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Sunflowers as animal food

 
Alison Thomas
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Location: France
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I have grown sunflowers this year in our field and they have done quite well. They are beginning to drop their petals now.  I had read that they were good food for goats (the stalks) and hens (the seeds).  We already have the hens and the goats are arriving next week. 

My questions are - at what point do I harvest them?  Do the stalks need to be dried for the goats or do they need them fresh?

I'm hoping that they can come out now as they are right in the middle of where we are creating the swales/raised beds Emilia Hazelip style.
 
Jami McBride
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Location: PNW Oregon
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I raise sunflowers for animal feed, but I do not have goats    Mostly Black Oil Sunflowers.

Once the seeds are fulling formed, darken in color, you can pull up the plant and just sit it somewhere to dry.  I keep mine out of the sun and rain.  once dry chickens and ducks can remove the seeds out of the heads themselves, or you can pop them out and save for next years planting. 

I would think goats would prefer you feed them the stocks at maturity when they are still greenish.  So cut your SF heads off for drying and toss the green stocks to your goats. 

When they loose their petals they are drying out, and well past maturity, you don't have to wait that long for harvesting the entire plant.
 
Joel Hollingsworth
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Location: Oakland, CA
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There will be some tradeoff between the nutrition in the stalks vs. the seeds. Maximum seed value in the stalks & leaves would [s]probably be when they first begin to bloom[/s] apparently be as the seeds are still forming, maximum in the seeds would be if all the life in the plant were allowed to flow up into the seeds before you intervene.
 
Tyler Ludens
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I would guess the maximum food value would be the same as with hay crops - when the seed is almost mature but the plant has not begun to dry.  Feeding the entire plant at this point would probably provide the maximum food value.  I know my sheep love sunflower plants at this stage.  But you won't be able to harvest the seeds for poultry at this stage.  When the seeds are truly mature, the rest of the plant is usually beginning to get tough and unpalatable.  Chickens will eat most of the plant at the earlier stage, though, except the stems. 
 
Alison Thomas
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Location: France
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brillant thank you.  we'll chop them down over the weekend - and even give the sheep some then!
 
          
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We use the seeds as a supplemental feed for all our stock, including goats.  (We are switching to all grass fed, but it will take some time. For now, BOSS is a great protein source.) 
 
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