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Perennial grains for animal feed - Your experiences

 
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I want to grow a half acre to an acre of grains to feed chickens ducks and pigs, i was originally thinking oats as they are my go to for human consumption, but for how low tech I want to go im thinking a perennial grain just for animals.

Some options I have considered are buckwheat, kernza, Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum), Woodoats (Chasmanthium latifolium), Perennial rye (Lolium perenne) or maybe a chenopodium species. I am in zone 5.

I was wondering if any of you have attempted perennial grains as animal feed? How productive were they? Did they hold their own against weeds? How much maintenance did they require?

Any input is appreciated, first or second hand.
 
pollinator
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no experience, but you may want to look into adding Amaranth to that list - grain and young greens edible to humans as well. It grows tall, so should sprout up past most weeds in short order.
 
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I've been reading a little about dock.  It may be a suitable candidate.  It produces both an edible grain and edible leaves (for humans), so I assume it would work for livestock.  I don't have a clue as to the yields/acre.

It read a while back that prior to corn arriving in the midwest, the locals had domesticated dock (as indicated by much larger dock seeds than normal at archaeological sites).  Once corn arrived, dock seems to have been abandoned in favor of corn.  Dock will give you both seed and forage, and it will definitely self seed and compete, since it is a weed.  I am unsure of the yield.  I drive by ditches and field edges and see what appears to be lots of seed on the plants, but it may be a lot of chaff (I just realized I need to get out of the car and investigate closer next fall).

Right now I'm just thinking about dock as a resource, in a year or two I may dedicate a spot of land to try it.  If anyone sees a fatal flaw with my thinking, please point it out to me.
 
C. West
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dustin - amaranth is on my list as it is self seeding, i dont know how it would do in a field type setting though, ill have to research

mick - ill look into dock for sure, interesting on the cultivation of it in the midwest, wonder if there are cultivars left
 
pollinator
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I would think that trialing as many as possible would be a great starting point. You might decide on the 'best' one after much research, just to discover it does not thrive for you...

I hope to experiment more with this eventually. So far I have tried amaranth inside the fence, and buckwheat and fall rye outside as cover crops. The amaranth performed quite poorly, and the rye and buckwheat were utterly destroyed by deer... so not a lot of data from the first year!


What are your plans for harvest, processing, storage?
 
Mick Fisch
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I just got on Google and ran some really rough numbers and made some huge assumptions.  Feel free to point out an major problems with my assumptions.  

I read that curly dock produces up to 40,000 seeds per plant and the seeds weigh 1 to 3 grams per 1000grains.  Going for middle of the road, if I assume that you get 20,000 seeds per plant at about 2 grams per 1000, with a spacing of 1 foot per plant, that yields about 3300 lb/acre of seed.  That is about 1/3 of the average yield of corn/acre for the US in 2018.   About 4/5 the US average wheat lb/acre for the last few years.  Not too shabby for an unimproved weed!  Although the greens are too tough for humans later in the season, I'm guessing for livestock it might make good fodder.

A site I saw mentioned that while other grains are usually threshed in some manner, due to it's small size, dock seed is usually ground husk and all and tastes similar to buckwheat.  (I haven't tasted it, this isn't personal knowledge).  Curiouser and curiouser!  
 
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Mick Fisch wrote:Although the greens are too tough for humans later in the season, I'm guessing for livestock it might make good fodder.



Horses won't touch curly dock in my area.
 
Mick Fisch
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Joseph Lofthouse wrote: Horses won't touch curly dock in my area.



Good to know, maybe not as great as I thought.  Still collecting information.
 
pollinator
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C. West mentioned dock.  I have a friend in zone 5/6 whose 3 acres is almost entirely comprised of yellow dock.  It was an accident.  And it will never be gotten rid of.  I lived there a year and waged war on the dock.  I tilled the roots to bits, exposed them, and destroyed every new sprout, I dug huge root systems up, I scythed the plants mercilessly to the ground, I fed a hoard of rabbits and a small flock of goats on nothing but dock for 9 months, I dug up roots and dried and powdered them, I ate dock, I dried dock and put it up, I sold dried dock, I destroyed infinite seeding stalks, I burnt huge swathes of dock, i parched the dock, I tried to over crowd it and plant over it...  It came back worse the next year...

I'm now in zone 3 and I have entertained dock as a fodder crop because of this.  But I also legitimately worry about it destroying our local ecosystem...
 
pollinator
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The most productive types aren’t perennial, but sunflowers are extremely easy to grow.  They require very little tillage and can out grow most weeds. Easier to harvest than plants with tiny seeds. No need to bend over to pick them.
 
C. West
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all good ideas! i will definitely be trialing a bunch of things before getting pigs, and will not be too upset if buying is more worth it than growing my own. worst case i could let someone work an acre for me as long as they give me however many grains i need
 
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