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!! Alternative Feed Crops for Sheep

 
pollinator
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My decision to grow some of my hay myself for overwintering my future flock (working on it) was pretty easy. I dedicated some space for it in between the Food Forest and rotational pasture. It's my prairie zone. In this zone we are planting 1.Aestivum triticosecale, 2.Desmanthus illinoensis, and 3.Trifolium pratense var Mammoth.

1. This is a grain crop, but will produce a pretty ridiculous amount of biomass, which cut young can be made into silage. It grows to 6 feet or 2 meters.

2. This is a legume in the Mimosa family. Its roots are medicinally valuable and the whole plant is non toxic, and reportedly is irresistible to livestock. It grows to 4 feet or 1.31 meters.

3. This is a legume in the clover family. It grows to 2 feet or 0.66 meters.

With these 3 plants I intend to make silage for my sheep. #2 is native to North America. I would like to have 100% native silage in the future. But I don't see it happening immediately.
 
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How do you plan to harvest it?  Do you have heavy equipment available, or will you use a scythe and hand bale it?  How much space are you setting aside for this, and how many sheep do you (or will you) have?
 
pollinator
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I have a dumb question.

Why is it important to you to have 100% native silage in the future?

Granted, natives have traditionally had an advantage over non-natives (with certain exceptions) due to having evolved into their niches in situ. But is that going to be enough? Are your choices hardy enough to deal with the increasingly variable nature of climate today?

To flip it around, if you weren't looking exclusively at natives, what would your choices look like? Perhaps that could be a way to identify the different niches to be filled.

-CK
 
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Good for you.

I have always said silage should be done by more homesteaders. It is so quick and easy to do, and most homesteaders already have the equipment on hand to produce it. It really would reduce their dependence on buying hay.

When I first had sheep, I made my own silage. I used corn because I had fields of it for the dairy farm, but I made it myself and the stuff I made, was just as good as what came out of our 1/4 million dollar silage chopper.

Ryan I commend you. In fact I am giving you a pie for this because it is all I can do. Good, good, good for you!
 
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Very nice!
The prairie mimosa has been on my radar for more than a decade, but I don't know anyone who is growing it.
I am very curious to see how it works out for you.
I had a two story tall tree mimosa on my property, it died years ago, but the seeds are still coming up.
The seedlings don't seem to transplant well.
That experience and the lack of evidence for edibility in tree mimosa led me to consider the prairie mimosa.
It seems like a possible human crop.


So,where are getting your seed for these crops?
It occurs to me that you might be able to sell seeds in few years, mimosa seems to really produce seed like crazy.
Will you be growing these crops in poly culture?

 
master pollinator
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Forage trees can also be ensiled.

 
Ryan Hobbs
pollinator
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Travis Johnson wrote:Good for you.

I have always said silage should be done by more homesteaders. It is so quick and easy to do, and most homesteaders already have the equipment on hand to produce it. It really would reduce their dependence on buying hay.

When I first had sheep, I made my own silage. I used corn because I had fields of it for the dairy farm, but I made it myself and the stuff I made, was just as good as what came out of our 1/4 million dollar silage chopper.

Ryan I commend you. In fact I am giving you a pie for this because it is all I can do. Good, good, good for you!



Thank you so much. I think the pie I had before was about to expire.

I've seen videos of people just cramming green material into a large steel drum and sealing it up. I was thinking of using large bags which I read about a while back as being easy to press the air out of. My harvest method would be a scythe and I would gather some of the mimosa roots for medicine. I figure the chopping function would be performed by tightly bundling the plants and chopping them up with a machete. If you have better ways to do these things I'm all ears.


William Bronson wrote:
Very nice!
The prairie mimosa has been on my radar for more than a decade, but I don't know anyone who is growing it.
I am very curious to see how it works out for you.
I had a two story tall tree mimosa on my property, it died years ago, but the seeds are still coming up.
The seedlings don't seem to transplant well.
That experience and the lack of evidence for edibility in tree mimosa led me to consider the prairie mimosa.
It seems like a possible human crop.

So,where are getting your seed for these crops?
It occurs to me that you might be able to sell seeds in few years, mimosa seems to really produce seed like crazy.
Will you be growing these crops in poly culture?



I'm getting my seed from a wild flower supplier as soon as it becomes available in the spring. Just search the latin name and you should get about a dozen suppliers. They will be grown together in a polyculture.
 
Ryan Hobbs
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Chris Kott wrote:I have a dumb question.

Why is it important to you to have 100% native silage in the future?

Granted, natives have traditionally had an advantage over non-natives (with certain exceptions) due to having evolved into their niches in situ. But is that going to be enough? Are your choices hardy enough to deal with the increasingly variable nature of climate today?

To flip it around, if you weren't looking exclusively at natives, what would your choices look like? Perhaps that could be a way to identify the different niches to be filled.

-CK



For the bugs mostly. Native plants are habitat for native insects. One such plant that will be grown in the same zone, but a different non-food patch, is Goldenrod. This one plant harbors a host of different predatory insects including parasitic wasps, goldenrod spiders, and an array of predatory beetles. It is the #1 insectary native to my area. Squash bugs also prefer goldenrod over squash, but are often killed by the predatory bugs that live on the goldenrod. In the case of silage crops, the idea is to have 3 purposes for the plot. The first is food for sheep. The second is medicine for me. The third is to be habitat for biological pest control.
 
Chris Kott
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Great point. Glad I asked.

Is there any plant that you know of that's non-native that you'd want to keep, or want to import?

-CK
 
Travis Johnson
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Ryan Hobbs wrote:Thank you so much. I think the pie I had before was about to expire.

I've seen videos of people just cramming green material into a large steel drum and sealing it up. I was thinking of using large bags which I read about a while back as being easy to press the air out of. My harvest method would be a scythe and I would gather some of the mimosa roots for medicine. I figure the chopping function would be performed by tightly bundling the plants and chopping them up with a machete. If you have better ways to do these things I'm all ears.  




Well I figured it minds well be Thanksgiving in August, so I gave you (2) pies. :-)

I do have an easier way for you to chop your silage.

I used a small Tomahawk Woodchipper to chop my corn stalks, and it works well, not to mention making a great mixer for pulverizing alfalfa cubes called "Hay Extender" into grain for a nice lamb ration. But DO NOT go out and buy one if you do not have one.

Another way to make silage is to put a hand push lawnmower on some cement blocks or rocks. Then either drill a large hole in the top of the deck with a hole saw, or cut a square hole with a hand held grinder 3 or 4 inches in size.  The hole just has to be over the outer edge of the lawnmower where the sharp part of the mower blade is. Then just drop your stalks down into the hole as the mower engine is running.

It is easy as that! The lawnmower will chop your stalks into fine silage pretty easily. And anyone should be able to find a cheap, used hand push lawnmower anywhere.
 
Ryan Hobbs
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Andrew Mayflower wrote:How do you plan to harvest it?  Do you have heavy equipment available, or will you use a scythe and hand bale it?  How much space are you setting aside for this, and how many sheep do you (or will you) have?



I plan to use a scythe to harvest. I do not have heavy equipment. I plan on a ram and 4 ewes. Their pasture is 1 acre divided into 4 portions and the silage field is 1/4 acre. I will not be able to feed them entirely off the land, but their wool sales on etsy will likely pay for the remainder of their feed. I will be using the sheep primarily for their milk. I have not finished the fence due to a logistical and financial hurdle, but am throwing myself into the FF and silage field so as to not waste time.
 
Ryan Hobbs
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Travis Johnson wrote:

Ryan Hobbs wrote:Thank you so much. I think the pie I had before was about to expire.

I've seen videos of people just cramming green material into a large steel drum and sealing it up. I was thinking of using large bags which I read about a while back as being easy to press the air out of. My harvest method would be a scythe and I would gather some of the mimosa roots for medicine. I figure the chopping function would be performed by tightly bundling the plants and chopping them up with a machete. If you have better ways to do these things I'm all ears.  




Well I figured it minds well be Thanksgiving in August, so I gave you (2) pies. :-)

I do have an easier way for you to chop your silage.

I used a small Tomahawk Woodchipper to chop my corn stalks, and it works well, not to mention making a great mixer for pulverizing alfalfa cubes called "Hay Extender" into grain for a nice lamb ration. But DO NOT go out and buy one if you do not have one.

Another way to make silage is to put a hand push lawnmower on some cement blocks or rocks. Then either drill a large hole in the top of the deck with a hole saw, or cut a square hole with a hand held grinder 3 or 4 inches in size.  The hole just has to be over the outer edge of the lawnmower where the sharp part of the mower blade is. Then just drop your stalks down into the hole as the mower engine is running.

It is easy as that! The lawnmower will chop your stalks into fine silage pretty easily. And anyone should be able to find a cheap, used hand push lawnmower anywhere.



I wonder if a round bar bolted in in place of the blade would also thresh grain? But yeah, the lawnmower IS better than my idea.
 
Ryan Hobbs
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Chris Kott wrote:Great point. Glad I asked.

Is there any plant that you know of that's non-native that you'd want to keep, or want to import?

-CK



Well, I may keep the Triticale. It just produces that much biomass. I mean, heck, It has a 6 ft tall cluster of leaves and stems and can be grown densely packed. But if I find a native grass that rivals it, I might replace it.
 
Travis Johnson
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Ryan Hobbs wrote:I wonder if a round bar bolted in in place of the blade would also thresh grain? But yeah, the lawnmower IS better than my idea.



Maybe, but threshing is kind of a difficult process because you must beat it hard enough to knock the grain off the stalk, BUT not break the individual kernels of grain. I am afraid the bar would beat the crap out of the grain. But if you did not experience that much broken kernels, it would be alright.

 
Ryan Hobbs
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Travis Johnson wrote:

Ryan Hobbs wrote:I wonder if a round bar bolted in in place of the blade would also thresh grain? But yeah, the lawnmower IS better than my idea.



Maybe, but threshing is kind of a difficult process because you must beat it hard enough to knock the grain off the stalk, BUT not break the individual kernels of grain. I am afraid the bar would beat the crap out of the grain. But if you did not experience that much broken kernels, it would be alright.



I probably won't try it, I've got a 1940s era electric motor I got for free that I can use for my threshing machine.
 
pollinator
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Ryan, I’m working on some new fields for sheep and have been experimenting with different species for biomass. My take is this; most places left for a year of so have a ton of seeds in the bank and will grow tall.

I’ve done a bunch if seed planting and the 50# you put down is a rounding error in the total seed bank.  Exceptions if you are making a formal seed bed, sterilizing or otherwise really changing the soil. The other thing I found was that unless you can keep the deer out, you won’t get the ratio you planted. You could grow unpalatable species but that would limit your grazing even if you got good silage.

I think if I was trying to make silage, I would just scythe what grows when it got tall. For me this is a little nitrogen poor because the deer hammer the legumes, but it might be fine for silage, and done at the right time would allow for fall growth for winter forage. Gradually as Travis has mentioned in another thread, with remineralization you will get tons of biomass with modest effort. I still seed new areas with a couple frontier species (my current favorite is Sesbania) but otherwise what grass is what seeds are around. If I can get dirt cheap seeds I throw them out too.

Unless the deer are excluded you will get what they leave, true for shrubs as well. They beat the crap out of my lespezeda!
 
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I've made bunches of barrel silage for my sheep, with an ordinary lawnmower with a bagger.  Just with the wild grass and weeds and whatever grows.  Of course you can't let it get so tall as you can with cutting it with a scythe, but you can cut it more times....if you don't let the stuff bloom, then it will keep on growing until it runs out of moisture (which it always does where I live, unless we irrigate).  The mower cuts the grass up to the ideal length for silage, all I have to do is stuff it.  Two days with a push mower will fill a 55 gallon barrel, trampled tight and covered with plastic tied and taped down airtight.  Where the stuff does grow tall, I do use the scythe, but then I let this dry for hay and pile it up, and tarp it if it rains.  The sheep like the hay better than the silage, and will always choose the hay if both are given.  Usually I have to open up a barrel of silage and spread it all out to dry completely, and then they will eat it up.
 
William Bronson
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Ryan Hobbs wrote:

Chris Kott wrote:Great point. Glad I asked.

Is there any plant that you know of that's non-native that you'd want to keep, or want to import?

-CK



Well, I may keep the Triticale. It just produces that much biomass. I mean, heck, It has a 6 ft tall cluster of leaves and stems and can be grown densely packed. But if I find a native grass that rivals it, I might replace it.



The Triticale, is it a perennial?

The other two are, which I think will give them an edge over some of the existing grasses, etc.

 
Ryan Hobbs
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William Bronson wrote:

Ryan Hobbs wrote:

Chris Kott wrote:Great point. Glad I asked.

Is there any plant that you know of that's non-native that you'd want to keep, or want to import?

-CK



Well, I may keep the Triticale. It just produces that much biomass. I mean, heck, It has a 6 ft tall cluster of leaves and stems and can be grown densely packed. But if I find a native grass that rivals it, I might replace it.



The Triticale, is it a perennial?

The other two are, which I think will give them an edge over some of the existing grasses, etc.



Triticale is an annual, but I will let some mature for seed.
 
Andrew Mayflower
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Can one make silage from blackberry vines?  At least if mixed with grass clippings?

Edit: I would assume you'd only want to use the green vines that aren't super woody or dried out from previous chopping.  But if older, woody vines or ones that were chopped up and left to dry on the ground are OK let me know.
 
Ryan Hobbs
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Andrew Mayflower wrote:Can one make silage from blackberry vines?  At least if mixed with grass clippings?

Edit: I would assume you'd only want to use the green vines that aren't super woody or dried out from previous chopping.  But if older, woody vines or ones that were chopped up and left to dry on the ground are OK let me know.



They would have to not be thorny or woody. You can use pretty much anything that is non-toxic and also not thorny or woody. Green leaves form some trees, corn stalks, grasses except sorghum, and herbaceous shrubs are all used. Sorghum contains small amounts of cyanide, so I don't recommend that.
 
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I loved this article:
Tree Hay: A forgotten fodder

https://www.agricology.co.uk/field/blog/tree-hay-forgotten-fodder
 
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