Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Feeding animals and what to call my farm

I'm having a problem right now with what to call my farming operation.

I'm not strictly grass-fed -- I do feed my cows and sheep spent grain from a local brewery, but the vast majority of their calories is local grass -- either directly from the field, or in the form of baled hay I buy from a farm about a mile south of me. That's for the ruminants. (I also put out salt blocks for the critters, and from time to time I'll throw them stuff that's past its prime -- vegies from the garden, produce that's past its prime, that sort of thing.

For the pigs, the vast majority of their calories comes from the prepared feed I purchase from a local feed mill, with forage providing some number of calories, hay providing some calories, and the occasional lot of eggs, dairy and wilted produce.

The poultry (chickens, ducks, geese) get the vast majority of their calories from prepared feed, which I purchase from another feed mill, and forage. It's hard to tell how many calories the chickens get, but they mow the grass and chase bugs, so I'm assuming there's some gain there. they seem happy.

I don't really have a single name that covers all the bases -- I'm not purely grass fed, nor am I purely a purchased feed operation. All of my critters have access to and actively use foraged food as part of their diet. I do this for the wholesomeness of the meat and eggs, because it's a little cheaper to do it that way (at least measured by feed costs, although more expensive when you calculate in predator losses) and the overall effect on the land is to improve it over time. Since I don't confine the animals, I also don't tend to have to work much with concentrated manure of any sort. no smell, no shoveling. Just green grass for the most part.

So I'm open to ideas. I don't think I'm a feedlot -- forage is a part of my nutrition plan for the animals, but I do take advantage of discarded food (vegies, dairy, spent grain) to lower my overall feed costs and to use an otherwise-wasted food source.

What do you do, and what do you call it?


Throwback at Trapper Creek said...

I would call you a small, diversified livestock farm. Not all your eggs in one basket, no pun intended, and many different income streams.

Good post!

Nels said...

I'm not sure exactly what to call it. However it seems that you focus on allowing the animals to do what they naturally should be doing. (or atleast to some degree) So maybe a name that hints on the fact that these animals are happy and doing what their instinct tells them. And the fact that a lot of your mothers get a chance to actually raise their young. I also think that because they are pastured that is alwasys worth mentioning. Even though you supplement w/ grain the animals still, for the most part, have a choice.

Anonymous said...

Farming, the way it's supposed to be done.

Anonymous said...

Great post. Your feeding reg. is much like ours (only we have many fewer critters). I tell people that we offer prepared feed free choice, but that the animals are on pasture 24/7 (poltry locked up at night for protection, and with access to feed during that time) In the summer their feed consumption drops by about 75%, so I know they get a lot of fill from the bugs, grass & seeds. I like pointing out our "golf course" in the chicken yard, where the geese keep the grass at about 3/4".

I don't know that I would call your operation small though.

damae said...

Mother Earth News has a link to an article http://www.motherearthnews.com/Happy-Homesteader/Smithfield-Factory-Farms.aspx
that is the opposite of what you are doing.
very eye opening