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

Barely Enough Milk

And it’s all our fault. Well, maybe partially our fault. We’ve been trying to have year round milk for several years now. This is the closest we’ve come so far, and if we make it this year, we will barely squeak by if we do. There are a number of factors that contribute to having year round milk, or not. Here is a run down of our situation this year.

We had four does in milk this year, starting in January, two experienced and in April two first fresheners. As a general rule a doe will not give full capacity milk the first year since her udder is developing. The second year will be a better indicator of full milk production for a particular animal.

Obviously, if you want to have year round milk, there have to be animals capable of producing at particular times of the year to meet your needs. We have tried to accomplish this by breeding at least two does in the summer to provide the ‘carry over’ milk during the winter. A lot of folks don’t like to milk in the winter. It’s cold, it requires more feed, and it means scheduled breeding and birthing twice a year instead of once. All of this has to be considered to see if it will fit the lifestyle you choose to live.

We attempted to breed two of our does in July. Yes, it’s hot then, but we’ve had animals breed then before, which resulted in surprise babies we weren’t planning. Our Nubian does originated in Africa and definitely prefer hot weather to cold, so summer breeding is not out of the question for them. Our July attempt didn’t work, so we tried again in August with success. One oldest doe, who is seven this year, bred and is due in January. We planned to breed a first freshener as well, but it didn’t take. We found this out three weeks later when she came back into heat. On a whim, we also bred our other older doe when she came into heat thinking we would have three does due in January and three due in April. What we ended up with is two experienced does pregnant, dried off and providing no milk, and two first fresheners not bred and providing very little milk.

These two first fresheners may be producing more milk than we are getting, though. The problem there is that they are still letting their seven month old kids nurse. Yes, I know, they should have been weaned months ago. The pasture we use to wean the kids has now turned into the pig pasture. The first set of kids we had in February were weaned there successfully. The second set of kids we had in April were there for one month, but then we had to get ready for the pigs and they took over the pasture. We crossed our fingers and put the kids in a pasture next to their mothers with an adjoining fence, but that didn’t work. The does let their kids nurse through the fence. We temporarily put the does in the pasture that now has the water storage tanks, but it wasn’t long enough to break that cycle of allowing the kids to nurse.

So, why are we getting barely enough milk? We ended up relying on two first fresheners that are still letting their kids nurse. Not a good choice on our part. We have already discussed successful weaning with the next kids that will be born in January. Now that we have become familiar with the pigs, the weaning kids will go back into that pasture with them. We will pen off the kids at night, with their own little barn and feed them there. In the mornings we will let them out to graze with the pigs. Training Liberty, our gilt, to go into a pen by herself to eat has worked out very well and gives me confidence that we can juggle pig and kid feeding just fine. I will feed the pigs first and get them situated, then feed the kids in their pen and close them off from the pigs. Then we won’t have to worry about competition for feed, housing or water between the kids and the pigs. That’s the theory for now anyway.

I hope to get these two first fresheners to provide enough milk to get us to about January 10th, which will be five days after the first doe is due to kid and the milk will be drinkable. The second doe’s milk will be ready for consumption around January 16th, which means we’ll have more than enough then. That may be perfect timing since we are guesstimating that Liberty may have piglets by then. Some of that extra milk, especially the first milk with colostrum, will be excellent food for Liberty and her babies. There are some things that work out just right.

There are always so many things to learn when raising livestock and trying to meet certain goals. Sometimes things work out just like you want them to, and sometimes they don’t. Speaking of barely enough, our 17 hens have been giving us around 5 eggs a day for a while now, which isn’t enough. We’ve had to buy eggs to fill in the gaps. Sometime this month our young hens should begin laying which will be great. After their production becomes enough to keep us in eggs, the older hens will fill up more jars on the shelf. It all usually works out in the end, one way or another.

Lessons learned, whether from successes or failures, are always valuable. The more we learn now while failure is still an option, the better off we will be. 

Until next time – Fern

Getting Ready For Pigs

We spent part of today getting ready for the arrival of our American Guinea Hog piglets. The original plans included doing some of this work yesterday while the sun shined, but a relative’s unscheduled hospital stay, changed our plans. We were glad we had the opportunity to visit him for a while. So today before the rains arrived again, we rearranged some of the goats, brush hogged down some wet, wet, tall grass and weeds, and got ready for the pigs. Well, not really before it rained, because we got some light showers shortly before dawn. Thus, the grass was extra wet, but sometimes these things just can’t be helped, and you make do with the circumstances you’ve been given.

American Guinea Hogs. I had never heard of them until I read an article from Leigh at 5 Acres and a Dream last June. I had no idea a pig could grow so small. That is what captured my attention and started a slow,

gradual bit of research that has landed us in the current predicament, the adventure of becoming not only goat herders and chicken cluckers, but pig farmers as well. We can only pray it is not the misadventures of becoming pig farmers. If you have read here very long you have probably run across a statement from me saying something like this. “I hate pigs.” And I did. I just hope I don’t anymore. Part of that sentiment is because I am afraid of pigs. I think they will bite me. It’s kind of like being afraid of dogs. It’s just a fear that I have decided I want to get over, because the benefits of raising American Guinea Hogs can far outweigh this fear.

I am including a number of links throughout this article so you can see where my research has taken me. The first thing that captured my attention when reading Leigh’s description of her new pig was that they only grow to be about 200 to 250 pounds full grown, even the boars. I was very surprised. I had never seen anything about pigs being less than 800 to 1000 pounds or more full grown, and I didn’t want anything to do with animals that large. So I read the link she provided and thought it was very interesting that these pigs are naturally small. They aren’t miniatures, dwarfs or midgets of any sort, they are just naturally smaller than most commercial pigs.

Then I started looking up more articles, and found that another characteristic of these pigs is their docile, friendly nature. Well now, how is

a person that is afraid a pig is going to bite them going to handle a pig that wants to run over and be petted and scratched? I’ve decided I’m going to treat them like a dog. Sounds funny, doesn’t it? But if a dog does something that is unacceptable they get corrected and trained to exhibit behavior that is acceptable. I plan, or hope, to do the same things with the pigs. I’ve read that they may try to jump up on you like a dog, but are easily trained not to, so their friendly personalities are another plus.

The next major plus from my perspective is that these pigs thrive on pasture and do poorly if they are confined and only fed grain, or fed too much grain. That’s great! We have been trying to produce more and more of our animal feed, and if these pigs are healthier and happier grazing in

a pasture, then wonderful, we have plenty of room for them to graze and grow. Another example Leigh has given me is that she feeds very little grain, and what she does feed, she sprinkles on the ground for the pigs to forage and root. I thought that was a great idea and will be doing the same. I will also now have another bucket to take to the barn at feeding time. The pigs will get whey from our cheese making projects as well as garden scraps and other kitchen waste. For instance. Today at lunch I emptied a jar of beets, and told Frank that after the pigs arrive the water from the beet jar will go into the pig bucket instead of down the drain. They will get all of the scraps that don’t go to the chickens or dog, and that will be great.

When I realized how small these pigs grow, I like to think of them as small, even though a 200 pound animal isn’t really very small, I thought about having another source of meat on the hoof. That’s how I think of our

goat wethers. They are just meat walking around in the pasture waiting to make it into the freezer. Frank and I can handle butchering a 150 to 200 pound pig, and it would be another great source of meat. But not only that, Guinea Hogs are well known for the quality of their lard, like some old heritage breeds used to be. These hogs will not only provide us with meat and lard, they don’t require a lot of feed to do so. The lard will provide us with a natural cooking oil, and we hopefully will also be able to use it in our goat milk soap recipe. The smaller carcass of these pigs will mean less meat to preserve before spoilage if we live in a grid down situation, as well. Just like with our goats, I view a smaller carcass to be to our advantage.
 
The breeders in the area that I have talked to all agree that these pigs are healthy, friendly, easy to manage and very productive. They don’t require vaccinations or worming, even in our area that is known for wet years that are very conducive to the worm population, like this year. Guinea hogs will have litters of six to eight piglets about three times every two years on average, according to my research. This is yet another benefit to raising this small, heritage breed pig.

These are the reasons why we are embarking on the adventure of adding pigs to our homestead. These animals don’t grow very large, they thrive on pasture, they are naturally healthy, friendly and easy to manage, the meat and lard are well known to be of excellent quality and we will be able to butcher them ourselves. A concern I have, and will for a while, is if they will stay in their pasture. Our fencing should hold them just fine according to all I have read, but this is my biggest concern so far. We’ll see if more arise after their arrival.

Friday, if the weather cooperates, we will be bringing home two boars and one gilt. This is new vocabulary for us. I had this vague notion that a male pig was a boar because you hear of wild boars being hunted in these

parts, but that was about it for my pig vocabulary. One of these boars will become a barrow when we have it castrated to raise for meat. We will keep them both intact for a while until we decide which one we want to keep for a boar. The gilt, or young female, will become a sow when she has her first piglets. We have debated back and forth about whether to get one gilt or two, and actually thought we had been able to line up two boars and two gilts that we could pick up all in one trip from two different locations. Then when I called to make the arrangements, I found that one of the gilts had been injured, so there was only one available. I don’t know if you ever have these feelings, but I felt like that was an answer to our question. God answered our question by only having one available for us at this time. It’s interesting how things happen sometimes.

I hope to have a report for you Friday or Saturday, with pictures and hopefully no mishaps. I freely admit we are entering this adventure with a little trepidation and doubt, especially on Frank’s part, but entering it we are. Fear is a powerful thing. It can control nations, it can preclude success, it can tear down dreams. But only if you let it. There is a quote somewhere that says something like, courage is fear in action. Maybe that would be a good name for a pig…… I wonder what the goats and Pearl are going to think. That should be interesting.

Until next time – Fern

Pasture Rotation

We have practiced pasture rotation for many years as a means of increasing the health of our goats and our pastures. Pasture rotation can be handled in many different ways. This is the how and why of ours.

Our acreage is divided into four different pastures for the goats. Each pasture is connected to the corral which is connected to the barn, so the does and kids always have access to the barn.

The buck and wethers only have access to the barn when the herd is all together during breeding season. The rest of the time the ‘boys’ have a small shed in their area that they can use for sleep or to get out of the weather.

  

When we want to move the animals to a new pasture, we worm them, wait three days, then ‘move’ them by closing one gate and opening another.

The three day waiting period is to let the worms and their eggs pass. There will always be some exposure to the same ground in the corral and barn, but it is minimal and not much of a grazing area. 

We try to let at least two of our pastures rest and regrow for a minimum of two months before the goats have access to them again. It doesn’t always work out that way, but it is a goal. The life cycle of most worms that affect goats lasts 21 days. So if we can wait at least one month, the worms that hatch will not have a host to infect and will die.

 Our largest pasture is the one we call our standing hay. We call it standing hay because we let it grow up all summer then leave it – it is our uncut hay. It is excellent winter browse for the goats and it is natural. Some of it still grows a little most of the winter if it doesn’t get too cold. The last two years we have had a serious drought and extreme heat. None of our pastures grew very well before everything died in the heat so we didn’t have much standing hay to speak of. This year has been much better and our standing hay pasture has grown wonderfully. 

Many people that have pasture for cows would think our weedy pasture is in poor condition, but it is great for the goats. They prefer to browse and need more fibrous plant materials than grass provides, so this pasture is great. We will turn them in here around November or December and leave them there until March. That will give the pastures they have been on this summer the chance to rest and be ready when we need them. Once we have a good growth started in the spring, we will move them to a new pasture once again. 

Since we have been rotating pastures for several years now, we don’t have to worm our goats as often. We always worm the does

after they kid, and the kids as they are growing. There are plants that help deter worms in goats, like honey suckle that grows wild here that we can use if there comes a time that we cannot buy commercial wormers. We have a start of wormwood growing that can also be used for that purpose. 

I have been reading about growing plants to provide the goats with the minerals they need over at 5 Acres and a Dream. Leigh has done a lot of research about the nutritional value of different plants and how they can meet those needs for their goats and chickens. This has really started me thinking even more about ways to cut back on or eliminate commercial feed for our animals. 

We don’t use any commercial herbicides, pesticides or fertilizers on our pastures. We do brush hog occasionally, maybe every two years, and then not always the whole pasture. It is mainly to keep the briars to a manageable level for goat traffic. They love the leaves from the briars, so we are not trying to eliminate them altogether.

Pasture rotation is a simple, easy way to increase the health of your animals and your land. Once you make the investment in the fencing and housing, it will pay dividends in improved health and performance of your livestock for years to come.

Until next time – Fern