Growing your own vegetables for livestock feed is a viable solution for farmers who have limited access to high-quality feed due to ongoing drought conditions. Depending on where your farm is situated, the availability of feed might be limited, meaning that it will become more expensive to feed your animals.
Making your own feed is affordable. It also means that you have complete control over the nutrients your animals are consuming, and you can test and adjust your approach accordingly to suit their needs. While it might seem like a challenging task, there are plenty of vegetables and crops to choose from that will add the much-needed vitamins and minerals to your animals’ diet. In order to get started, all you need is the correct farm equipment to mix your feed in and the correct crop seeds to begin your harvest.
Because you’re not utilising these vegetables to sell or to consume yourself, the pressure of picking your vegetables fresh is less. So, if you choose to grow your vegetables in bulk, mix them in your feed mixer equipment and store the feed for later use, make sure that your feed is stored in a dry area to avoid anything from spoiling it. Here are the most popular vegetables and crops used for livestock feed:
Corn and grazing corn
Maize is a popular choice for livestock as it provides your animals with a high-energy diet, and can be consumed by all ages. This forms a staple for any animal’s diet, as it helps animals to digest their food easily and deliver healthy waste. Due to water shortages, the availability of corn is starting to become scarce. If you grow your own, you will be able to reduce costs significantly, without having to supplement your livestock feed with other chemical protein options to make up for the lack of maize in their diets.
If you choose to allow your animals to graze their corn intake over mixing it into their feed, you will need to manage their intake daily and rotate your livestock when corn gets below a certain height. The reason for this is that it can affect your livestock’s digestion, leading to health issues if not monitored properly. Many animals enjoy feeding off of the crop residue left behind after a crop harvest, but this also needs to be monitored as it is not recommended for growing calves and lactating or pregnant females. The nutritional value is low, therefore it could affect their growth and the health of females significantly.
Sweet corn and dent corn
Sweet corn is suitable for livestock, however, if not used promptly, it can become contaminated quickly due to its high sugar content. Sweet corn is moist in comparison to grazing corn, which can serve as a helpful binding agent when mixing food together in a mixer. This type of corn should be shared with livestock in moderation as large volumes of high-sugar feed can lead to digestive problems. This is not ideal for livestock as it can affect their stomachs and cause them to bloat. When their digestive system is not in good condition, their immune systems drop and can become vulnerable to diseases.
Dent corn is known to be a traditional animal feed. It is identified as a dry, cornmeal kernel, slim in look and yellow in colour. This type of corn is a cost-effective feed option for farmers looking to cut costs and reduce waste because it is disease-resistant. Because of its dryness in texture, it’s easy to grow and it requires minimal water, making it an ideal feed option for farmers during the winter months.
Pumpkins, squash and other root crops
It’s recommended that you grow pumpkin and squash to feed your animals during the winter months. These sweet crops are filled with good fats, high-fibre and protein for your animals. When fed with other dry ingredients, animals are kept full for longer and their bodies can withstand dry, cold conditions. It is necessary that you remove the seeds and the skin before mixing it into your mixer, helping them to digest the content easier. You can also store these crops in a cool environment for later consumption.
Many root crops contain plenty of water, therefore they need to be mixed with dry materials before fed to your animals. Root crops such as potatoes and carrots are particularly popular for animals, however, they take some time to get used to as they contain laxatives that may have a negative effect on certain age groups of animals. If possible, try and introduce these elements over a certain period of time to ensure your animals slowly get used to them without shocking their digestive systems.
In addition to standard hay that your animals find on their pasture, try and grow your own crops to ensure your animals are consuming the nutrients they need. Depending on the size of your herd, you should invest in a feed mixer to help mix the correct ratio of food for your animals. There are plenty of options available, for example, a vertical feed mixer or Radium’s Horizontal Feed Mixer design. Your choice depends on your needs, but it’s an important piece of farm equipment if you’re working with livestock.