps more feasible would be to buy a bulk supply, except our budget has no room for that!
I confess that even if budget wasn't an issue, I'd still be looking for an alternative. One reason is our goal of self-sustaining animal keeping. That means working toward feeding our animals from our land.
The other reason is because of what I read about alfalfa in Pat Coleby's Natural Goat Care, because alfalfa is a legume.
"Goitrogenic Feeds: All legumes come under this category. They deplete iodine if they are eaten in excess . . . Irrigation alfalfa grown with artificial fertilizers is especially toxic." Page 95I can't help but wonder that if I didn't feed alfalfa, perhaps my goats wouldn't gobble down the kelp meal (their source of iodine) so quickly.
In the end, my goal is to get away from buying anything to feed my goats. Having self-sustaining goats means providing everything they need on our homestead. This is a goal I've been working toward for a number of years. Now, however, it seems time to shift gears from experimental stage to the real deal.
As a replacement for alfalfa, I've been planting comfrey, adding more crowns every year. It is rich in both protein and calcium and the goats love it. It takes a bit of work, however, because it loves rich soil and doesn't seem to tolerate any hot, dry spells. Still, if I can get a routine it will be worth it.
I'm working on an update to our self-sufficient animal feed goal, but until then (for anyone interested), here are links to previous posts on what I've researched, learned, and thought about:
- Food Self-Sufficiency and Animals
- More Thoughts on Growing Animal Feeds
- Homegrown Goat Minerals
- DIY Vitamins & Minerals For Goats
- More Experiments In Sustainable Pasture
Alfalfa For Goats: Looking For Alternatives © January 2014