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. 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.
Here is 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.
In the beginning the thinnings don’t add up to much. But we do it anyway, as it allows the remaining veggies to grow bigger. When we pick feed, we just pull the largest veggies, leaving room for the neighbour to get bigger.
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.
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.
We chop the leaves off to give to our the hens.
The roots and stalks go off to the pigs. They will eat them raw, but if you feed potatoes they should be cooked.
One canner will get fed to the 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 we think it gives their pork a wonderful flavour.
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.
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.