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Growing Fodder Crop for Sheep and Goats

 
master steward
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Let's brainstorm some good fodder crops for sheep and goats. Have you tried any yourself? What problems did you encounter? What worked well for you?

Hay of course is a delicious food for sheep and goats. Can they eat haylage?

We've grown Mangelwurzels the last few years and the sheep love it. They store well over winter, but we never seem to grow enough. Mangelwurzels are tasty for humans as well. The biggest worry about mangelwurzels is that if they are grown in an area too high in nitrogen, it can cause toxicity in the animal.. so far, I've only seen this happen in places that use chemical nitrogen.

Giant Kale
or Fodder Kale is a crop I'm hoping to grow a lot of this year. They love kale, and I figure I can grow this large enough during the summer to harvest all winter.

How about the dry plant matter from my peas and beans?

What else can I grow for them to eat?
 
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Don't forget tree hay!

The goats really like Osage/hedge bark about this time of year. I don't know if it has a sap run or if it is something else, but they will strip anything smaller than a foot in diameter. Enough so that it is a problem.
 
master pollinator
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I'v been feeding mine live oak branches because that's what I have. I don't think it's an optimum diet because possibly too much tannin, so I let them out of their paddock to graze every couple of days, and I give them some oats and sunflower seeds, and some old vegetable tops from the garden as I clear beds for spring.

 
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Haylage can cause polio and thiamine difficency issues, because it is baled wet it can act like moldy hay.

Mine love hemlock in the winter, and spruce settles their Rumens if they are a little upset.

Raspberry leaves are good for the female reproductive health, but I think that should be withheld from pregnant animals.

Think bushy, mine can cut down an area of multi flora rose, grape leaves, black berries.

Cherry and maple can cause some cyanide issues if eaten when the plant is stressed or the leaves wilted.

 
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I'm looking into growing perennial peanut for my goats. It's sold here in florida as hay, basically a replacement for alfalfa which doesn't do well here. It can tolerate light grazing, so if they have enough area they won't eat it to the ground and them stomping on it won't hurt it too much. You could also grow it outside of their pasture and cut it to make hay for storage. It also flowers for most of the season and doesn't grow tall so some people are starting to use it as a lawn alternative.

I'm also going to attempt to grow enough pumpkins to give them a couple a week for as long as they will store. The pumpkins have something in them (I believe in the seeds) that help with internal parasites and the goats love them.

And if I get anything extra from my garden, it will go to the goats and chickens. Goats can be picky about some stuff but generally anything they don't eat, the chickens will...

 
Chadwick Holmes
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Nice! I didn't know about the pumpkin seeds!

Where are you in FL, I am a Clermont Native moved North.
 
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I'm trying out bamboo as an extra for my goats and sheep.
 
r ranson
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Great ideas. I had no idea that they would eat pumpkin seeds. Do they eat the pumpkins as well?

I'm fascinated by crops that can be eaten by humans as well as by livestock. Especially if the livestock eat the bits leftover that the humans are too fussy to want. In England, they use to use the kale leaves, then run the stocks through a crimper, or some such device, and feed the stocks to the sheep. I love a plant that can do double duty.

An interesting list of fodder crops for sheep. Some of the crops, they list how many sheep one acre of fodder will feed.
 
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I fed my flock of sheep all winter on haylage/corn silage before. My sheep nutritionist recommended a 60% haylage, and 40% corn silage mix to balance roughage and energy to do so properly. The haylage was long cut and fed from a bunker (and not green haybales wrapped up...for us here in Maine that is called baleage), while the corn was cut 1/4 inch and run through a cracker so the sheep could extract nutrition from it better.

Almost any root crops can be grown for sheep, potatoes being one of them and unlike for pigs, they do not have to be boiled first. Turnips are another great crop.

Winter rye is another great crop for sheep and I have grazed them on it before. If I sow it just after the corn is cut and the ground does not freeze too quickly thereafter I can get a bit of grazing in before winter, and get some grazing in the Spring but before the grass comes up on their pastures. This extends my grazing season, allows me to get a "second crop" if you will off my corn ground, and lowers my need for winter feed.

You can do likewise with almost any small grains like oats and wheat, but oats can be problematic...especially if you intend to hay the stubble and feed it out in the winter two. It is a bear to dry and really must be paired with some high energy feed like quality hay or corn silage.

At my house, just about all my peelings go to the sheep. It is nowhere near enough to feed my sheep in any measurable way, but by doing so you can ascertain what they like and plant crops accordingly. I have been toying around for years with the idea of feeding my sheep a ration of potatoes and grass silage (starch, protein and roughage). Potatoes grow well here because we have the soil for it without much inputs.

 
Miranda Converse
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Chadwick Holmes wrote:Nice! I didn't know about the pumpkin seeds!

Where are you in FL, I am a Clermont Native moved North.



Yea, I wouldn't rely on it as your only source of parasite control but every little bit helps with goats!

I'm in Panama city, moved here from up north a couple years ago!
 
Miranda Converse
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R Ranson wrote:Great ideas. I had no idea that they would eat pumpkin seeds. Do they eat the pumpkins as well?

I'm fascinated by crops that can be eaten by humans as well as by livestock. Especially if the livestock eat the bits leftover that the humans are too fussy to want. In England, they use to use the kale leaves, then run the stocks through a crimper, or some such device, and feed the stocks to the sheep. I love a plant that can do double duty.

An interesting list of fodder crops for sheep. Some of the crops, they list how many sheep one acre of fodder will feed.



Yup, they will eat the whole thing. We also give them sunflower seeds for selenium since our soil is insufficient in that. They love banana peels and citrus peels too. Basically all the stuff we won't eat! We keep that kind of stuff to a minimum though so we don't upset their rumens.
 
r ranson
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Do we know if sheep and goats (both or either) can eat fava stalks/leaves? Would it be dry or fresh or both?
 
Mother Tree
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Well I eat fava leaves, and the donkey used to love the leaves, stalks, and especially the empty pods.
 
pollinator
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I use bamboo as a winter forage after my sheep have eaten down the stockpiled Bermuda, bahia, and fescue in the pastures,  thinning out the groves by cutting a dozen or so canes each day for the remainder of the winter until the grass comes back in March.  During the rest of the year, the bamboo provides wandering shoots in April and shade except for when they are fenced out of the groves during the shooting season.
 
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I have grown and fed:

- black willow - pruning - leaves, twigs and bark all eagerly eaten
- mangle beets (chopped)
- corn (stalks and all)
- pumpkins (entire plant plus the entire pumpkin, smashed open)
- potatoes, white and sweet
- bean stalks
 
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We've got a small herd of Nubian milk goats and are working to minimize outside inputs. We do feed alfalfa and sprouted barley but are able to cut down on those feeds with things we grow here.
In summer they get a huge variety of weeds! They grow in the garden beds and we chop them down and let them come up again several times. Sowthistle, Prickly lettuce, amaranth, lambsquarters, mallow, primrose, chicory, prostate knotweed, dandelion, dock and lots of other goodies. They are high in minerals and nutrition. They also get lots of kale( they need iodine supplement if you feed too much brassicas), chard and other cultivated greens. When there is an excess and the weather is dry, I harvest weeds and kale and nettles and spread them out on a sheet to dry, then bag them  for winter. They love their super greens in winter time! Just a handful in their grain dish at milking time.
I've also dried gallons of zucchini and it is their favourite winter treat. Cookies! They like them fresh in summer too. They get all of the winter squash that did not mature and I grow lots of extra for them that I store and cut up for winter feed.

We grow mangel beets, carrots and  rutabagas for them. At our last farm, we stored them in the root cellar because we had gophers gorging on them if we left them in the ground. But here we can leave them in the ground, mulched, for less work. Before we moved we were growing and storing an extra 1000 pounds of root crops for our herd of about 7-10 goats. We're working to get more happening here at our new place.

We grow lots of sunflowers in summer and feed the heads- broken up a bit- green to the animals. Jerusalem artichokes and yacon leaves are good. I am experimenting with forage chicory and they love it. It has been shown to be antiparasitical. We are creating a pasture with all of their favourite weeds and forage chicory will play a big part in this. I am pleased to see that the chicory from last year is already 6 inches tall and it has been a cold winter here, still getting down into the single digits.  
Comfrey is a great protein crop for goats. They say you can grow something like 9 tons per acre!

I als let them browse in the wild and bring home for them, mtn mahogany, willow, live oak, ceanothus red root, pinon....
The more selection, the better IMO.


I'm sure there's more but that's all I can remember for now.
 
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Our goats like a dessert menu of multiflora rose and grape leaves. If we're pulling down vines from thickets they're right by our knees expectantly.  They cooperate/compete while the larger ones use their horns and legs to step on and bring down the fresh saplings for a herd munch.  Russian olive seems particularly tasty to them.  If the fresh cut branches of mulberry are brought to them or pine boughs, they really move in to feast on them.  Leaves of squash and sweet potato vines are really interesting too.  
There's some tradition of making silage in small quantities from sweet potato leaves & vines.  Great amount of protein and really nice if you're growing organic and scythe & pitch fork them before digging up the potatoes.
This sweet potato topic deserves another thread of its own, I guess.

Dave Jacke & Mark Krawcyzk had a SARE funded research project and they talk about how silvopasture and coppice/pollarding produces much forage value on farms with sheep & goats.  List of protein by species:
https://projects.sare.org/information-product/appendix-protein-content-of-woody-species/

Their research led to a great book which also talked about how tree forages have been harvested and kept over the last 8,000 years or so.  Coppice Agroforestry,...  
Plus, the small diameter wood after animals eat the leaves is perfect quick fire fuel for the bake ovens.  link to description:
http://www.coppiceagroforestry.com/

Steve Gabriel offers much tree forage info and great classes.  I think he might focus on species: willow,  poplar, mulberry, black locust, and there's much discussion of others on his fine blog:

https://silvopasture.ning.com/forum/topics/tree-fodder-seminar-july-8-12-in-maineinvites-presenters-and

Steve Gabriel webinar replay about
Intro to tree fodder
https://youtu.be/eeR7JyG65zk


 
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