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Experiences or resources for growing feed in cold zones (Zone 3)

 
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We're going to explore more feed crops this year.  We found the clover grows decently, and some grain grasses manage to produce seed before the frost.  We're trying a rhizomal rye for the 2020 season, and we'd like to experiment for the first time with quinoa, buckwheat, lentils, teff, amaranth, and possibly rice.  We've never tried growing these, so it'll all be new.

One of my other ideas for next year is to grow a kale jungle in a greenhouse, and just mass harvest and dry the leaves.  Kale is hands-down a favorite green for all the farm animals, and it regenerates so quickly when well fed!  I started sunchokes this year and will find out next year if they can come back on their own.  If not, they might not be a viable option here. The sunflowers I planted never came in.  We can't grow alfalfa.  Grasses struggle to grow en mass.   We planted a huge orchard that will help greatly in years to come, but it's not producing yet.  The farm is still quite young.

Our needs are diverse; on the one hand we'd love to grow some of these crops for us.  But we can survive on other things we produce here without them.  We'd primarily like to reduce our animal feed bill.  The poultry and the goats forage 90%+ of the feed June > September, but need hay/grain the other 8 months.   Goats get a longer forage season since they can eat lichen, bark, brush, and conifer needles.  

The pigs are the big grain eaters.  They forage decently in the June > September growing season, but they eat A LOT of grain the rest of the year.  Finding more way to supplement them in a permaculture fashion is high on our radar.  We'd like to get more ponds in someday and maybe be able to keep an aquatic meat source, which might help.  Or other animal protein sources for the piggies.  We're not milking any animals at this time.

We are in zone 3.  We have lots of greenhouses for zone 4 growing space.  I'm curious if other have found some good off-grid, permaculture feed/fodder solutions for cold climates?  Or if anyone has resources?
 
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Hi Jen,

your plans sound good so far.
I think the sunchokes will do fine.

Have you checked what Sepp Holzer is growing? Austria and my part of the world (Bavaria, Germany) are about your climate zone.

I would try potatoes (early and late varieties), and around here the farmes plant winter wheat and rye which is now some inches tall but will jumpstart in spring.

If you have space and patience, some nut trees and bushes would be great for the future: walnut, hazelnut, acorns for the animals.

Sunflowers are planted around here, but you see few fields. In my garden the slugs kill most of them.
Runner beans do fine, but I have no luck with fava beans as we get late frosts and I can hardly harvest anything at all.

Good luck!
Anita
 
Jen Fan
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Anita Martini wrote:Hi Jen,

your plans sound good so far.
I think the sunchokes will do fine.

Have you checked what Sepp Holzer is growing? Austria and my part of the world (Bavaria, Germany) are about your climate zone.

I would try potatoes (early and late varieties), and around here the farmes plant winter wheat and rye which is now some inches tall but will jumpstart in spring.

If you have space and patience, some nut trees and bushes would be great for the future: walnut, hazelnut, acorns for the animals.

Sunflowers are planted around here, but you see few fields. In my garden the slugs kill most of them.
Runner beans do fine, but I have no luck with fava beans as we get late frosts and I can hardly harvest anything at all.

Good luck!
Anita



Thanks for the suggestions!

The sunchokes I planted outdoors only got to be 3' tall or so.  The one I planted in the greenhouse was like 8' tall.  The greenhouse one had awesome growing medium though, the others were a little 'wild'.  I'm hoping they do come back, that would be very exciting!

I've done some snoping into Sepp.  From what I gather his climate is more like USDA Zone 5, but I don't know one way or the other for sure.  He has 110+ acres that have been cultivated for decades.  So there's lot to learn from him, but only in the scope of a scaled-down "10-year-plan" for a small mountain farm.  We've essentially done many of the things he does; seeding good forage, tubers, and regenerative growth, feeding the pigs out of the garden, and moving them from one place to another before they do too much damage.  We're only 2 years into it though, so it's good to see long-term results from others and add to the plan.  We only have 20 acres, and not all of it can be used for piggies.  But we only have a herd of 6 breeders, and then their seasonal babies, plus the hogs we keep for butcher.  Sepp's raising excellent foraging breeds.  Like him, we have mangalitsas.  But we also have kunekunes.  Kunekunes have turned out to be terrible foragers.  So much so that they'd rather starve than forage properly.  We've tried strong-arming them into foraging and eating hay and they will have no part in it :/  Although saying this, the girls do fair, it's the big fat boar who won't go feed himself... Brat.  

I bet seeding some wild potato beds would be a good idea, for some reason I actually hadn't thought of that yet.  I'm going to try more 'food forest' experiments next summer.

I really wasn't sure any nut trees could grow up here?  I've heard people recommend acorns and hazelnuts before though.  We need to keep our eyes open this next spring for nut trees that might work in our zone.

Really no luck with favas?!  I grew fabulous favas here and they were quite frost hardy.  They wre one of the first and most eager things to come in for me, and one the latest to keep producing.  I grow them in a greenhouse, granted.  I adore them!  That's a bummer you haven't had much luck with em :(

 
Anita Martin
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Jen Fan wrote:
Really no luck with favas?!  I grew fabulous favas here and they were quite frost hardy.  They wre one of the first and most eager things to come in for me, and one the latest to keep producing.  I grow them in a greenhouse, granted.  I adore them!  That's a bummer you haven't had much luck with em :(


Favas in a greenhouse would be a different story, I guess. But there is not much space in there and I prefer tomatos, peppers and similar in the greenhouse.
The favas are planted outside. The heavy clay soil does not favour early spring planting, so they germinate late and even if transplanted have a slow start. If I had a bigger space I would let them grow anyway, but in my tiny suburban garden they still take up space in July, with hardly any pods and lots of lice, and the plan to harvest them beginning of June and use the bed for a second crop fails.

For the moment, I won't plant them unless my gardening space expands...

 
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Grain-seeds are pretty cool but nut-seed is even better. Plant some nut trees.

Bee-Hive, use bees to help you harvest plant-nectar within a 3 mike radius, you can then add this honey to your animal feed. Even better turn it into water-kefir.

Fish pond, lots of plant matter thst can be used as feed, and fishes can also be used as feed, but stop 30days before slaughter to avoid a fishy taste.

Deer-Hunting, let the deer forage for offsite then harvest them when they showup on site.

It sounds like currently your 20acres has just about reached it carry capacity to feed your animals for 3months, if you had another 20acres you could silage it and have enough for 6 months and if you had a total of 80acres you would be golden. Inversely you could also cut the amount of animals you have to 1/4th.

Dont be afraid to supplement your animal feed with rock salt (multi-vitamin/multi-mineral)

Do you currently practice daily rotational grazing, with 30-45 paddocks?

Winter shelter can reduce how much calories/feed they spend keeping warm.



 
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I know corn has a bad reputation, but it is pretty remarkable. With just a very small area a farmer can get 24 tons of feed to the acre. You did not say how many goats you have, but 24 tons of corn would be just under 100 round bales. You would get a little less of course if you went with short-day corn, like 55 day corn, but you get the idea, when a crop is 8 feet height, there is a lot of tonnage to it.

The best thing about corn is, you probably have the equipment to plant and harvest it already. I used a small chipper/shredder to convert the stalks into palatable feed, but you can modify a hand lawn mower very easily too.
 
Jen Fan
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S Bengi wrote:Grain-seeds are pretty cool but nut-seed is even better. Plant some nut trees.

Bee-Hive, use bees to help you harvest plant-nectar within a 3 mike radius, you can then add this honey to your animal feed. Even better turn it into water-kefir.

Fish pond, lots of plant matter thst can be used as feed, and fishes can also be used as feed, but stop 30days before slaughter to avoid a fishy taste.

Deer-Hunting, let the deer forage for offsite then harvest them when they showup on site.

It sounds like currently your 20acres has just about reached it carry capacity to feed your animals for 3months, if you had another 20acres you could silage it and have enough for 6 months and if you had a total of 80acres you would be golden. Inversely you could also cut the amount of animals you have to 1/4th.

Dont be afraid to supplement your animal feed with rock salt (multi-vitamin/multi-mineral)

Do you currently practice daily rotational grazing, with 30-45 paddocks?

Winter shelter can reduce how much calories/feed they spend keeping warm.



Bees; we started bees this year, we'll see if they're still here next spring :)  We feed spent brood comb to the piggies, they LOVE it, it's like piggy chewing gum.  We ferment their grains in the warm months, they love that too and the butcher hogs grow rapidly on fermented grains.

We have 1 pond with nothing but amphibians in it.  It isn't big enough for fish.  We have ponds on our future radar.  Maybe we'll get to put another one or three in this summer, we shall see.  But fish ponds are a boon to a permaculture setup, definitely.

We are hoping to foster better wildlife habitat, yes, but currently don't harvest wildlife on our property.  The deer out here are under a bit of pressure.

We have about 4-5 of our acres fenced currently, with just 2 pastures that are 2~ acres each, plus 4 holding pens and a fully fenced orchard.  We're going to focus on several larger pastures first, get the perimeter fencing done.  We use electric fencing mostly.  We may get to a point of cross fencing if the larger pastures can't sustain the piggies.  We don't want to keep 6 breeders, but for our genetics project we'll need all 6 for the first few generations.

Our critters do get cozy, dry indoor spaces for winter.  We have a wood stove in the barn for giving them some reprieve from the negative temps.

What nut trees would you most recommend in a cold climate?

As for corn, goats aren't meant to eat grains.  Grains can kill male goats fairly easily.   Corn would only be suitable only for the chickens and pigs.  I managed to grow a tiny crop of early corn this year and plan to try growing a larger crop next season.  Wildlife pressure is the biggest problem trying to grow something like corn.  The cats have gotten the rodents under control, but deer and free-ranging cows are the real threat.



 
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