When it comes to feeding time on the homestead, I often feel like I'm caught in the middle of a three-ring circus. This is especially true any time I need to make changes in our routine. Routine is a critter keeper's best friend, but sometimes changes are necessary, such as, when new animals join the team or we do a pasture switch-up.
I've visited a few places where the person feeding their animals simply dumps quantities of feed on the ground. Every critter comes running and it's a mad free-for-all while each one tries to gobble down as much as they can. I can't tell you how much this horrifies me, especially for goats. This is the very best way for them to pick up parasites, because the parasite eggs come out in their droppings. Eating close to the ground pretty much assures that they'll pick up more and the problem will remain ongoing. This is why goats browsing wooded or shrubby areas have less problem with parasites.
When it comes to eating, animals don't have good manners and don't share. They follow only two rules. The first is in their definition of edible. Chickens and pigs are omnivores, goats are herbivores. That means the chickens and pigs will readily help themselves to the goat feed. The goats, on the other hand, may want the chicken scratch or pellets, but they won't go for other pig and chicken delicacies such as whey, moldy cheese, or that two week old tuna casserole I forgot about in the fridge.
Amongst their own species, the pecking order is very much the way things are. This is rule #2. Those on top get all they want while those of lower status have to wait and hope. The irony of this is that those animals which need the most, i.e. the young, growing, and producing, get the least. The oldest and least productive get the most. Roosters and mothers are the exception. A rooster will cluck to the hens and step back when he finds something good to eat. A mama hen will do the same for her chicks, A mother goat never minds if her kids nibble from her feed pan.
When my new Kinder girls arrived, I decided it was time to do a pasture rotation, which meant changing housing too. Daphne and Helen had the front pasture all to themselves for awhile, until I could sell the last of this year's kids. I figured they'd have a chance to become familiar with their new surroundings before I introduced them to my Nubians - Surprise and Lily. By moving my long resident does in with the newcomers (rather than the other way around) I hoped to minimize the territoriality disputes. It pretty much worked too, and adjustments were made smoothly.
Feeding time is when it gets crazy because we have to establish a new routine. First I lure the chickens into their yard with scratch and close the yard gate to keep them there. Then I have to remove Surprise and Lily for milking, but Daphne, Helen, and Bunny all want to be fed at that instant too. Trying to get particular goats out and keep remaining goats in, is a juggling act! Milking does get fed one at a time, while they are on the stanchion. The others get their own pan, and the juggling act continues as I try to set down the three pans far enough apart to make sure each goat gets her own share. They all rush the first pan and then run to then next, to make sure there isn't something there the first pan didn't contain.
Then there's the pigs. For now they pretty much roam wherever the billy boys do. Ordinarily feeding wouldn't be a problem because the bucks are on hay and browse. This time of year, however, I give my bucks a little feed with chopped veggies and fruits for a extra nutrition, because they're in rut and tend to think more about girls than eating. To keep the pigs from gobbling down the bucks' food, I find myself sneaking around to spy out who's where. I make sure the pigs are where they can't see what's going on, and carefully try to open and close gates without making a sound because they all know the sound of those gates and come running!
The pigs each get their own pan because sharing doesn't work, at least not with a big round pan. A pecking order exists here too, but with two pans they have to run back and forth. Pigs are pretty smart, however, so at least they each stick with one pan and try to outrace the other. At least they both get some. Dan said he'll make me a more traditional trough, which I think would be better. Still, I now have personal insight into the phrase, "eats like a pig." Since American Guinea Hogs are excellent grazers and foragers, I don't feed them huge meals. Their dinner is mostly cheese whey or milk, along with trimmings from cooking, canning, or cleaning out the refrigerator.
All of this is temporary. If we ever get our new barn built, things will go exceedingly smoother. Molly at Fias Co Farm has a pretty good goat feeding arrangement, so I'm definitely going to plan on that. Since my plan is based mostly on my personal experience and problems, changing things up like I have recently, gives me more things to consider. Experience truly is the best teacher!