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.

Final thoughts

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.

If you’re farming with animals, you’re likely to be dealing with large volumes of animal waste. And considering how often animals graze, it’s mandatory to have an effective manure management plan in place to distribute this waste in areas where it’s needed most. You might think it’s easier to dump it elsewhere, but with the right knowledge, you could use it as valuable nutrients for your crops and soil.

If you leave the manure untouched, it can pollute your environment and have a negative impact on your animals, the community and your workers’ health. Farmers are encouraged to collect any manure lying around, load it onto their fertiliser spreader and strategically spread the material onto your farmlands. Depending on the size of your farm and the amount of fertiliser needed to be distributed, you will need to have a precision tool in place to assist you in accurately spreading your manure on targeted areas.

The main manure management approaches used are known as on-pasture management, composting and stockpiling for storage or removal purposes. Each technique has its own benefits, therefore it is recommended that farmers choose a variety of techniques to help yield positive results.

Here are three ways to utilise your livestock’s manure effectively:

On-pasture management

This is commonly used for organic farming as the raw manure does not get tested. In fact, it’s a very simple, natural process as the waste material is collected and distributed without adding any further chemicals or minerals to remove any weeds or pests to improve a particular issue. Bear in mind that large amounts of waste in one area will not benefit the soil or plants grown below, so make sure that the manure you collect is evenly spread across an area if you want to see positive results.

This low-cost approach does not require heavy farm implements or materials to manoeuvre aside from a fertiliser spreader to assist you in the moving process. On-pasture manure management is ideal when you make use of rotational grazing with your livestock, as it gives your soil an opportunity to absorb the necessary vitamins and minerals, namely phosphates, nitrogen and potassium. If manure is monitored and you choose to use your animal’s waste as a tool to help restore your pasture, you will help the land to return to its original state before grazing took place. Make sure it’s evenly spread for the best results.

Composting management

This approach requires you to treat existing animal manure by actively adding in any minerals or nutrients that are missing in raw animal manure. The purpose of this approach is to balance out the manure in such a way that the compost applied to a specific area can easily break down the organic matter available without burning or killing any important soil or plant nutrients which are needed for your pasture’s health.  

It is also recommended that you use compost for a particular reason. For example, if you have experienced a lack of minerals in your soil or you’re experiencing an influx of weeds. This will then help to reduce those concerns while treating the area. Before you begin placing your compost down, it’s important to till your area with the correct farm tillage equipment to prepare your soil. It’s also important to note that composting works best with fresh manure, so try and monitor your animals and when you see a slight buildup of manure, be sure to remove it immediately and proceed with your composting procedure.

Stockpiling management

Stockpiling can be used for your own storage purposes, for instance, to use when needed, or it can be collected to sell to other farms in the area. This process is popular for farmers which only use fertiliser over the summer months and halt farming operations over the winter. However, if you choose to store your animal waste, keep it in a dry area where it cannot become contaminated. Have a clear plan on when you choose to use your stored manure as it can lose effectiveness over long periods of time.

With livestock farming, it’s important to note the lifestyle effects that stressful animal handling can have on your cattle and their physical wellbeing. While it might not seem that way, animals, much like humans, experience the same type of emotional stress when they’re uncomfortable in certain situations.

When animals feel threatened or unsafe in a particular environment, they will start to develop health issues which is visible in their physical conditions. Not only is this detrimental to their health, but also to your business growth as stressful livestock handling can result in sick animals and poor meat conditions.

Understanding why low-stress handling is important  

Livestock which is treated poorly will start to show physical signs in their growth and reproduction potential. These two factors will stunt your business’ growth, as you will not be able to deliver high-quality meat from your production. When you handle animals in large groups, it’s important to speak to professionals and learn more about the animals you have. This will help you to adjust your handling approach.  

If they feel that you’re invading their personal space, their fight or flight mode will start to kick in. Usually, they will start to become stressed out and run away from the rest of the herd, but if you have enough experience in dealing with these moments, you will be able to plan accordingly for a successful handling. The right way would be to move animals in such a way that they feel comfortable and relaxed before, during and after the handling. If you or your cattle handlers are inexperienced and handle your herd incorrectly, it could put you in danger and increase your chances of an unwanted injury.

Here are a few tips to consider when handling your livestock.

Take as much time as you need: Be it for rotational grazing purposes, leading them to a new feed or to restore your pasture, you need to take time and allow them to settle down before moving them. When there is a lot of movement around them, they start to sense that something is strange, which will already cause them to feel stressed out or anxious. In order to succeed with this entire process, you need to be able to move around their pen in a calm manner, without agitating them.  

Don’t force cattle into small areas: Because livestock will already start to feel stressed out and agitated from the minute you create noise or movement around them, the last thing you need to do is overcrowd the area you’re moving them to or move them into a tight area where you put cows and calves together. Wherever you move them, they should still be able to move around freely without feeling restricted.

Eliminate loud noises around cattle: As briefly mentioned, livestock can be sensitive to loud noises or strange movements they’re unfamiliar with. Try to keep your actions and farm equipment as quiet as possible. For example, avoid starting up machinery or allowing several handlers to walk around them at once. Raising your voice can make cows feel pressured, therefore, be sure to move slowly around them.

Keep livestock together: When you handle your livestock, try to work with groups of animals at a time. But stay away from overcrowding spaces. Do not isolate your animals and face them one-on-one as this will cause them to feel stressed out and scared. Another tip when keeping animals together is to always transport animals in a group. However, make sure to stock your trailer with less than it accommodates.

Final thoughts

As you can see, low-stress handling is essential for business success. If your animals are healthy and well cared for, you will be able to increase sales and boost your bottom line. Effective handling will come in handy for a variety of reasons. For example, when moving your cattle to a new pasture or adapting them to your new horizontal feed mixer design. If you want to introduce sustainable feeding methods, which will also add to your cattle’s health in its entirety, look at buying a feed mixer from Radium’s range of Matrix Feed Mixers. This way, you will be able to mix your own feed and keep your animals healthy. All it takes is some extra effort and time to understand your livestock’s behaviour, their needs and how to improve their performance. With the right farming equipment and knowledge, you will have a profitable herd.