Chicken Feed

chicken feed

I love this picture. The grasshopper catcher is a perfect example of Necessity being the Mother of Invention. Insects are a great source of protein. Free range poultry fill up on grasshoppers keeping the pests under control. It's a seasonal feast, though. The pioneers solved this by catching grasshoppers in the hayfield and drying them for winter feed. This is just one example of alternatives to corn and soybeans.

Summer through fall our chickens, ducks and turkeys move through the pasture catching insects and eating greens. Take advantage this summer and send the kids outside with a net and a bucket. Let them catch bugs. Have them turn over rocks and look under logs. They'll find plenty to feed the chickens.

A couple of years ago I heard about the benefits of goji  berries so I planted some. They're full of vitamins but they taste terrible. Now, instead of using them myself, I dry them for chicken feed. Apparently the chickens don't mind the bitter flavor. Goji berries are easily dried and stored for year round use.

In certain areas of the country its not easy to buy small grains. Here in Iowa corn is king, followed by soybeans. Finding wheat is tough – no one grows it commercially in this area. There's no market for it here. Growing food plots gives the flock both exercise and superior nutrition. Plus, you'll have healthy eggs and meat. A food plot of small grains; wheat, oats, and barley inter seeded with clover and alfalfa provides a balanced diet when grazed green or cut and dried for winter feed. These plots are terrific for growing chicken feed.

This is the time of year to think about feeding the flock in the winter. Learn to sprout grains or grow fodder. The nutritional value of the two is quite different. In sprouted grains the white tap-root is full of enzymes. Once a green shoot develops the enzymes are lost to the sprout, but the green sprout is full of health qualities, too. Your hens will be healthier with the forethought.

And, if you'd like healthy meat and you're not raising poultry yourself we'd be happy to have you as a customer.

Baling Hay

It's hot inside the tractor cab. The fan works but there's no air conditioning. Keith took the door off so I'd have some relief. When I head west into the afternoon sun the cab heats up fast, It's like sitting in a fishbowl without the water. Turning east, the open door catches a breeze, and it cools down. I wish I could bale the hay only heading east.

DSCN0026(7)My companion, Esme is always happy. She loves riding along with me. The cha-chunk, cha- chunk, cha-chunk of the baler picking up hay is hypnotic. The constant rhythmic cycle, along with the warm air, and quiet music from the radio puts me into a trance. Every now and again the sound changes; cha-chunk, cha-chunk, cha-clink.  Sometimes shear pins break while baling the thickest hay. Esme and I get out of the tractor. She runs off in search of snakes and mice. I take the wrench, bolt, washer, and nut out of the toolbox to repair the pin. In a few minutes were back to work. Esme's in her seat, I'm in mine. I have to sit sideways facing backwards so I can watch the windrows and the baler. In the thickest rows I adjust the tractor's speed or the speed of the power take-off (PTO). Again, the rhythm of the baler along with the warm sunshine puts me into a trance. Cha- chunk, cha-chunk, cha-chunk. Esme sits up, looks out the window, starts barking. Cocking her head to one side she barks happily and wags her tail.  As I glance out the door I notice a tire rolling past us. “Where would a tire come from way out here, Esme?” It took me a second to realize that the only tire out here had to be from either the tractor, baler, or bale basket full of hay. Pressing on the clutch and brake pedal I downshifted. The tractor stopped. The baler tilted awkwardly to one side. The hub was buried into the earth. The tire continued rolling down the hill. I watched it curve. Circling, it rolled into the tall grass of the waterway, wobbled and fell over.

DSCN0024(10)I  made a call to my pit crew, who weren't happy to hear from me. They bombarded me with questions. The first, “Did you check the tires before you started baling?”

“Of course I did.” If you consider walking past the tires and noticing that they were attached to the equipment checking, then I checked.

“Did you notice the tire wobbling?”

It's hard to notice a tire wobbling when you're fidgeting with the radio. The signal's very weak out here. I don't say this out loud, that would be suicide. "Nope, I didn't notice a thing."

The discussion escalated, “How does a tire roll past without you noticing it for 50 yards? Look how long it took you to stop.” He continued with increased volume, “I hope the axle didn't crack. The hub looks alright, but we have to dig it out.”

My response is lame, “I didn't notice any problem with the baler, and it wasn't 50 yards.” Looking at the bare ground where the baler dragged across the field I calculate that it was only 45 yards. 48 yards at the most. I hate when he exaggerates.

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They unhitched the bale basket, moved the tractor and baler to level ground and began the repair.  Adding insult to injury they weren't happy when I took out the camera. They gave me 'the look'. The one that says, 'Are you seriously taking a picture? Don't you have anything else to do? Let's recap why we're here...You called us to help you fix a tire. You never mentioned that it fell off and rolled away or that the hub was buried. We've been working our butts off in the hot hay mow to get this put up before it rains. It's sweltering. We're hot. We're uncomfortable. We're very CRABBY! You've been riding in a tractor with an open door and fan blowing on you. You're drinking ice tea. You're listening to the radio. You're driving through the field with that irritatingly happy dog and enjoying yourself. Are you seriously going to take our picture, now?'

After a couple of shots I put the camera away. I brought them cold drinks and walked around the equipment pretending to inspect every inch of it. I had no idea what I was looking for, but I wanted to look efficient.

After refilling my drink, adjusting the radio and getting Esme some water we were back to baling within an hour. Our friend, Rusty Little had the hay curse but I have the equipment curse.

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DSCN1695 (3)Keith brought a sprig of alfalfa into the kitchen. “The cows were pretty happy with their breakfast this morning.”

 “That looks nice. The leaves are still soft and it's not too stemmy.” Keith's very proud of the hay he makes.

 A few heifers are in the barnyard as they get near calving time. Three have calved already. Despite the cold weather the calves still come. The thought process last spring was to put the bull in with the heifers early, never figuring that they would cycle right away, or that the bull would catch them immediately. We were wrong. So, we have a few new calves and the cows are enjoying the best hay from last summer.

 

Cattle Quiz: What cattle eat 678 always loves to have her picture taken

 

 
 
 Click on the links to see what some farmers are feeding their livestock.
Cattle are ruminants. Ruminants eat grass, at least they should. Here's a simple quiz to test your knowledge. If you guess correctly  you should  become a cattle farmer, we need common sense producers.
1. Cows eat...
If you guessed 'A' you're one smart cookie! However, both B and C are being used as cattle feed. The biggest shocker is that University scientists and veterinarians aren't admonishing these alternative feed practices, they're studying them  Read more here
 
2. Cattle's rumens are designed to digest...
a. Grass
b. Gummy worms
c. Sawdust
e. All of the above
I tried to throw you off with the potato chips. If you guessed 'A' you're right again, kind of. These day's  'All of the above' (excluding 'A' as an answer) might be correct. Grass is very expensive, especially if it's on ground that could have gone into corn production so cheaper alternatives are being fed to cattle at an alarming rate.
 
3. Cattle need _____________ to thrive...
b. Gummy worms, antibiotics, hormone implants
c. Sawdust, antibiotics, hormone implants
d. Potato chips, antibiotics, hormone implants

If you guessed 'A' congratulations again! You might know more about feeding cattle than some farmers. Don't you feel smarter already?

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Growing Fodder Growing Fodder Fodder

This winter we’re experimenting with growing fodder which is sprouted barley seed. Throughout the winter we're feeding it to a select group of sheep, pigs, and chickens. This green feed, that’s high in protein, is fed with hay and minerals.  The recommended method of growing fodder is to soak the seed in water with bleach added. The seed is soaked for twenty four hours to inhibit mold growth. Thereafter chemical fertilizer is added to the water. To avoid chemicals and bleach we’re using Apple Cider Vinegar to changes the PH level and arrest mold growth. We're also experimenting with a mild solution of hydrogen peroxide and comparing the results. As an alternative to the chemical fertilizers we're recirculating the nutrient rich barley water and adding more Apple Cider Vinegar. This is still in the experimental stage but So far, we’re producing and feeding about twenty pounds of fodder each day. The pigs love it, the sheep aren’t quite sure if they like it yet (I think it has to do with the odor of fermentation) and the chickens go crazy for it.

The issue with growing fodder is the energy that's used to produce it. In the mid-west the winters don't support growing fodder without a heat source. The energy use might doesn't justify production. In a drought year it might be a viable alternative, though.

 

Growing Fodder

Have you heard of Ractopamine? Chances are you haven't. It's the drug that makes pork 'The other white meat'. Pork isn't white meat by nature it's made lean by feeding ractopamine - trade name PayLean (made by Eli Lilly) to hogs. It's also fed to beef cattle and turkeys.

Taiwan has banned the importation of pork from the United States because of this drug.  The National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) isn't happy. The NPPC would like Secretary of State Clinton, USDA Secretary  Tom Vilsack, and U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk to make it clear to the Taiwanese Government that unless the ban on ractopamine fed pork is lifted there won't be U.S. support for negotiations on Trans-Pacific Partnership. China and the EU have also rejected pork from hogs fed ractopamine.

Here's an idea... what if pigs weren't fed ractopamine? What if the customer, in this case Taiwan, China, and Europe were allowed to buy meat produced in a manner that they determined safe for consumers?  What if countries weren't strong armed into buying drug fed pork? What if free choice were allowed and meat labels disclosed all the chemical inputs that produced it? Would it make a difference when choosing what your family eats? Just some food for thought. Here's more on ractopamine.

chickens grazing
chickens on pasture

Hats off to Both Maryland and Georgia

Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley signed a bill banning arsenic in poultry feed, making the state the first to have such legislation. The law specifically mentions two Pfizer drugs that contain arsenic: Roxarsone (which the company voluntarily withdrew from the market last year) and Histostat (which is currently on the market). The new law prohibits the use, sale or distribution of commercial feed containing arsenic, the law takes effect January 1, 2013.  Read more
In June Georgians celebrated pastured poultry week. Georgians for Pastured Poultry (GPP) spread the word about the important virtues of pastured poultry. Restaurants in Athens and Atlanta helped spread the word by promoting pastured poultry on their menus. Georgian Chef, Shaun Doty demonstrates how to cook a pasture raised chicken

The FDA announced that a drug fed to chickens will no longer be sold in the U.S.  Pfizer subsidiary Alpharma will discontinue sales of 3-Nitro.  Chickens are fed this drug to increase their appetites.  The FDA found that chickens fed arsenic had traces of the drug in their meat, primarily their liver. Pfizer will stop selling the drug in 30 days, after animal producers have had time to find new medications.  3-Nitro, a.k.a. roxarsone is the most common arsenic based animal drug, but similar drugs have been approved for poultry and pig feed.

The poultry and pigs at Forest Hill Farm eat non-GMO grains and grasses.

 

In Japan they’ve been genetically altering hogs. They’re introducing vegetable genes into pigs.
We were watching the movie Night Shift, I love that movie.  Michael Keaton’s character, Billy Blaze records all of his “big ideas” into his Sony Walkman.  One of his ideas was to feed tuna mayonnaise, “This is Bill, call Starkist.”  Well this is Glenda, “Call Japan, feed pigs spinach.”  Better yet, let them graze a field of spinach.
Our pigs are healthy.  Our pigs are happy.  Our pigs have a varied diet of seasonal grasses and legumes.  In the spring they graze a field of forage peas, oats, and rape seed.  In the summer they graze on grasses, alfalfa, and clover.  In the fall they eat apples, pumpkins, and harvest their own corn.  In Japan scientists have “successfully” implanted the spinach gene into hogs.
Click Here for the story about vegetable genes implanted in hogs

 

©Glenda Plozay, Forest Hill Farm Products,LLC

Forest Hill Farm pasture raised chicken

A nation wide study by the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGEN), drug resistant strains of Staphylococcus aureus are present in meat and poultry from United States grocery stores at unexpectedly high rates. Nearly half of the meat and poultry samples (47 percent) were contaminated with Staphylococcus aureus, more than half of those bacteria (52 percent) were resistant to three classes of antibiotics. This is the first national assessment of antibiotic resistant Staphylococcus aureus in U.S. Food supply.  Researchers collected and analyzed 136 samples (80 brands) of beef, chicken, pork, and turkey from 26 grocery stores in five cities: LosAngeles, Chicago, Fort Lauderdale, Flagstaff, and Washington, D.C.Click here for more info

And now a possible solution....

Animal Feed Lawsuit
source:  Iowa Farm Today, June 4, 2011

A New York lawsuit seeks to force the government to reduce the use of antibiotics in animal feed.  The basis of the suit is evidence that antibiotics in animal feed diminished the effectiveness of the drugs to treat people.  The lawsuit was filed in Manhattan Federal Court on May 25, 2011.

The suit accuses the Federal Food and Drug Administration of failing to protect human health.  The FDA, in a 1977 study, concluded that feeding animals low doses of certain antibiotics was potentially harmful to people’s health.