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Growing and efficiently producing food for dogs  RSS feed

 
Posts: 34
Location: Western Kentucky - Zone 7
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I think many people here would know that much of commercial dog food is largely over processed corn with added nutrients. So I have been thinking if a person were to decide to feed their dogs on a regular diet of meat it would quickly become inefficient for the hobby farmer because they can consume meat products typically in higher quantities than humans (Depends of size of course). Also while a person could grow a large amount of corn to set aside for animal feed, removing the kernels, drying them, and then further processing may provide more work than an individual would want and they may just rather purchase commercial dog food.

So for the permaculturist looking for ease and efficiency within natural means of production there are many vegetables I am sure than can be used for bulk dog food, but has anyone done this or has anyone seen any work done on this? I would love to see what are some viable options for homesteaders to feed their dogs in a healthy and holistic manner than is also efficient. I also figure one could ration and dry meat after a butcher to supplement a dog's diet with the food they need as well. Any thoughts on this?
 
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When my dog was younger and we were breeding her and I had more time I used to make food for her. It was primarily sweet potatoes, nuts, stems from the greens we eat, and whatever random organ meats we could get ahold of. I would think that the ideal diet for a permie homesteader dog would be organ meats from hunted and farmed animals, tree nuts, squash and potatoes/sweet potatoes, and then surplus from whatever you have seasonally (fruits, berries, veggies). And of course some broth.
 
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There is a modern fad with dog owners to feed a raw diet. The logic goes that a dog is descended from a wolf, and wolves eat raw meat. Thus dogs "should" eat raw meat too. It sounds appealing, but doesn't really hold up. Yes, in the distant past dogs were descended from wolves, but they have spent the last 10,000 years or so living alongside man with our cook fires and our scraps. The dogs that were best adapted to eating as omnivores survived, thrived and bred. And they evolved to cope best with a cooked diet, made up of whatever food scraps were available. On top of that, cooking food kills parasites like worms.

I guess my take home is that
1) It is only in fairly recent history that dogs were given prepared meals, as opposed to scraps.
2) They like meat, but they don't need it (unlike Cats!)
3) They do better on cooked food - it is safer and they can extract more nutrients from it.

Thus trying to raise dogs on what you can grow for yourself becomes a very similar question to what can you grow to feed yourself?
 
garden master
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I feed my dog only 1/3 cup of the commercial dog food a day for breakfast.  She weighs 10+ lbs.  She eats three times a day.  The other meals are mostly green beans, carrots, and pumpkin. 

I have started feeding her brown rice cooked in bone broth made with bones and any veggies scraps I have.

She also gets raw and cooked deer, but not always on a regular basis.  The raw is usually in the form of treats.
 
Posts: 167
Location: New Hampshire
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Ever since I learned about it, I've avoided any dog food that has corn. When I first switched to cornless kibble, my dog's droppings improved a lot. There are plenty of choices available now that don't have corn.
 
pollinator
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Fresh roadkill would certainly be an option, where legal.  Heck, even decidedly unfresh roadkill would be fine, as far as the dog's digestion and taste preference goes, but I wouldn't be too keen on handling it.  Perhaps get in touch with your local wildlife/conservation agent and ask to be notified of reported local roadkills, and offer to receive any confiscated poached meat or animals they come across.

Another option might be to set out a trap line.  You could process and sell the furs, and feed the meat to the dog(s).

I usually carry a .22 rifle with me while cutting firewood, in case any squirrels are present.  About half the time I'll clean them and eat them, and the other half they'll go to the dog.

A deep freeze, of course, would be a good thing to have on hand, as legal trapping and hunting seasons tend to be relatively short, as does roadkill "season."

Here, we feed scraps from animal slaughter to our dog.  She has a particular fondness for poultry heads and deer legs.  When she's had her fill she'll bury the excess here and there, resurrecting them as needed.

I've also noted that she's usually quite content to munch on the grain mix I throw out for the poultry.  Has me wondering about the feasibility of feeding her that, either as-is or cooked into a gruel.  It would be better, surely, and certainly cheaper than even the budget dog food I normally buy.  My understanding is that farm dogs of yesteryear were typically fed the same porridge (often oats) that the farm family had for breakfast; just make a little extra, and supplement it with some skimmed milk and other table scraps.

We use a lot of fat in our cooking, which our plumbing tends not to appreciate.  So if we have a pan or bowl with fat that we don't want to reuse, or with a thin layer of fat that we can't salvage but that would cling to the pipes if washed down the sink, we'll just put it out on the porch to let the dog lick it clean.  It's a win-win.

As far as the dog's health is concerned, I read something a while back that noted that dogs fed a budget purchased dog food and allowed to roam freely (within reason, at least) and supplement the diet given to them with things like moles and field mice and the like were just as healthy as dogs fed a premium dog food.  In fact, we go long stretches without "feeding" our dog anything at all; she has 25 acres to roam, is able to excerpt things from the gut bucket (we slaughter birds May through October, then deer in November), and has a cache of body parts buried around the yard from which to draw.
 
pollinator
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Hi Kevin,

I second the idea that an exclusively raw meat diet, or raw food diet in general, is largely unsuitable for dogs.

I don't know about grains in general, but we noticed a huge improvement from our Golden Retriever years back when we switched from a big commercial brand with lots of grain filler (probably corn, as it was cheap) to a smaller company that sold one that was sweet potato and salmon-based. He stopped getting ear infections and hot spots in the whorls of his fur, and he regained some of his lost puppy energy (he was about 8 at the time, and had just slowed down a bit).

I think comparing human-provided raw meat and canine-hunted fresh meat are not the same thing, where the dog is concerned. I think that, because the whole raw animal is being eaten, or at least, in all likelihood, the soft parts that include the digestive system and the intact gut flora of the prey, are being consumed by the dog, those bacteria can more easily be incorporated into that of the dog, to aid in digestion of the raw meat. It's like probiotics for canines.

While I don't doubt that back in the day before commercial dog food was available, dogs ate grain porridges like their humans, but with some scrap additions, I think I personally would look to sweet potatoes, or the conventional ones, or maybe sunchokes instead. I would have to try them all out, because at the end of the day, the dog's sense of taste and smell will be informing their appetites. But I think, in terms of the foodstuffs that early domesticated canines ate that wasn't offal from the hunt, or cooked meat scraps, cooked tubers are probably closer than grains to what they probably first habituated to.

-CK
 
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Michael Cox wrote:
I guess my take home is that
1) It is only in fairly recent history that dogs were given prepared meals, as opposed to scraps.
2) They like meat, but they don't need it (unlike Cats!)
3) They do better on cooked food - it is safer and they can extract more nutrients from it.



I pretty much agree with this. Our school has been feeding some local dogs for the past couple of years. The dogs were feral, but a Swedish volunteer started feeding them and domesticating them, and the situation has improved. The school's kitchen is vegetarian, and we're feeding the leftovers, so it's mostly rice, dal, bread, assorted vegetables or eggs sometimes. The Swedish woman sometimes gets meat scraps and bones from the butcher, but at most once a week, if that. The dogs seem to like it just fine. I don't know anything about their digestion, though, as they are not indoor or even quite pets.
 
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I will put my vote in that dogs are carnivores.  I feed raw and have done so for years for many dogs.  In reality dogs can live on a shocking variety of foods and survive, but in my experience raw fed pooches have been the healthiest.  No stinky greasy dog odor, no eye boogers, no itching, no rashes, no ear gunk, no bad breath, pearly white teeth, trim robust healthy weight, and beautiful soft coats.  Not to mention less boredom when they get to satisfy carnal behaviors eating Whole Foods every day, and a very spunky pooch into old age to boot!  Ok, maybe some gnarly farts now and again, but it’s worth it to me!

We flourish mostly on a combination of road salvaged deer and home raised rabbits.  4 working does should provide a daily meal for a very large dog, and they are incredibly simple to raise.  I keep mine on open ground in a colony.  I usually cull the males and sell the females.  My breeding stock have names, but the offspring are dog food, I avoid attaching to the kits.  I have no problem butchering, I know the value of the whole system.  The rabbits live healthy happy lives and the dogs get food nature intended.  Plus I’m not paying $$$ for premium specialty kibble that my dogs won’t get rashes from.   I personally use cervical dislocation to dispatch.  A shovel handle over the neck, step on the handle, pull up on the back legs.  No screaming, no bleeding, no thrashing, it’s instant, and you don’t have to look.  And if for some reason you don’t get it right the first time, it’s paralyzed and can’t feel pain, unlike hacking off a chickens head only halfway :s. Oh how I hated butchering like that!  Cervical dislocation is the only way for me these days!

I also raise chickens and turkeys, which, if your dogs will eat poultry, can be a great way to supplement and diversify.  My dog is too spoiled...  she’d pick rabbit over anything any day, but otherwise she demands red meat.  The booger!  A small flock with broody hens can raise dozens of birds for you in a year, providing months of dog food.  Many folks are terrified of poultry bones.  I’m not here to debate it.  My dogs have been eating raw and cooked carcasses for almost a decade.  I’ll leave it at that.
  The only problem with bones I’ve had was a puppy swallowing a large piece of raw deer bone.  She passed it, but it was painful for her.  When she pooped it out finally, boy she sniffed that turd carefully, pinpointed the bone, and said “never again” .  From that day on she spat out any tough piece larger than 1”.  Smart girl!

I’ve also tried quail...  if you can manage to contain and protect them and want to incubate eggs manually, they’re very prolific.  I will get back into them someday, but they do need a special setup.  Quail make great meals for small dogs and cats.  I used to dehydrated skinned quail for. Hiking with th e dogs- quail cookies!  Easy, lightweight foodstuffs.  I do this with fish as well, crunchy fish cookies loaded with good oils and nourishment.

I also raise pigeons,  they’re not terribly prolific, but easy to keep, easy to feed, pleasant to have around, and they produce a surprising amount of meat with thick tasty fat, reminiscent of duck.  I use them mostly for cat food as the dogs have plenty to eat.

My philosophy with raw meat is that every part of the animal makes the whole food.  The skin, fur, tendons, blood, bones, organs, guts, brain, cartilage.  Every bit of it is fabulously nourishing.  Raw meat poos are small, odorless (usually), and break down incredibly quickly.  If You have the means and the stomach for it, I avidly encourage going raw!


Edit:
Permaculture is the focus here, and I’d like to point out that while I currently do not have a system for feeding my livestock from my own property, here’s the real expense breakdown:
10 rabbits in two breeding groups, forage in spring and summer, hay and grain in winter.  Summer costs maybe $7/mo for everyone, winter costs around $20/mo for hay and grain.  No maintenance, all salvaged or h9me made materials for nest boxes, and enrichment.  Producing well over 60 kits per month.  1 kit is one to two days of food.  My 70lb dog can take 2 days to eat a whole rabbit, the 130lb pooch can eat one a day.  That’s max $20 a month to feed 200lbs of dog.

6 pigeons, three breeding pairs, less than $1 per month in grain year round.  Living with the rabbits in an open air pen they can fly around in and breed naturally.  A pair can produce 8-12 squabs in a year.  Each dressing out to about a 6-8 ounce thick, meaty bird, easily 2 days of food for 1 cat.  That’s over 20 squabs a year in supplemental food for less than $12.

I estimate my chickens and heritage turkeys cost high end $.50 per bird per month during summer, and $1 per bird per month in winter.  I’ve had flocks of 10 and flock of 100.  I sell lots of chicks and they more than pay for themselves.  I butchered 60 cockerels last fall, so poultry has been a plentiful supplement this winter.  Between meat, eggs, and livestock sales, they are an invaluable self perpetuating asset.

Quail would cost pennies each per month in feed.  A hen might lay20-30 eggs a month.  Incubating them, you can reasonably produce 50 quail per month per laying hen.  They grow fast and don’t take half a year to fill out like chickens, butchering of cortunix  is usually around 8 weeks.   Talk about a turn around!  Just gotta have a way of containing the buggers at all ages and be willing to incubate.  They can’t be free ranged like pigeons and poultry.  A breeding trio would provide food for 2-3 cats each month for probably $3 per month in grain, considering you gotta feed all them baby quail too . Obviously power expenses come in with incubating and brooding. Someday I will try bantam hens to hatch quail eggs. I’ve heard it can work, and she replaces the incubator and brooder both!

 
pollinator
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Jen Rose wrote:I will put my vote in that dogs are carnivores.  I feed raw and have done so for years for many dogs.  In reality dogs can live on a shocking variety of foods and survive, but in my experience raw fed pooches have been the healthiest.  No stinky greasy dog odor, no eye boogers, no itching, no rashes, no ear gunk, no bad breath, pearly white teeth, trim robust healthy weight, and beautiful soft coats.  Not to mention less boredom when they get to satisfy carnal behaviors eating Whole Foods every day, and a very spunky pooch into old age to boot!  Ok, maybe some gnarly farts now and again, but it’s worth it to me!

We flourish mostly on a combination of road salvaged deer and home raised rabbits.  4 working does should provide a daily meal for a very large dog, and they are incredibly simple to raise.  I keep mine on open ground in a colony.  I usually cull the males and sell the females.  My breeding stock have names, but the offspring are dog food, I avoid attaching to the kits.  I have no problem butchering, I know the value of the whole system.  The rabbits live healthy happy lives and the dogs get food nature intended.  Plus I’m not paying $$$ for premium specialty kibble that my dogs won’t get rashes from.   I personally use cervical dislocation to dispatch.  A shovel handle over the neck, step on the handle, pull up on the back legs.  No screaming, no bleeding, no thrashing, it’s instant, and you don’t have to look.  And if for some reason you don’t get it right the first time, it’s paralyzed and can’t feel pain, unlike hacking off a chickens head only halfway :s. Oh how I hated butchering like that!  Cervical dislocation is the only way for me these days!

I also raise chickens and turkeys, which, if your dogs will eat poultry, can be a great way to supplement and diversify.  My dog is too spoiled...  she’d pick rabbit over anything any day, but otherwise she demands red meat.  The booger!  A small flock with broody hens can raise dozens of birds for you in a year, providing months of dog food.  Many folks are terrified of poultry bones.  I’m not here to debate it.  My dogs have been eating raw and cooked carcasses for almost a decade.  I’ll leave it at that.
  The only problem with bones I’ve had was a puppy swallowing a large piece of raw deer bone.  She passed it, but it was painful for her.  When she pooped it out finally, boy she sniffed that turd carefully, pinpointed the bone, and said “never again” .  From that day on she spat out any tough piece larger than 1”.  Smart girl!

I’ve also tried quail...  if you can manage to contain and protect them and want to incubate eggs manually, they’re very prolific.  I will get back into them someday, but they do need a special setup.  Quail make great meals for small dogs and cats.  I used to dehydrated skinned quail for. Hiking with th e dogs- quail cookies!  Easy, lightweight foodstuffs.  I do this with fish as well, crunchy fish cookies loaded with good oils and nourishment.

I also raise pigeons,  they’re not terribly prolific, but easy to keep, easy to feed, pleasant to have around, and they produce a surprising amount of meat with thick tasty fat, reminiscent of duck.  I use them mostly for cat food as the dogs have plenty to eat.

My philosophy with raw meat is that every part of the animal makes the whole food.  The skin, fur, tendons, blood, bones, organs, guts, brain, cartilage.  Every bit of it is fabulously nourishing.  Raw meat poos are small, odorless (usually), and break down incredibly quickly.  If You have the means and the stomach for it, I avidly encourage going raw!



I fall somewhere in-between.  I believe that meat is absolutely essential for a dog, but I also feed vegetables and fruits.  I personally don't feed much raw meat to the dogs, but they do get raw venison and they eat rodents that they catch.  I certainly don't think cooked meat is harmful, but the meat they get is usually our leftovers, so it's cooked by default
 
Jen Rose
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I’ll post a new post instead of editing and infinitely adding to my last :p.

I point out the costs because, as op mentioned, sometimes work like threshing grains is just too much on a tiny scale.  I buy grains in bulk.  Non gmo, but not organic. I’d pay double if I could find it!  I buy whole, unprocessed 50lb bags for $4-9 each, depending on the grain, and mix custom feeds for each critter.  I fill 20 and 55 gallon metal drums with locking lids.  It’s pretty easy and depending on how many animals I have at a time, I may need grain monthly or just every 6 months. I buy hay once or twice a year, local organic.  For the minimal effort and expense, I am okay with not providing the food myself.  I’d love to!  But I’m not there yet.  So it depends on how diehard you wanna be about self sufficiency.

I haven’t explored large livestock as dog foodstuffs yet.  My goats cost me $10 per goat per month high end, during winter.  Meat goats and sheep might be viable , but larger animals needs more space, more care, cost more, and are noisy.  A dozen rabbits can live in a pen not suited to keeping a single goat in, they’re silent, produce fur and manure, are prolific. And also cheap to replace if the colony has a predator mishap...

I like small livestock, and I like diversity.  Don’t put all the eggs in one basket
 
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Hunting and roadkill salvage can be great too.  My 70lb dog can be fed for 1 week off of a fawn sized deer, or perhaps 3 weeks off a large adult.  Right now the two dogs we have can polish off an adult deer in 7-10 days.  Think 4-5lbs a day between the two, and add a pound for the cats.  Currently we chop them up with a demo saw (frozen) and pack and freeze daily portions into the chest freezer.  Due to predators and other dogs, where we're at it's not possible to leave a deer sitting out.  I've had two living situations where I could just lay the whole deer out and let the dogs go to town.  I learned a lot about eating and pack habits around a large kill, it was an invaluable experience.  At one time I had 4 dogs working on 3 deer on the property (all roadkill).  It was so cool!

They took turns, a dog was always out on guard duty.  The first thing they go for are the perishables; organs and guts.  Usually the stomach is removed and the partially digested grass and the tripe are eaten slowly and supplementally.  When I say I vote that dogs are carnivores, that's not to say they don't eat vegetation!  Eating whole prey results in a good amount of foliage ingestion on the dog's part!  (plus lots of dirt too, eating off the ground, good minerals and roughage!)  Same with cats; eating birds and rodents results in ingesting a lot of grains and greens.  I theorize that the partially digested vegetation is easier for the carnivores to assimilate, but it's a shot in the dark.
Either way, back to the dog feast; the stomach is removed but kept close by, the lower intestines eaten on slowly, the vital organs eaten first. (and fetus if applicable).  Then I observe that they wait.  They age the meat.  As the meat ripens it becomes easier to digest, even in humans (thus aging meat), but also the skin decomposes and makes the body much easier to break into.  Having fed off large organs for a day or many, nibbling off ear cartilage and crunchy nose bits, plus a few bites from the haunches, they eventually start on consuming the meat itself.  The carcass is eventually reduced to a tough rail of spine and pelvis and only the toughest part of the skull, plus a mess of skin and fur.  But even then the dogs have come back after the skin has dried to a crisp and enjoyed the jerky.  All of the animals have to take turns opening the carcass, even the cats contribute!  It's really quite the community affair!  Obviously these observations have been with dogs who are patient and far from starving.  I'm sure hunger level affects wait time ;)


Sorry if that was TMI, but my experiences have shaped my feeding philosophies.  There's much to be learned by observing!   There are infinite possibilities for feeding your dogs and cats, they can survive on a wide variety of foodstuffs.  I enjoy nature at it's more unadulterated, and getting to see my dog indulge in her natural behaviors is satisfying to me.  And that's just me!

(also wanna point out that my wanna-be mini wolf is also a fabulous farm dog, completely trustworthy with all livestock, down to a newborn bunny.  feeding raw does not make a dog aggressive or a killer!  any dog has that potential.  in my personal opinion, a dog on a poor nutrition diet may be just as likely, if not more likely, to start killing due to dietary deficiency. at the end of the day training, exercise, and conditioning are the absolute biggest factor influencing behavior.  again, just my opinions, we all have plenty of them :))
 
pollinator
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I have the best method for making food for dogs.  This method hinges around using an Instant Pot electric pressure cooker.  This is an amazing tool to have in your kitchen, because you can make almost everything with it, in less time.  Now, about the pupper food.... 

Inside the instant pot, I put the little grate at the bottom, and put water in the bottom of the pan, just a little below the grate.  The water is important to make steam for pressure.  Now, I just stack the chicken in on the grate.  I cook this on high pressure for like 15 to 20 minutes.  It doesn't take long for the chicken to be cooked, and you can even cook it while frozen.  When the chicken is done, the instant pot needs vented.  The pressure would release naturally, but I like to speed the process up.  I fold a dish cloth over a few times, and place this on the vent while I open it.  Hot steam will shoot out, but it will be dissipated by the dish cloth.  If you don't put a cloth there, it will vent and spread moisture over your kitchen.  Now your chicken is cooked for you.  I use chicken quarters because they are generally the cheapest meat.  I find it between 25 and 50 cents a pound quite regularly, but you can use any part of the chicken for this method. 

Now, remove the chicken from the instant pot, and pour off the juice and drippings.  I save this broth material for my dogs.  It's time to process the meat.  You'll find that the meat comes off easier than any method, and the fat is very simple to separate.  All of the good meat goes into one container for people eating, and everything else is going to get processed for the dogs.  The fat, gristle, skin, and bones all go back into the instant pot.  Don't forget to put water in the bottom, because you are going to be using the pressure cooker again.  This is where the magic happens.

Again, I set to high pressure but now I cook for about 45 minutes.  Do not worry about over cooking at this juncture.  After the 45 minutes, release the steam with the dishcloth over the valve again.  Open the lid and check the bones.  The idea here is that the pressure cooking will render the bones down.  You should be able to smush the bones with your fingers.  If you can't, you need some more cooking.  It's fine to throw it back in for another 45 minutes, but you might not need that long.  The bones should be done now. 

Here's where safety plays a part ... because dogs can get hurt by chicken bones.  They say that you can feed them raw bones, but I prefer this method much better.  All of the bones go into a food processor, where they just dissentigrate like I have never seen before.  This is when you check and make sure that all of the bones are processed.  You can always put them back into the instant pot, but the initial 45 minutes should be long enough.  When processed, this turns into a bone and blood meal mush.  When refrigerated, this congeals and looks exactly like ALPO or other canned dog food (except you know what is in it). 

Your method from here can vary, depending on what you desire to feed to your dogs.  Personally, I purchase a huge bag of rice from Sam's Club and supplement it with other veggies.  I cook up a huge batch of rice in the instant pot, and set it aside.  Then, I steam some sweet potatoes (or whatever else I'm feeding them).  This gets all mixed up in big bowls to make the dog's food.  I add in the processed bone, the fat and skin that's been cooked more, the rice and the potatoes.  This goes into smaller containers and goes straight into my fridge.  My dogs loved it, and it always gave them good sheen and coloring to their coats. 

Sure, I know that rice, chicken and sweet potatoes isn't full nutrition for my dogs, but it was much better than store purchased food.  I admit that I purchase kibble for them also, sometimes.  If I have any kibble, I mix it with the homemade food at about 30% kibble to 70% homemade.  All of the bones are completely broken up.  There are no shards, no sharp points, or anything to worry about.  The pressure cooking and the food processor took care of that.  It is my belief that this method helps, because it provides all of the bone marrow and nutrients to the dogs. 

The best part about using this method, is that the chicken cooked for human consumption is absolutely delectable also.  I can not overstate how tender and juicy this chicken is.  If I am feeling nice, I also throw all of the non-optimal pieces of chicken in for the dogs.  I wouldn't pressure cook this again, but leave it to mix in to all of the components at the end. 

I would do this same method if I was raising poultry on the homestead, but I would use more of the carcass from chicken butchering.  I would include more organs for my dogs, since I don't care to eat them.  I would also try using the entire skeleton including the head.  I can't think of much in there that would hurt the dog.  The additional cartilage from the neck and feet would help congeal the dog food even more.  Sure, I doubt the beak would break down... but I don't know.  It really should, but I haven't tried it yet.  To me, this seems like the method of least waste possible. 

As for my homestead livestock, I plan to have a variety of smaller and quieter animals to breed for food.  These are muscovy ducks, quail, guinea pigs, rabbits, nigerian dwarf goats, black soldier flies, and superworms.  I "may" have some guinea hogs, but I'm not sure that I want to make that move.  The other animals will suffice, but the guinea hogs will be great for clearing land for me.  This being feasible all depends on your area and the climate.  I have talked to many local restaurants, and have secured agreements to get their food waste from them.  I have found seafood, chinese buffets, bbq, mexican restaurants, and coffee shops that are all more than willing to save their food waste.  Yes, the majority of this will be for compost, but I expect to get a bunch of usable food for my livestock.  The chinese buffets say that they will have 3 or 4 five gallon buckets each night for me.  I just have to pick them up after 9 o'clock. 

Everything that I raise will be for human consumption ... yes, I plan to eat guinea pigs.  They are delicious.  My goal is to be self sustainable with my livestock.  I want to grow enough veggies and have enough offspring to feed all of my livestock.  Supplementing this with food waste from local restaurants gives me redundancy in case of emergency.  I would like if my livestock can feed a couple of dogs and a couple of cats.  This should help give protection to all of my animals. 
 
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This is an interesting thread.  My family has fed dogs - almost all large dogs - raw meat for about 40 years.  We've never had a parasite problem.  We fed mostly raw chicken backs, necks and legs, also beef.  With my current dog, a 40 lb labradoodle, he's 13 now, and I feed him ground beef, chicken or turkey.  Store bought at the moment.  We're in an area with little local food options.  Last year, he made it clear he was tired of chewing chicken bones, so I made this switch.  I also feed him raw milk, and an assortment of vegetables, some cooked some raw.  If I had access to a fair amount of raw milk, that would be a heavier part of his diet.  When I got him, he was 1 1/2 years old and had the sort of benign skin tumors poodle breeds get, which was incredibly unusual for such a young dog.  I put him on raw food and the skin things went away in 2 weeks.

I've found dogs really do well on meat.  And I don't think raw is a fad - the comment above that dogs evolved on years of cooking scraps, well, they also had to hunt for themselves (rodents and such), and would have been given milk if they were on such a farm, and would have been given tons of raw kitchen scraps as well, and eaten out of whatever sort of compost pile they could get into.  Dogs are scavengers as well as hunters, and my understanding of their digestive system is that it's extremely acid-based, designed for digesting raw bone and meat and killing parasites.  My current vet says that a healthy dog should "gulp" his food, and be able to digest most anything that is from an animal.  That one thing to watch for is one's dog carefully chewing his food, he claims that points to a loss of stomach acid (which leads to health decline), or a bad tooth.

One of my dogs killed a small deer one year, and we let her eat it.  And did she...It took her 4 days, and she ate every single bit of it.  Hair, skin, bones...  The last thing left over was sort of a macabre sight, she was carrying the head around in her mouth, looking outward.  She was so happy and proud though!  The next day, the head was completely gone, she had eaten it all too.

A friend of a friend raises guinea pigs for food, and also feeds them to her dogs, whole. She kills them first.  Those are also happy dogs.  I don't think I have the stomach for that one, as I've kept guinea pigs as pets for decades.  They are great pre-composters, I feed kitchen, garden and yard scraps.  But from a dog's perspective they are living squeaky toys....  The rabbits as food mentioned above seems a similar idea.  I saw in a Marjory Wildcraft video how she feeds her dogs the skin, fur and I think guts from the rabbits, raw, as her family eats a ton of rabbit. I've met others who did this with chicken and duck skins and guts, people who raised bird for food but got tired of pulling feathers.  Very healthy, tons of collagen!  Yumm...  I'm greedy though - I want the skin for myself.

Thanks for all the food ideas above.  Great thread!
 
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HARVESTING INSECTS FOR DOG FOOD---This is anecdotal, and I have not tried to calculate nutritional value, but it's worth considering.   And a big freezer is helpful.   Setting up old white sheets and tarps at night in spring an summer with a standard light bulb lighting it up.   Wait bout 10 minutes for the night insects to cover the sheet, fold up the sheet and pop into freezer (I put the folded sheet into an old dog 50# food bag, as there were insects on both sides of sheet and I didn't want to spill them).  In this way I have collected up to 10 pounds of insects in one night.  Obviously, this would not work year-round in the Columbia Gorge, so gotta store them (I use old bread bags and compress them after they have been collected from the frozen sheet,  then return them to freezer).   I have some soy sauce in a spray bottle, and the pyrenees and labradoodle both love frozen insects with a soy sauce spray.   I have also sketched out a light trap with a funnel and collection pit/cage.  Hope someone will run with this and teach me something...   Squirrels and scrawny rabbits are a lot of labor to process and cook (or not) for doggie...
 
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Hello!

I didn't read through the entire thread, so if somebody already covered this, my apologies. Producing your own dog food would of course be much healthier for your dog, but also more expensive. Keep in mind healthier would be assuming you know how to ballence and optimize canine nutrition for maximum health. My suggestion would be feed them whole byproducts of homesteading practices. For example you can raise rex rabbits for pelts to sell as an income source, but the age of the rabbit at harvest, usually makes the meat to tough for an easily marketable product. So that whole food byproduct could be used for dog food. You can also use spent layers for dog food, assuming you aren't interested in that meat for your own consumption. Yes soups could be made from any tough meat, but if you have more tought meat that can fit in your soup pot, dog food is an option. You can also give your dogs the strained leftovers from making bone broth, since the bones become soft from the acidity in the vinegar, and they always seem filled with abundant meat scraps.

Bottom line, if your going to make your own dog food, you have many creative ways to do so. As long as you understand canine health and nutrition, so you can increase bio-available ballenced nutrition. Without creating deficiencies or an over abundance of certian nutritional elements.

Just my 2 cents!

 
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