August 14, 2015

DIY Goat Feed: Experiment #1

One of our self-sufficiency goals is to grow all of our own animal feeds. I've written a lot on this in the past, sharing my research, growing experiments, and changes in the way I think about it and why:


For the goats, one of the things I have learned is the importance of good quality hay. They are ruminants and this should be the primary staple of their diet. Also important are meeting nutritional requirements, especially protein and vitamins and minerals. Most of my concern and research has focused on that. For us, that means things I can grow and harvest pretty much year around, such as greens and root crops; also stored vegetables such as sweet potatoes and winter squashes. Greens and herbs can be dried and top dressed. Grains can be fed whole plant as hay. I can grow additional protein as cow peas, flax seeds, or sunflower seeds and feed with pods, shells, and all.

Something else that's important but not discussed much is energy. This is usually fed in the form of grain, but if you have read (or do read) those posts you'll understand why I feed only limited grain. Folks are usually concerned about protein and minerals (I am too) so most questions and discussions on the internet focus on these things. But I've been concerned about bulk (tummy filler) for the milking stand or times of year when forage is slim. These could be classified as energy foods and because goats are ruminants, should be largely cellulose based such as stalks (corn, sorghum, and/or amaranth) and corn cobs. No, that's not as terrible as it sounds because they use things like this in pelleted animal feeds, although on feed bags you'll see them listed as plant products and roughage products.

What we've needed is a way to process these items into a size the goats can manage. We've discussed this a lot and can finally show you our first experiment in DIY goat feed!

Prototype goat chow maker

We bought the Yard Machine about six years ago.  As a chipper / shredder it was pretty disappointing, because it scattered pulverized mulch all over the place, like way across the yard. As a piece of junk to clutter up the carport it did great, and we often pondered what to do with it. We would crank it up every now and then, but it could only handle small sticks and leaves so it was only semi-useful. We usually end up renting one of these once a year to take care of our huge stick and branch piles and make wood chip mulch.


With PVC pipe, rain gutter parts, duct tape, and a 30 gallon lidded drum, we've got the beginnings of a feed chopper.

Popcorn cobs

Amaranth stalk

Results?


Not as consistent as we hoped but not bad for a start.

Chopped and shredded corn cobs and amaranth stalks.
What did the goats think? Read on.

I took a couple handfuls of the finer stuff and mixed it in with the evening feed ration for the girls at milking time. Daphne ate it all and Helen left only the largest chunks of corn cob. I'd call that the beginnings of success. My plan is to eventually mix this with dried and fresh herbs, greens, cowpeas, amaranth grain, and produce to make up the ration. To check nutritional content, I will have the mix tested by our cooperative extension office.

The stalks were still somewhat green and we think the chopper may do a better job once they are completely dry. That means more experimenting later on. In the meantime, Dan is thinking of ways to tweak it, while I'm just happy for a big step forward in our quest for self-sufficiency.

34 comments:

  1. What a great idea! I would certainly dry the stalks and cobs completely first, as they will undoubtedly keep better too. I have always found that drying feed/ nuts/seeds etc for the winter to be a bit of a challenge in the damp summers that we often have here. It looks as though the food you are producing for your goats is of the very best standard, superior to any that can be bought (that contains goodness knows what)

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    1. Proper drying is a concern here too because our humidity can really be a problem as well. One year I shredded and dried a large quantity of beets. Just before I put them into a storage container, the humidity skyrocketed and the entire batch mildewed. Very disappointing! I'm hoping to chop corn stalks to add to my homegrown feed mix, but too often the stalks are mildewed by the time we've harvested the field dried corn. This year has presented us with a fairly low relative humidity, so it may do better. At least I hope so!

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    2. For good feed. Fill it with shredded cornstalks (still moist 30-60%) and pack it into the container then seal it to keep the air out. The silage will go through anaerobic fermentation. Your goats will love it and it keeps good for months if done right

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  2. What a creative use of a chipper/shredder!

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  3. I follow your feed-raising experiments with great interest! Good luck with your new processor. Maybe a screen to sieve out the big pieces for a second run-through? I'd be concerned about choking risks with chunks. I've been cautious about even carrot chunks since someone told me about losing a goat before her eyes to choking on a chunk of an alfalfa cube.

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    1. Yes, something like hardware cloth is the most likely candidate for sorting. I've heard that about alfalfa cubes and goats, so I've always gone with pellets for that reason. Or now Chaffhaye.

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  4. What a crack up! We inherited a shredder like that. We let the 15 year old take it apart to play around with the motor because it basically just made a mess. Excellent re-purposing!

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    1. Ah, so it's a design element in the machine itself. No wonder they're so common on craigslist, LOL

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  5. Be very careful with mold and corn. In the summer months even in our dry southern Oregon climate the feed is packed in burlap bags so it can air and keep dry. Maybe the fresh and the dry should be mixed at feeding time and not before hand to cut down on possible moisture issues....

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    1. We have a terrible time with mold here, especially corn stalks and leaves. Everything has to be hand sorted to pick and choose what can be fed to the goats. We probably won't process anything that isn't completely dry for that reason. This experiment was laid out on an old window screen and thankfully, we had nice dry weather to finish it out.

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  6. Great engineering experiment. Love the re-purposing use of what would otherwise be a basically useless piece of equipment.

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    1. And to think I almost sold it countless times. Now I'm glad I didn't!

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  7. I love this idea! AND it's something I can try. I have all the equipment somewhere in one of the barns. Thanks for the fun post...my chickens, pigs and turkeys thank you, too!

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    1. I'll be interested in what you do!

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  8. Very creative! I bet they love the home grown :)

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    1. They only care it's food, LOL. I care that it's homegrown! Especially since good quality animal feeds are hard to find around here.

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  9. You amaze me! Great job. Yes, those little chippers are useless (unless you need to chip toothpicks or something else of that size).
    We just had someone harvest our lower 10 acres for free if he kept the hay. We don't grow our own for our goats because the Willamette Valley soil is very deficient of minerals especially selenium. We buy hay from Eastern Oregon.
    We have tons of free choice and it is really amazing how they eat what they need of that.
    I'm not a big fan of grain but do feed it on the stand. I mix it with alfalfa pellets. I don't think it is great for their rumen .
    I'm looking forward to seeing how all of this works out for you. Thanx for letting us learn along with you.

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    1. Yeah, I agree that grain and pellets aren't good for the rumen, but it is a way to provide needed nutrients. I'm hoping our homegrown alternative will be healthier.

      Our soil is highly selenium deficient too, but so is anything we could buy. I have to supplement that to meet the need.

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  10. "As a piece of junk to clutter up the carport it did great"

    me and jam went into fits of laughing about that - bahahahahah! we don't have animals yet leigh, but when we do jam already has a snowblowing machine-thingy that he has set up for breaking down food for animals. he says that your husband's use of your machine is brilliant. he also says to tell your hubby to run the dried cobs/amaranth through one time, then sift (like many people have mentioned) and then run the remainder through it again and that that will probably work to make all of the stuff smaller.

    hope i'm making sense here. congrats. and keep us updated how it all works!

    your friend,
    kymber

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    1. I'm glad you all are thinking ahead on these things. We're working on a few improvements to the chopper which should make it work better. First time around was a test. I'll report on the rest and I'm interested in seeing what Jam did with the snowblower.

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  11. That's an ingenious device. Rube Goldberg would be consumed with envy!

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    1. Aw shucks. It's a relief to do something with it and it's a relief to make progress in the feed department. :)

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  12. Hi! You guys are so great at coming up with creative ideas!!! Nancy

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    1. Dan gets the credit for this one. :) I've been wanting a hammer mill, but this is much more heavy duty, and I'm glad of that.

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  13. I was more than disappointed in my chipper shredder. It seemed it took a mountain od stuff just to make a coffee can full of chopped up stuff. Still though running it the way you are is a good idea. If you were doing mostly corn stalks you could also leave it in the barrel a while and create a fermented silage too that would even soften the larger chunks some.

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    1. The ones made for home use all seem to be pretty sorry.

      Not too sure about silage; I've read mixed reports about feeding it to goats. We'll be working with dry stalks anyway, and I think silage is made from green ones (?)

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  14. I have been trying to find info on growing all my feed for my animals. Did you find a lot of it online or more by a trial and error?

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    1. The trick is to find things that grow well in one's area, so it was a combination of research and experimentation. It's a slow process because if something doesn't work, it's another year to try something else!

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  15. Brialliant, you really are brilliant but every time I see a wood chopper I think of Fargo and laugh; but I regress. We no longer have goats just a couple pigs and several steers. The steers are all grass fed but our pigs get a corn mix. Buying it all ground up from a friend (in exchange for labor on his place) but looking forward to grinding our own. You've given me (again!) some great ideas.

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  16. I think this is the coolest invention I've ever seen!!!

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  17. That's brilliant. :-) I saw the comment above that Rube Goldberg would be proud, but I think Red Green would be proud, too!

    Also, although the chipper still might not work well for larger sticks, the outlet you put on it (the part up to the barrel) might help to keep it from scattering chips all over the place.

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