Whether you homestead on a large scale or small, livestock feed is expensive. To be fair, raising livestock in general is expensive. But with the holidays on us, plus supply chain issues and inflation, saving money is becoming more and more important. So here are the 5 ways we save money on livestock feed.
How To Save Money On Livestock Feed
- Just Add Water
- Grow it
- Microgreens or Sprouts- Another great way to stretch feed
- Buy in bulk
- Reduce animal numbers.
You could also make your own, but that is an entire post all on it’s own so make sure you subscribe below to be updated on that post!
Let’s talk about each one of these a little more in depth.
Before we get too far into this, I have a great course on the basics of goat care. I call it Goat Crash Course: Goat 101. In this course, I explain things like types of shelter, types of feeds and hays, basic assessments and so much more! Check it out!
Just Add Water
Soaking feed is number one for a reason. It is hands down the easiest, cheapest and fastest way to stretch your feed. All you need is a 5 gallon bucket with a tight lid for each different feed you plan to soak. For example: I soak/ ferment pig, chicken and goat feed, plus alfalfa and beet pulp, which I do together. So I have 4 buckets.
What’s the difference between soaking and fermenting? Time. If you leave your feed for too long in a bucket it should ferment. And if you leave it too long past that, it will mold. We soak our pig feed and the alfalfa/beet pulp overnight. The chickens and goats get fermented feed that we start 2-3 days prior and then add more as we go.
PS: if you ferment your pig feed for too long, or if there is corn in the feed, you will have drunk pigs…. Don’t ask how I know.
Right now growing isn’t as easy because it’s winter. But growing crops for your animals is hands down the cheapest way to reduce feed costs. In fact, I would dare say that if you have enough property, or not a lot of animals, you could feasibly never buy a bag of feed. Between grasses for grazing, pasture rotation, and then expanding your garden to grow corn, barley, buckwheat, winter squashes, and more, you could never buy a bag of feed. This could save you thousands of dollars a year for just a few seed packets. You can get almost all of your seeds from Territorial Seed Company or Eden Brothers.
What kind of fodder crops should you grow for your animals? That really depends on what animals you have and what they can eat. But corn is a great plant that is easy-ish to grow, store and feed out. Another good plant is pumpkins, and our animals love it. Winter squashes are another really great veggie that does well despite most attempts to kill it. It’s very easy to store and will last a long time in proper conditions. Another good option is putting your animals in your gardens after harvest. They can get all the left over yummies in there and clear your garden at the same time.
This one can get very in depth and long winded. But to give you the highlights: take a tray, add soil, add microgreen seeds (densely packed), and then soak. With proper lighting and care you can grow fodder for your chickens and even pigs and goats. The 104 Homestead has a great post on sprouting barley. The Homesteading RD also has a great post on the different microgreens and the process of growing them. Just make sure that your animals can eat the greens. Rainbow Heirloom Seed Co. has some great seeds on Amazon.
What kind and how much to feed? Honestly, we are just starting out with our microgreens and there just isn’t that much information out there on feeding microgreens to livestock. But I will say this, we are growing greens that they can eat the plant or seed of. So if goats can eat broccoli we will feed them half a tray of broccoli microgreens and see what happens. I’ll post more when we know more or find more research of it.
Buy In Bulk
Buying bulk depends completely on two things; your ability to load/unload and your ability to store. When I talk about buying in bulk, I’m talking about half ton totes like these. We have neither so buying in bulk isn’t really a good option for us per se. But we do get a discount on how many pounds of feed we buy at a time. At our feed store if we buy a total of 500# of feed, we get a discount on all of the feed. It doesn’t matter if it’s pig, chicken and goat. I can move and store 10 50# bags of feed, I cannot do that with a ton of pig, a ton of chicken and a ton of goat feed.
What do you need to load/unload and store? Dolly’s to start if you are planning to store in 55gal drums. But if you are buying those big 1 ton totes? You’ll need pallets, pallet jack, and probably a tractor to get it off the delivery truck. There are places that you can go and fill 55 gallon drums but you have to find them first.
Another caveat to this is to shop around. While I absolutely adore Tractor Supply, I cannot afford $25-30 for a 50# bag of chicken feed. Not when I can get a better quality for half the price at my feed store. So ask other homesteaders/farmers in your area where they go for feed.
The other thing that buying in bulk helps with is reducing the amount of feed bags laying around your garage….. Not that I have that problem.
Reduce Your Animal Numbers
No one wants to talk about this, and for good reason. I don’t want to cull, sell or give away any of my animals. But the reality is that we can’t keep around animals simply because they are cute. If an animal doesn’t have a purpose, they don’t stay on the farm. The best way to save money on feed is to not have so many animals to feed. It’s just the cold hard truth. If you are trying to reduce your spending, buying feed from the feed store isn’t going to reduce your spending.
If you are having trouble choosing who needs to go, ask your self this: who is the oldest? Who is the meanest? Who is the fattest? Who is the hardest to handle? This should start to help you narrow it down a bit. Again, while not ideal and it breaks my heart, I know who is on the chopping block if we ever get to that point.
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