The cured vetch and red clover add food value to the bundles of grain we feed to the chickens, they eat the greens as readily as the grain, and the mixture of greens helps to balance the calcium/phosphorous content of their feed and provides much needed Vitamin A, which can be seen by the deep yellow of their egg yolks. The chickens make quick work of the grain, served in bundles with a box underneath to catch fallen grains and heads. When they have cleaned off all of the heads, the remaining straw is put down as bedding or nesting material, and turned into compost for the garden. The wheat we grew this year is of a higher quality than I can buy from the local bulk store, or the local organic grain mill, which means that it is above 14% protein, perhaps up to 16% protein. Typical feed wheat is between 10-12%. Our high-quality grains mean that we do not need any protein supplements like soya meal (which causes thyroid problems) or linseed meal (which usually contains rancid oil residue).
These are our young pullets, hatched out this summer, from our Isa Brown hens (a common industrial laying hen from a Rhode Island Red crossed with Rhode Island White) and a Plymouth Barred Rock rooster. There are four distinct colorings: black barred, white with grey bars, white with red wing coloring, and red with white feather tips.
The oats are fed mostly to the horse, who eats them straw, chaff and all, and the goats who nibble off the grain heads, leaving the coarse straw behind. Feeding the oats with the chaff or hulls pretty much eliminates the chances of colic in either the horse or the goats. These oats are about 12% protein, but they also contain more sugars and oils than the wheat, which are necessary for the goats who are producing kids as well as keeping warm.
The winter rye was ready to harvest in early August. We planted only 1/4 acre of rye, so we harvested it with a hand sickle, and stuffed it into feed bags, stacked in the barn. The straw of rye is a high quality bedding, it was used to thatch roofs and make horse collars, etc. meaning that it does not readily break down or absorb moisture. We use the straw to bed down the goats, a foot of this underneath them makes for incredible insulation, and they can nest down into it on cold nights.
The goats also make quick work of picking off the rye heads, their nimble mouths find each and every one, leaving behind the valuable straw. Rye is similar to wheat in protein content.
Another feed crop we grew this summer: mangles or fodder beets. They grow just like beets, but much bigger, and higher in sugars and fiber. The green tops were greedily gobbled down by the goats after harvesting the roots. And the roots are stored in our cold room with the carrots and other root crops. The mangles contain some protein, but are primarily a source of energy or sugars, as well as a treat that definitely gets their appetite and digestion working.
We feed the two of them 3-4 lbs a day, chopped and lightly cooked with a tablespoon of molasses. Served warm this way, around 10 am, it provides energy in the morning after a cold night. We do not serve them the mangles first thing in the morning because the goat's ability to produce body heat comes from the digestion of fibers (ie. hay), not sugars. Goats can easily get a chill by eating concentrates (ie. grain or fodder/roots) on an empty stomach. So we give them a chance to get a good belly full of fresh leafy hay in the morning before the mangles and molasses. Pilgrim likes a bite of this too. The molasses also works as a preventive for Ketosis, a metabolic disorder of pregnant or recently kidded goats in which they do not have enough metabolized energy to cover the demands placed on their body. This is just a general definition, for more specific information about ketosis, please read about it from a credible book or website.
Here they are nose-first in the mangles, notice how Penelope's tail (the one in the front) is held straight up, showing her pleasure and appetite. You can also see in the picture the bulges they are growing, late in their pregnancy. Juniper, the little one, is growing well. She especially needs a high-quality diet since she is not only producing a kid or two, but is still growing to full maturity. She is coming along well, both of them have put on thick downy coats, are bright-eyed and have a ready appetite, and have laid down some condition, which they will need to draw upon in the first month of lactation.
Molasses mouth, licking off every last drop.