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Getting off store bought sweet feed  RSS feed

 
Cj Sloane
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Ideally a well designed homestead shouldn't need any store bought feed but in practice it's not so simple. Especially if you live in a cold climate.

Like most people, one of my goals is to get off store bought feed. I'm convinced that the easiest way to accomplish this is to substitute apples and pumpkins for store bought sweet feed. Properly dried apples can last as long as dried corn, up to 25 years. The same is true for pumpkins.

So my first major goal is to be able to process and dry 100 lbs of apples/day.

One of the first problems was how to speed up processing. I've settled on this french fry cutter. I can process about 2 lbs/minute, and there's room for improvement. In this video I'm using my non-dominant arm which was slightly compromised with "frozen shoulder."

100 lbs a day? No problem.

 
Cj Sloane
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Next problem is drying 100lbs of apples/day. My solar dehydrator worked well, but can only handle 10 lbs/day so I really need to scale up. I'll probably make a stand alone building/box 8x8x8ish. Roughly based on the design of the dehydrator.

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Cj Sloane
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Once the apples are cut and dried they take up much less space. To really save space, I've ground them into a powder.

Next I need to play around with out to feed it out. Theoretically I could reconstitute it, add cooked beans and then use a grinder to make something very similar to sweet feed in looks and nutrition. Probably not worth the time tho to use the grinder.

Anyway, here the dried and powdered apples side by side. The dried apples are a year old and look fine.
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John Elliott
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Welcome to the world of chemical engineering.  Once you know how much water you need to remove, and look up the heat of vaporization for it, that tells you how much energy you need from the sun.  The whole thing about making this type of engineering work for you is being able to pair off a surplus here with a need there.  Looks like you are well on your way there.
 
Regan Dixon
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Most interesting.  I'd like to get off the bagged feed too, eventually, but I'm not producing enough alternate foods yet for the winter months.  I could see pumpkins being rather cheap at the grocery store, from Nov. 1st onward.

I'm curious to know about the nutritional profile of apple-pumpkin-bean mash.  I see lots of carbs, beta carotene, and bean protein, plus lots of fiber, and critters can make vitamins C and D with the sun's help.  I plugged the combo into Nutrition Data tracking, which looks at things from a human nutrition perspective.  It gives the full spectrum of amino acids, but no B12, though that maybe that could be made in an animal's gut.  What critters are you planning to feed with this?
 
Cj Sloane
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John Elliott wrote:Welcome to the world of chemical engineering.  Once you know how much water you need to remove, and look up the heat of vaporization for it, that tells you how much energy you need from the sun.  The whole thing about making this type of engineering work for you is being able to pair off a surplus here with a need there.  Looks like you are well on your way there.


I hadn't really thought about it as a math problem but with 100lbs of fresh apples I want to remove 80-90 lbs of water.

That reminds me that I want to build in some kind of rocket heater floor in because autumn in Vermont is awesome when it's sunny, but half the time it's cloudy/rainy so I'll need backup.
 
Cj Sloane
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Regan Dixon wrote: I plugged the combo into Nutrition Data tracking, which looks at things from a human nutrition perspective.  It gives the full spectrum of amino acids, but no B12, though that maybe that could be made in an animal's gut.  What critters are you planning to feed with this?


I did the same a while back, that's why I decided I needed to add beans to the mix to get the protein up.

The B12 issue wouldn't be a problem for cattle/sheep (this would be a treat for them anyway not a staple food). Pigs and poultry though... I'm guessing this would only be a problem 1/3 or 1/4 of the year when bugs wouldn't be available. Yeast extracts and nutritional yeast products that are fortified with vitamin B12 would be one way to go. Or maybe just flat out B12 supplements... not sure yet.

Actually, raising mealworms would be the best source of B12. It's on my bucket list.

http://www.bugsfeed.com/mealworm
 
Travis Johnson
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Not to be a fly in the ointment, and not that I am not unimpressed with your processing ideas, but bagged grain is 25 cents a pound here, but buying it bulk is merely 6 cents a pound. A bulk feeder can be made for very little money based on proven designs by the USDA Midwest Plan Service. The Return On Investment is so short that it is paid for in just the first fill up. Even buying a metal bulk grain bin can be justified.

I love the thought of producing my own feed, but there is no way I can obtain and process anything for less than 6 cents per pound.

My only other question is, could you run your apples through a small chipper/shredder? I used to do that when I only had a few sheep in processing corn stalks. I am not talking anything big. Here is a $500 one from Harbor Freight.

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Regan Dixon
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Ah, Travis, not everyone has access to such cheap grain as you do, alas!  But your point is a good one.
 
Travis Johnson
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Reagan, that kind of was the point of my post, everyone does.

Without question there must be a bulk feed supply by almost everyone on this board, it is how commercial operations survive. The only thing a homestead needs is a place for bulk feed to be stored. It does not matter how long it takes to be fed out as long as it is weatherproof. A bulk bin does that. You can get free plans for them on the Midwest Plan Service website, or buy a small 3 ton unit. That will allow a truck to show up and deliver the grain in bulk.
 
Cj Sloane
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Travis Johnson wrote:...bagged grain is 25 cents a pound here, but buying it bulk is merely 6 cents a pound. A bulk feeder can be made for very little money based on proven designs by the USDA Midwest Plan Service.



Well, there are a couple of good reasons to want to get off grain.

1. I really don't want to feed my animals GMO feed for multiple reasons. If you want me to spell them out in detail, just ask
2. Organic, GMO free fee is a lot more than 25 cents per pound.
3. Although it's possible that organic GMO free grain is available in bulk in my area, that doesn't mean doesn't mean they'll want to come up my crazy driveway with their big truck!
4. I think one of the biggest environmental issues ATM is tillage. Our soil is our biggest export - blowing away due to tillage.
5. I'm a dedicated meat eater and I feel I have some moral high ground by eating grass fed/pasture raised meat. My land is generally not arable so raising animals makes a ton of sense. If I'm feeding the animals purchased grain then yeah arable land is being used to raise my meat.
6. I admit, I'm something of a doomer so in a catastrophe if I can't run to the feed store, I'd like to have my backup plan in place.
7. A permaculture principle is to have 3 elements to provide every function (and every function perform 3 tasks). What is your backup to store bought feed?
 
Travis Johnson
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My statement was in no disrespect for what you are doing, I think it is a novel way to approach the difficult task of reaching proper nutrition without store bought feed. I am actually impressed, many people just go to grass-fed only thinking its a short-cut when actually to pull it off is rather difficult. My statement was just to explain to the many people who admitted to using grain that another alternative exists. Perhaps they do not have access to a lot of apples, or they have micro-farms that are dependent upon store bought feed. That alternative is buying in bulk. I was just not sure how many people realized free plans for bulk grain bins are out there which is built out of wood and allows for grain at 6 cents a pound instead of 25 cents.

My back up plan to store bought feed though, is actually no grain at all.

I was there once doing grass fed only and it worked okay, as long as I was right on the ball. It is REALLY hard to get lambs over the hump on finishing. It can be done on grass, but it really takes having the weather and making no mistakes in the rotational grazing aspect of things. I was also Spring Lambing at the time which made finishing hard and third gestation nutrition difficult as well; a double whammy if you will. I felt the pinch, was losing lambs and finally one day the Vet just looked at me and aid, "why don't you just feed grain?" Looking at 40 dead lambs at $225 apiece, it was a question I did not really have an answer too. So I started feeding grain.

I have since changed to winter lambing now that I have a ideal barn to do so, which would make things easier. That puts me finishing sheep in mid summer, and thus kicking them onto the national food chain just before spring lambs flood the market. It is the reason for the change in lambing; what little bit I spend to build a barn more then is repaid in higher lamb prices in August and September.

Ultimately my goal is to get back into grass-fed only. My sheep don't get any grain on pasture now, but here in Maine winter-grazing is out of the question, so once they go into the the barn they get it. They are about to lamb anyway, the temperature is cold and as anyone who has fed grain knows, it does not take much to get a lot more out of an animal. It can be done on grass for sure, but grain is a short cut.

Another alternative to store bought feed, and once that makes the most sense I think overall, is to just grow corn. I am discussing this on another thread and have brought it up in the past. If a person can grow a garden, they can produce corn silage that is as good as the corn silage that comes out of our $250,000 combine. No GMO corn seed required, no tillage required, just a chainsaw or hand scythe, trailer or wheelbarrow, and a push lawnmower. In my case I used the chainsaw to cut the stalks down, gathered them up by hand and put them onto a trailer and dragged them home. I stood the stalks up to dry, then as I needed feed I ran them through a 5 hp chipper I had. An alternative to that is using a push lawnmower. By cutting a 4 inch hole near the outside of the blade, either with a grinder with a cut off wheel, or a 4 inch hole saw, the stalks can be shoved through the hole and the spinning blade chips the stalks into palatable pieces for the sheep. I did this when I first started with only 4 sheep and I was able to feed them for a few months. As I got bigger I switched to a mixture of 60% grass silage and 40% corn silage as recommended by my sheep nutritionist , and the latter drastically reduced my grain bill because corn is what constitutes the majority of store bought feed (as I am sure everyone is aware).

Another alternative to store bought feed is to just talk to farmers. When the combines go through the fields, those metal fingers often knock the cobs off the stalks where they fall to the ground. Right after harvest I used to take my tractor and drive around the fields and throw the dislodged cobs from the ground into the bucket. I would get one or two bucketfuls of pure cobs per the acre doing that, then ran it through my chipper which produced high moisture corn for the sheep. Toss in a little grass or hay to round out their ration and you can really stretch the hay into the winter.

We used to have potatoes here from 1838 until 1988, and so they grow well on this soil, and I often wondered how the sheep would do on them. You can get an awful lot of potatoes per acre, and for sheep, they do not have to be cooked for their stomachs to process it like pigs do. I would think they would put on a good amount of weight from all that starch, but have never tried it. I am not sure what the costs per acre are for raising potatoes and if it could be recooped in more lamb produced. Just a thought I have simmering in the back of my mind, and maybe someday I will try it. Who knows, everyone is surprised sheep thrive on silage. People just assume because hay has been historically been given, that is all that works for livestock. Nope, there are alternatives as you are experimenting with.
 
Regan Dixon
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Hi Travis,

A very detailed and explanatory reply from you, as is your custom.    Just to clarify, as I feel I ought to, after all the trouble you've taken with your post:   we operate at vastly different scales.  My own personal position is more like CJ's, living as I do in the middle of forested mountains named Nowhere, several hours by crazy road from any bulk operation, with a yard scaled to a pickup truck, and just a couple of lady goats whom I give goat text to during lactation.  My interest is getting away from sweet feed, meaning corn-oats-barley with molasses, kind of like a non-toasted granola--I've tasted blander granola for humans.  They call this "goat crack".  I go through a whole couple of bags a year while milking; otherwise, they get hay and browse.  I pick up this feed when I'm in town anyhow, so no extra transportation cost.  My big adventurous step with grains would be to get grains bagged separately, from the feed store, check the calcium:phosphorus ratio, and skip the molasses and maybe the corn.  If I wanted to spend money in the feeding-my-goats department, it would be for predator-proof fencing around the best browse areas, which is where their best nutrition is, and it's on-site and self-renewing.  As it is, electric fence, a dog, and a watchful eye will have to do, to make economic sense.  My goal in having goats is to have milk for fresh use and freezing for winter; and to have kids worth selling--a homestead hobby that pays for itself.  The market price for good kids here is fairly close to the cost of raising them.  My vision of improving on the situation is not to increase the herd size, nor invest in cheap grain, but to have them browse the hillside and eat less hay, which I have to buy in.  Hay is their mainstay, not grain.  That is what I really need a failsafe for.

I did once buy a whole pallet load of feed for my chickens, which I ordered in special through the feed store.  They looked at me a bit strange, but it happened, and I crammed the whole pallet worth of bags in the back of my 3/4 ton and brought it home (special trip for this).  This supply lasted through the year.  But there were rodent nibbles in the bottoms of the bags.  I think there was a 10% bulk discount, but I'm not sure whether it made enough difference to be worthwhile.  I currently keep chicken feed sacks in my pantry, which is less rodenty, and restock monthly when I'm in town anyhow.

 
Cj Sloane
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Yes, this is an issue of scale and purpose. I occasionally sell and animal or half for food but I'm at the homestead scale.

Just be careful with silage and sheep. I think they are more prone to listeria than other ruminants.

I'm really surprised sheep can eat potatoes raw!

Lastly, sheep love apples, pears, pumpkins and squash. I haven't tried fattening anyone up on those but one of these days.

I have only fed my sheep grain to train them to come to a bell ringing.
 
Travis Johnson
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I understand about scale, but it is also about location I think more than anything else. Around here even small micro-farms have small 3 ton bulk grain bins on their farms. But we have feed plants not far away that deliver.

The thing we have to keep n mind is, on forums for every person that replies, there are 99 that read and don't reply...lurkers as they are known. I hate the term because it lends itself to sound derogatory, when honestly I think they FEEL they have nothing to contribute, when really they do. I like to encourage those people, but nonetheless understand why they might be shy.

But I am also convinced that a lot of people on this board do have a bulk grain mill nearby and that they just did not realize it, or realize the vast difference in cost. Sometimes I think people just go about doing what they do because it has always been done. This extends to micro-farms and large farms alike. I watched my own family take a 1200 cow operation and drive it into bankruptcy simply because they would not change how they farmed. It was incredibly stupid...they honestly just hoped things would change while they plowed along (literally) doing what they always did when there was alternatives they could have tried. But in fairness I see this happening with micro-farms too.

You, Regan and others on here are certainly NOT like that, and is what made me attracted to this thread for starters.

My only suggestion is possibly using a chipper/shredder to chop up your apples mechanically. Another tool I used a lot when I was smaller in scale was a cement mixer. I had mine given to me, but you can buy small ones at Home Depot and Harbor Freight for very little money. I used mine more for mixing garden mixtures, feed rations and other stuff far more then I EVER used it to make concrete. Just a passing thought though...

 
Cj Sloane
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Travis Johnson wrote:
My only suggestion is possibly using a chipper/shredder to chop up your apples mechanically.


I do have a chipper/shredder but I wont be using it to process my apples for several reasons.

1. I can't start it! I consider myself fairly strong and active, especially for a (almost) 52 year old woman. But for whatever reason, I can not seem to start the tools that require a pull start so I've replaced them all. I have an Oregon cordless electric chainsaw that I love. A Neuton electric lawn mower that bought used and I would love more if I bought a new battery for it. A cordless electric trimmer/edger from Craftsman that I do love but I may switch brands now that Sears closed my local store. I did buy an electric chipper/shredder but the cord is weird and I'm off grid so I haven't worked out those issues.

2. I really want to have a human powered option for every function I need to perform. In an emergency situation this is critical.

3. Paul has some concerns about the cyanide in apple seeds and I share that to a certain degree. I think they are probably harmless going thru an animal or human whole, but crushed seeds are worrisome. My hand cutter left the vast majority of seeds whole.

4. The pulp from using a chipper/shredder is much harder to dry than the french fry size pieces that I get from my hand press. I had thought the drying would go faster if I pressed out the juice (and made hard cider with it) and then dried the pommace. I thought it HAD to be quicker because 30% of the liquid had been removed. It didn't work out that way at all. For a really large operation I do think that is the way to go, grind the apples to mush and then adding beans for protein and making a paste and running thru a pellet maker - that would be cool and look just like sweet feed from a store.
 
Cj Sloane
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Travis Johnson wrote:
But I am also convinced that a lot of people on this board do have a bulk grain mill nearby and that they just did not realize it, or realize the vast difference in cost.


I think if you feed grain, buying in bulk makes sense - as long as you don't mind how that grain is grown! I think most permies DO care about how that grain is grown tho. They are willing to purchase grain as a stop gap till they can develop their own input free systems.


There is another scale which comes into play, the Wheaton-Eco-Scale! I would consider myself a 5 on that scale.

 
John Elliott
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Cj Sloane wrote:Next problem is drying 100lbs of apples/day. My solar dehydrator worked well, but can only handle 10 lbs/day so I really need to scale up. I'll probably make a stand alone building/box 8x8x8ish. Roughly based on the design of the dehydrator.


This might be a good place to throw out an idea that I have been kicking around for a while, but have had no real need to try out -- parabolic walls.  I think people are generally aware of parabolic mirrors used to heat water, but they generally have an axis parallel to the ground and face up to the sun.  I'm thinking of a vertical wall, built in a parabolic arc, that could focus the sun's rays on some object, say a 55 gallon drum, placed at the focus in front of the wall.  The wall would have to be covered with a reflective surface, but mylar is cheap, and you could probably get it for free, considering the number of old mylar balloons that end up in the landfill. 

I'll bet that with a good sized reflective wall, you could get a 55 gallon drum up to dehydrating temperatures.  That takes place around 140-180F; you don't want to go over 200F, or then you start cooking things. Any thoughts?
 
Cj Sloane
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John Elliott wrote:
This might be a good place to throw out an idea that I have been kicking around for a while, but have had no real need to try out -- parabolic walls.


I think a shed with corrugated panels on 5 sides with corrugated plastic covering it, may be all that is necessary, plus a rocket heated stove for backup. Plus a little built in air flow, passive or active. I suppose there is some formula so work out how hot the interior would get in optimal conditions...

I vote for someone with more reliable sun than Vermont in autumn to work out the details involved in a heating system employing parabolic mirrors in any form.
 
John Elliott
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You might be surprised how well it would work in Vermont.  Here's a story about how a reflective building has caused problems in hot, sunny London, England: http://www.livescience.com/39371-skyscraper-melts-cars-20-fenchurch.html
 
Travis Johnson
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All very valid points CJ Sloane.

The only thing I can add is that I built a solar kiln for drying lumber and was very surprised how successful that was. It might work for a higher volume of feed dried

BTW: We are not that far apart CJ! I have a second house on the boarder of VT in NH, and I have a good friend who lives in Johnson, VT. I visit him a few times a year when we are at our NH home.
 
Cj Sloane
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Ugh John! That article on the skyscraper was horrible! At first I felt sorry for the architect, but it was the SECOND time one of his buildings had a "death ray?" Sheesh.

I'm gonna stick with the low tech method.

 
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Have you looked at mangels, stock carrots, and turnips? The large pumpkin varieties were bred for stock feed and the seeds are a natural wormer. I'm also growing other kinds of winter squash for the goats. Thanks to these forums, I am going to grow oil sunflower seed. I also did a search for plant sources of zinc, found a lot of information on vegan sites, and will start fermenting some veggies for them. I think fermenting increases B vitamins too.
 
Cj Sloane
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Pumpkins/squash and apples will probably be my main feedstock. I did try fodder radishes once but the weather worked against me. I do have some sunchokes and would like to have many more. Also, they are not so contingent on the weather

I will be adding in rabbits this spring and that should be much easier to grow/forage for all of their feed
 
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Cj Sloane wrote:Like most people, one of my goals is to get off store bought feed. I'm convinced that the easiest way to accomplish this is to substitute apples and pumpkins for store bought sweet feed.


Have you considered sweet potatoes? They don't require any processing except for maybe leaving them in the sun briefly to get tougher outer skins. They will keep for 2+ years. After the first winter, they will dehydrate somewhat, but could still be fed or soaked in water. (I put them in soups and they're fine.)
 
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