Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Book Review: Small scale grain raising by Gene Logsdon

One of the big challenges I've got in my farming operation is the cost of feed, and the second is my inexperience in growing things that I might feed to my animals. There aren't any farms growing any grains that are nearby that I've found. I did see some barley growing last year, but I haven't been able to find that guy to ask him about it.

This book has been particularly helpful in describing the planting, harvesting and uses of various types of grain. Corn, Sorghum, Wheat, Oats, Dry Beans Rye and Barley, buckwheat and millet, Rice and Legumes are all included, as well as a chapter on animal feeds using grains.

He does a good job of describing the amount of space and the yield expected for that amount of space, the planting conditions required and the cultivation that works best.

All of the plantings described are in 1 acre or smaller plots -- he breaks it down into a single row of sorghum, for instance, and he describes how you harvest, process and store it as well.

For me, this approach works really well. I like to experiment, and I'll probably pick three or four different types of grain to plant this year as test crops. If a particular choice works out, I'll expand, if not, I'm not out much time and money.

He's stated that a quarter acre will provide the majority of the calories needed for a years (human) diet, and that an acre of corn could fill out the grain requirements for one pig, one milk cow, one beef steer and thirty chickens.

Which sounds mighty good to me when I look at my feed bill.


Across The Creek Farm said...

how will you harvesting economically? For the pigs, would you just turn them loose in the field?

I was looking at this book the other day. I'll have to follow up on it.

Bruce King said...

Gene talks about how to harvest each type of grain, including the historical harvesting methods.

If I wanted to grow corn for my cows and pigs, all I'd have to do to harvest it is turn them loose in a portion of the field. They'll eat the stalks, the ears and the pigs will eat the roots.

Chickens and turkeys can eat the grains directly; wheat and oats right off the stems, for instance. I planted some oats last year and the turkeys got pretty good at stripping the grains.

After reading through it I feel a lot more comfortable dealing with small patches of this or that.

Rich said...

If you are planning to just 'hog down' your fields, have you considered planting a combination of grains/legumes?

I have seen things like mixing soybeans and corn in a planter for deer food plots, oats and vetch for a cover crop, or a mixture of oats, rye, wheat, clover, and Austrian winter peas for a cover crop or food plot.

Other ideas are rapeseed and oats for high quality forage and soil building.

Sustainable Eats said...

I'm seeding my side orchard with perennials and cover crops for the chickens to forage. last year I planted sunflowers which they ate shells and all. I would love to raise meat rabbits but I'm not sure what they put in those pellets so I'll hold off until I can research that better.

I'm also sowing some quinoa and amaranth as an experiment. I just don't have enough grow space to plant wheat or oats and expect to get much from them. I am doing vetch, summer oats, field peas and buckwheat as cover crops though and tractor the chickens on those beds when they are ready.

Growing food for the chickens just has to take a backseat to food for us since I'm doing my best to maximize my 1/5 acre. We are getting close to growing everything we need save for the grains, dairy & meat but thanks to local farmers like you, dungeness and Lentz and Bluebird I don't feel the need for that. I heart ya Bruce!