Notes from Windward: #67
Compounding our Feed
One of our goals is to be able to produce our own on-site compounded feeds since commercial feeds embody a host of non-sustainable issues, as recently demonstrated by the recall of vast amounts of pet food contaminated with melamine. Our perspective is that animal systems which depend on non-sustainable practices are themselves non-sustainable, and that the only way we can be sure that the feed is wholesome and organic is to compound it ourselves from organic ingredients produced locally through sustainable practices.
That's a demanding standard to reach towards, but we're getting there a step at a time. We're currently taking one of those steps. The alfalfa hay we feed our sheep and rabbits is purchased from a local grower. After cutting and baling, it's stored in a special barn with a pond-liner floor.
By late spring, his humongous barn is emptied of its last bales of hay, but left behind is a notable amount of hay chaff. This material consists mainly of the small leafy bits that fall away from the bales as they're moved, stacked, and moved again. In the past he's been giving this chaff to a neighbor who's kids used it to raise animals for the county fair. Now that those kids are going off to college, he's giving it to us to use in our research.
There's at least four pick-up truck loads of the chaff, and we're looking at different ways to load it up for the run back to Windward. Just piling it in the back of the truck won't work because too much of it would blow away on the way home. Since we're on a tight timeline on getting the chaff out of his barn, we're taking the expedient of stuffing it into huge contractor size leaf bags. That will allow us to contain the chaff and keep it from getting damp from the dew while we figure out how to proceed.
The best example of sustainable feed that I've come across was an egg producer near Gainesville, Fla. They grew coastal cross bermuda grass, and were able to cut it five times a year. The cut hay was run through a dehydrator and hammer-milled into chaff, at which point it was mixed with molasses and extruded as pellets of chicken feed. The pellets were fed to the layers, and the manure from the chicken house was spread on the pasture to keep it fertile.
The only input to their system was the diesel fuel needed to run the tractor and the dehydrator. Since the alfafa that produced the chaff we're hauling back to Windward is higher in protein than their coastal-cross bermuda grass was, we're confident that our layers will do well on a similar feed--especially when its protein content is enhanced by the addition of BSF larva and earthworms.
Notes From Windward - Index - Vol. 67