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Drought and High Hay & Feed Prices?  RSS feed

 
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Hi all I come to you with a little bit of a heavy hart. As most of the country is in a major drought, here in WI we are too. I am a small homesteader with chickens 4 dairy goats & 2 horses. I am on 4 Acers and do not have means to grow my own hay nor feed. Our prices just on hay alone here have gone up to about 5$ a bail. Goat feed witch is usually around 12 a bag is up to 15-18$.
I as many other (I’m sure) are looking for ways to save cost & try to keep my loved animals. They prices are forcing so many small hobby farmers and homesteaders out. I am praying for a better 3ed crop. If we don’t get rain my hay provider told me I will be paying 8-10$ a bail. I cannot afford that!
Does anyone have any idea’s to save cash on feed? I thought of buying direct form the farmer, but just trying to find one to do that is hard.

Last but not least, I’m asking all of you out there that love this lifestyle to PRAY for our country!!
 
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Same Problem here in NY, I don't pay for hay, but feed is up $3.00 since spring.
 
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What is the horses for? They are messing up your ability to use the 4 acres productively, so it would seem logical to get rid of them, if they aren't serving a profitable purpose. (I know, people LOVE their horses... I'm just throwing that out there as an obvious possibility...)

With just the goats and chickens, you could segment 3 acres into something like 12 paddocks, and rotate the critters. Maybe 2 or 3 days per quarter acre? Each paddock would have almost a month to recover, so you could grow your own feed for part of the year anyway.

You could grow a giant patch of comfrey to supplement the feed. It grows really fast. With 1 swing of a scythe you could have 10-15 pounds of green awesomeness per day for all the animals to enjoy. You could use grey water to keep it thoroughly watered so it grows even faster.

It is approaching apple season (or maybe there is other fruit trees in your area). Last year we had agreements with nearly everyone in town that had an apple tree in their yard. We went around once or twice per week and picked up all of the windfall out of people's yards. Sorted the good apples for ourselves, and made over 50 gallons of cider, dozens of pounds of dried apples, and other appley stuff. The rest/most went to the animals. That could be a supplement that would cut down on hay requirements, couldn't it? (For some odd reason, I'm suddenly thinking about the book "Dune", and how they reclaimed water with those suits. I'm now imagining truckloads of rotten apples being used as a free source for moisture supplement for the pasture during the drought... lol. Maybe not practical, but it made me laugh thinking about it...)

Maybe a cost/benefit analysis would be in order, at least while the drought continues. Would it be cheaper to buy goat milk from another farmer than it is to feed your goats? You can always get more goats next year, and spend this year building up your infrastructure. If the drought gets worse, everybody will be selling their animals, and it will be impossible to get rid of them. Then you are really stuck.
 
steward
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edited, deleted, let that be the end of it.
 
steward
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I'm inclined to agree that the best bet might be to talk to as many people as you can for free forage. lawn clippings, tree trimmings, anything organic will help bulk your feed up a bit to offset the price you have to pay. Check the local markets and grocers for spoiled veggies, just about anything you can find will be of some benefit. I'm supplementing my chickens with ash tree leaves, fallen fruit and a maggot dispenser along with all the garden waste. Whatever they don't eat becomes habitat for bugs so I leave piles of stuff in the pen which I rake over weekly so the chickens get to the bugs. Depending on the local laws you may be able to forage in parks and recreation areas for stuff as long as you aren't greedy about it. I know a guy who gets all of his Pig's food from local soup kitchens. They give him everything that people don't eat or that goes bad. You just have to be creative I guess. Best of luck.
 
Stacy Zoozwick
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That’s right Ken my horses are just for joy. I have 2 kids and our horses put smiles on their faces. I do my best to be self-reliant by growing food saving water etc. I look at it like this there are people that will buy an expensive boat spend cash on gas that pollutes the rivers and lakes. My horse may eat a lil but they also earn there keep (when there is not a drought). Usually I don’t have to feed in summer they move from place to place eating grass. Also having Halflingers, its wonderful to be able to turn the earth if need be or use them when cutting wood. With that said I'll look at the suggestion that were made on this post to. As for my goats and buying milk around here. Nope not going to happen there is only 1 other person in 20 miles that will even consider selling raw milk. Not worth the drive nor the 7$ a ct. WI is tough on selling raw milk so nobody really want to chance it. I am fencing 1 acre of wooded area so the goats can eat all the leaved grass and other good stuff.
I am pretty sure I found a wonderful home for at least 1 of my horses. It is sad to see her going but I am a women of faith & know that one day I will have a lil team of Halflingers again.
 
Edward Jacobs
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Ken Peavey wrote:Sometimes it is not about the money, there is no balance sheet, and profit is not the objective. How does a horse riding hobby, done for pure joy, fit into the equation. Is it right to calculate the cost of a mower, compare it to the cost of a horse, then select the lesser cost? Think outside the cashbox. If maximizing profit is the objective, we should all be tilling, fertilizing, and treating our monocrop of GM soy and hiring migrant workers.



Sorry if you are offended Ken. But the very specifically stated point of this thread is: "Does anyone have any idea’s to save cash on feed?" This thread is specifically about "the cash box". I just simply tossed out the suggestion that the horses, if they serve no functional/profitable purpose, are causing the cash problem in question because they prohibit any sort of pasture management on this small of acreage. I'm just stating the obvious, and I did qualify it by saying so. It was just an idea.

And getting back on point, one might also consider sunchokes as a source of additional feed to lower the cost of hay. Perhaps along the border of the garden or house or yard or driveway as a windbreak, and then harvest for goat food later.

And where I'm at, this weed called kocia grows like mad. I heard it called "poor man's alfalfa" because it's almost as nutritious as alfalfa, and grows wild even in poor soil with no expenses for care. I let a small patch of it grow to about 4' tall, then cut them down and dried it to see what kind of hay it would make. So far it looks great, but I haven't offered it to the goats yet to get their opinion.

Surely on 4 acres some sort of feed-crop could be grown? Especially if you can implement some sort of paddock shift system. Every little bit cuts down on the cost of hay. I wonder if it would be possible to barter goat milk for hay? If the price of hay goes up, the price of milk goes up, so it would always stay an equal exchange.
 
Ken Peavey
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25% of the corn grown in the US is converted into ethanol for use as automobile fuel. Some portion of the soy bean crop is used for production of biodiesel. It is an inescapable fact that food and fuel prices from now on are inextricably linked. We've pumped so much CO2 into the atmosphere that it is destabilizing the climate. The droughts and extreme weather patterns we have been witnessing are a bitter taste of what is surely to continue.

I have a Lowline Black Angus bull in the back field, with ample space for him to graze, if the weather cooperates. During the cool season the grass often stays green, but does not grow. I supplement Bull's grazing with round bales of hay. He'll go through 3-4 bales in a season. 2 years ago, these were $20. Last winter, after a year of drought, the price was $40/round. Enterprising folks were buying hay here, driving it to Texas where the bales would fetch $120. Texas was in a worse drought than we were. This year I had to get a bale in the middle of May. The $40 price was the same, but there was no hay to be found. I ended up driving 20 miles for a round that was showing some age. The rains have returned in the last 2 months, providing some relief. One storm brought 12", another brought 18"+ and flooded the back field. This ruined the remains of the May bale and the poor little feller had no field to graze.

Either I buy feed or come up with a solution. The quick answer was turning to the mower-it has a bagger. Bull is diminutive in stance but has a voracious appetite. He'll go through 3 wheelbarrels of grass clippings in a day. I mowed along the road and areas not flooded. I was fortunate that the river went down in just a few days. The back field has been enriched with copious amounts of fine debris, which Bull will trample in, and deeply rehydrated. The field is in fine shape for now. Still, the weather is undependable, and if hay prices stay high elsewhere its an export product here, keeping up the prices.

The core of the problem is reliance on purchased feed. Weather permitting, the back field offers plenty for Bull and probably enough that I could make hay to get through the winter. I also need the time to make the hay, which is proving to be a challenge. I've been growing an experimental patch of milo: drought tolerant, can be harvested for grain and forage, needs no attention, but I'll need to come up with a couple of tons to get through the winter. There are plenty of other crops to consider: peanuts, beans, wheat, corn. I have also made attempts at diversifying the grasses in the field and adding clover and vetch. If I had to rely solely on this field to support the bull, it would be a stretch. It is foreseeable that conditions would compel me to sell the little guy or move him to the freezer. It comes down to the carrying capacity of the land.

The chickens are another matter. I offer them no supplemental feed. I build compost heaps and pile up leaves. The bugs move into the piles, providing all the food they can stand. They turn the heaps for me, even add some fresh poo to help the process along.

 
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and there is always guerilla hay...I mow field headlands, and a couple of unoccupied farmhouses out here, and it all goes into the haystack...Goats love the variety of crap in it, as do the pigs...the pigs get pretty much anything organic I find for them...tonight they get a treat..chicken liver cooked into a swill with some old sweet taters...I love my pigsposals..seriously though..a good scythe, stop along the roadside, someplace safe, and a few swipes produses several armloads of hay...haul it home, spread it and dry it, or feed directly if needed.....don't discount haylage made in garbage bags either....
 
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