SHTF Animal Feed

How are we going to maintain our animals in a SHTF situation? Good question from Leigh over at 5 Acres & A Dream. She and her husband continually work to improve their land and self-sufficiency goals, so this in an interesting question. This article has quite a few links to previous articles that discuss some of our efforts at providing for our animals. A lot of what we do now is based on how things have developed since we moved to this homestead. Here is Leigh’s question.

“Here’s a preparedness question. I would really like to know how you are feeding and managing your goats. Feed self-sufficiency has been one of my goals for as long as we’ve had goats, but I keep being thwarted and frustrated at so many turns. We grow some of our own feed and hay, but not enough and I’m constantly feeling time pressured to achieve this goal. I have to say I’ve learned a lot from research and experimentation; and made huge changes in my feeding philosophy, but I’m not there yet. I’d love a blog post on how you’re managing this.”

We currently buy grain from the feed store for our goats and chickens. Along with that, they all have access to forage. Right now we keep the chickens penned up until about noon or early afternoon, then let them out to range. If we no longer have access to grain for them, we will let them out each morning to ‘fend for themselves’. We also supplement with garden scraps, comfrey and amaranth leaves when available.

Our current Nubian goat herd consists of three does, eight wethers and two bucks. The males and females are separated into different pastures. Our ten acres is cross fenced into four pastures which is way more than enough for the number of animals we have. We rotate them between pastures during different times of the year for grazing preferences and to help control intestinal parasites. One of the main things we use for parasite control are copper boluses. We have acquired a large supply that will more than last our lifetimes in a SHTF situation, and hopefully will be adequate to help maintain the health of the animals. We also grow a number of plants that help deter worms. I don’t pick and feed them daily like I used to, but they are out there if we need them. After we started using the copper boluses, the goats have been very healthy most of the time.

We have always had a plan for standing hay. It’s warm enough in our location that there is usually something green growing most of the year for the goats to graze, and if not, there is still a lot of forage of the standing dried variety. If we are unable to buy the small amount of hay we use each year for bedding during the birthing season, that is another issue. We currently do not have a solution for that, it’s something we would have to work out. We have plans, but not finalized plans because it is something we have never done.

We realize our milk and kid production would decrease substantially since the does would not be receiving a milking ration of grain. The same would be true for the chickens and their egg production. To hopefully offset some of that, we have some things growing that could be used to supplement the grazing. We have a small patch of Jerusalem artichokes and comfrey.

One crop that grows very well here is cowpeas. We would increase our planting and dry some of these in the greenhouse for winter supplement. There are parts of the country that grow them extensively for animal feed for their protein content. We also have Austrian winter pea seed that has remained viable for about a decade, that loves the cold weather. It doesn’t make a ‘pea’ per se, but the foliage is edible for man and beast and is very nutritious.

The scraps from the garden and winter greenhouse are always saved and taken to the animals, usually the chickens. We were talking about how to save the corn stalks for silage the other day. We haven’t tried it yet, but that might also be doable.

Another crop we are trying for the first time this year is amaranth. So far so good. It is growing very well, we will just have to wait and see how it produces. The plant can be dried and chopped for the goats. It’s highly nutritious and I got the idea from Leigh after reading about it years ago on her blog.

I haven’t concentrated on SHTF animal feed in quite a while, but it’s a good reminder to do so. When we moved to this homestead 11 years ago there were many things to do to increase our self-sufficiency and prepare for the collapse. Now that many of them are in place I am much more peaceful about our preparedness level. The current challenge is our aging bodies and what we can still physically accomplish. We continually reevaluate what we need to downsize or alter to continue to accomplish our goals.

We have watched others try to grow non-mechanized grains and hay. This is something that has always been too labor intensive for our life styles. And now that we are older, this could never be a consideration for us. We have downsized our herd of goats to a more manageable level as we realize our limitations and how they will continue to affect our abilities in the future whether there is a collapse or not. We have to be realistic. Adding in the belief that the SHTF sooner rather than later, we add our aging bodies and waning physical abilities to the equation and adjust accordingly.

Thank you for the question, Leigh. It is a good review for us and helps to refocus on how we might be able to continue providing for our animals, which in turn will provide for us. Milk, meat, and eggs will go a long way toward sustaining us.

Let’s hear from everyone. What other recommendations or experiences do folks have to share? Again, we are all in this together.

Until next time – Fern

20 thoughts on “SHTF Animal Feed

  1. re: your corn.I am from a prairie province where growing sweet corn is a given. So…for starters, plant your corn in hills of three plants, with the hills 12 to 18 inches apart, in ALL directions. The three feet between rows is the start of your issues. Corn is a touchy to pollinate plant. They need close contact with their neighbours, and it is recommended to have them in a block of no less than 4 feet by 4 feet, given the above spacings. I used to put up 100 pkts of corn in 2cups per every year from my kitchen garden, never realizing it could be a growing problem Good luck.

  2. We lost 3 chickens this spring to a fox in broad daylight while they were free ranging. We spent even more money on better fencing to keep our chickens in and reclipped wings. They are safe but not getting the nice greens anymore. I do pull some weeds most days to feed them. My point is keeping livestock safe while they are foraging is another issue.One other suggestion for feeding chickens is a worm farm. A compost pile of manure seeded with red wigglers will produce many protein rich worms the chickens will love. If you get a \”hot\” compost pile going, the worms can survive cold temps using the heat of compost. Idea from Small Scale Poultry Flock by Harvey Ussery and Joel Salatin. This is a very useful idea, I think, for keeping a chicken flock fed in winter when things aren't growing. I have not tried it yet personally.

  3. Fern – I grew the mangel beets last year, just a few, maybe half dozen, as an experiment. They did indeed become HUGE. Since we obtained our current batch of laying hens in the Fall, our girls were too young to try them out. I shared some with friends who have way more hens and I believe the hens did eat them after being diced up. I read somewhere (probably The Deliberate Agrarian) that one could suspend a large beet and that the chickens would peck away at it. You might have to peel away the outer skin to expose the more brightly colored interior of the beet. That would be great, eh? I'll let you know how the experiment works out. Best Regards, Tim(fromOhio)

  4. The crumbles would age, but as long as you don't get ants or weevils in them, they should last quite a while. If we actually see indications the SHTF has arrived and it is safe to go, we will stock up on all the feed we can then ration it out. We have talked about it many times, but pray it never comes to that.Let us know how the mangels turn out, Tim. We have never been successful with them. Fern

  5. This morning we need to go drain an abscess on one of the doe's necks. Not a chore we look forward to at all, CW. There are many aspects of maintaining animals beyond feed, but those cycles are just part of the process of raising food.Fern

  6. You're right about waiting to be fed, Annie. We occasionally put out a bit of hay for our does if it is raining all day or very cold, otherwise they fend for themselves. I do feed the does grain everyday when I milk, but the wethers and bucks only get a small amount of grain every other day or so just to keep them coming up and semi-tame.It's good to hear others experiences, thank you. Fern

  7. Great example of ways to feed poultry, Parsimony. Thank you for sharing your experiences.You're right about rabbits. Good source of additional protein but will not sustain life without another source of fat.We eat eggs everyday, sometimes three times a day. Fried for breakfast, some form of boiled for lunch – plain boiled, egg salad, chicken salad, salmon salad – and sometimes for dinner. Great protein!Good to hear from you, please continue to share. Fern

  8. You are welcome, Leigh.Our table beet crop turned out very good this year, but I have not been successful at growing mangels. Maybe we should try again.I agree, we learn a lot from folks that have tried other methods and sometimes can adapt them to our situation and needs. Like growing amaranth this year, thank you for the idea.Fern

  9. We have considered it, SJ, but decided years ago raising rabbits just wasn't for us. Not only do they have specific nutritive requirements in captivity, we just didn't want to kill them for butcher. We went and looked at some, but realized it just wasn't in the cards for us. Lots of people do, though.In a survival situation rabbits would provide some protein, but they are very lacking in fat. Unless a person had another source of fat, rabbits alone would not sustain them for long.Thanks for the idea, Fern

  10. I tried to comment before but I guess my attempt at proving I am not a robot was unsuccessful! Anyway, this is a very important topic. I've thought a lot about this and the common thread in any particular solution is the requirement to have land. Land to grow fodder crops, land for rotational grazing, land for hay production, etc. It seems that one could do a lot on a relatively small plot but this would necessitate external inputs. Increased density of anything homesteading, be it vegetables or livestock, requires more external inputs. I can cram more plants in my raised beds, but they won't do well without lots of compost/organic fertilizer. Lower plant density out in our \”big\” garden requires much less external input but more space is required for the same output (in pounds) of food. I'm trying to grow mangel beets this year for our chickens. Maybe next year will try amaranth as well – that is a good idea! What about storage food for livestock? How long does everyone think bags of chicken crumble would last? Again, this is a great topic. Tim(fromOhio)

  11. You two have reminded all of us that raising livestock is not a simple task. Great thought and responsibility goes into the care of our animals. One must have knowledge, compassion, and plans for all of them no matter what the circumstances. Take care and prepare, CWfromIowa

  12. This is something I ponder often. Right now I am pushing my little goad herd to forage most of their diet, but they are so used to me bringing them bag food and hay it's taking some real neglect for them to finally go out an browse… I call them my welfare cases. I know that the rumin bugs that digest the food have to change and that doesn't happen overnight. I've slowly cut down on grain and hay and I think finally they're getting the idea they need to go graze/browse befor 2-3pm when the rain clouds start forming.

  13. I have only had a few chickens. However, from the beginning I determined to never spend money on feed. Table scraps and free ranging worked. At church dinners, I collected table scraps, at KFC or wherever, I asked people for their leftovers for my hens. An owner of a fruit stand and some people at the Farmer's market contributed produce for my chickens. Instead of buying hay or whatever for their laying boxes, I used what came from the mower bagger. Some days, I just went around picking green stuff for them to eat. I gathered handsful of pine straw to put in their laying boxes or on the floor of their pen. I am quite sure that a larger animal would be more difficult to care for, but this worked for me.Remember, you can starve to death depending on rabbits for food. Look up \”rabbit starvation.\”Another point, I could eat eggs for my protein happily.

  14. Thank you Fern! Great post. It's interesting and helpful to read what others are doing. I learn so much that way. I agree about being realistic and downsizing when it gets to the point that it isn't possible to purchase feed. Also about keeping things manageable as we get older. This year I added sugar beets to our goats diet. Amazingly, they're still hanging in there in our 90° weather. Last winter we had an abundance of sweet potatoes. I'd also like to find a Jerusalem artichoke that isn't so lumpy and hard to clean!

  15. Have you ever considered adding rabbits to your homestead for meat? Like you, I am aging and facing my new limitations. I wonder if a smaller meat animal might work into your plans.Cheers, SJ in Vancouver BC

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