Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Last bag of crumbles

We are attempting to make the transition from processed to less processed and more local feeds. The reasons for this are numerous, the first obviously being the health of our animals (keeping in mind that eventually we are eating whatever they eat, (in the form of eggs, meat or milk), we are also trying to support local (at least Alaskan) farmers and lessen the amount of fuel consumption we are responsible for, as most everything gets transported into Fairbanks by train or truck. Our long term goal is to be able to produce our own animal feed; working towards self-sufficiency and food independence.  Farmers have been successful in growing oats and barley in interior Alaska, wheat, corn and legumes are more challenging and harvests are marginal. We see a lot of brome hay and some straw grown here. Most of the alfalfa, timothy and other grasses are brought in from Canada or Washington. I've ordered small amounts of oats, barley, alfalfa, field peas and winter rye to experiment with this summer in small plots around the property. If we are not able to harvest the grain at least these cover crops will add nutrients to the soil and they provide fresh browse for the animals. It will be a while, and possibly a different piece of property before we have the space to grow the majority of our own feed.

For now I'll be happy if I can break my existing addiction to processed commercial animal feeds. I've been researching chicken feed formulas for over a year now, since before we had our first batch of chicks. The majority components of their diet is whole grains. There are so many possible additives and supplements that I'm not going to go into right now. I'm just going to list my first feed formula, and then in the future I'll list modifications, I'm sure that the feed recipes I use will be ever evolving and changing depending on the type of year and what age and type of birds I'm feeding. But as of this week the following is what I mixed up in a hundred pound batch: 30 Ib cracked corn, 20 Ib whole red winter wheat berries, 10 Ib whole oats and 10 Ib whole barley (both from Delta),10 Ib alfalfa meal, 5 Ib Alaskan Salmon Meal, 4 Ib kelp meal, 4 Ib flax seed, 1 Ib salt, which adds up to just shy of a hundred pounds. I also sprouted wheat berries and millet this week and gave them daily. The chickens have free access to grit and oyster shell. We also feed them a lot of bread and vegetable scraps. 

What is missing from their diet at the moment is a form of yeast supplement and probiotic. Two ingredients that would be in their crumbles. I think that better than buy dried packaged stale yeast and probios, I'm going to feed the chickens kefired raw goat milk daily. I have been playing around with kefir grains and I'd been planning on feeding extra goat milk, so why not kefir it daily. Kefiring milk adds both yeast and probiotics in a symbiotic relationship which is pretty special. To read more about the health benefits of kefir, check out Dom's kefir making site @ . 

Ideally the chickens diet will vary, I'd like to add in various grains and legumes to each recipe, I'll probably reduce the wheat berries because they are so expensive, and the oats and barley are only suppose to make up 15 percent of their total feed. So I'd like to add ten pounds of various high protein grains and legumes such as, peas, lentils, amaranth, quinuoa and millet, to each batch. So far the chickens pick out the corn and whole grains leaving the meals behind. I think this is a pretty good starter recipe to work from. I'll be feeding less corn in the summer. The hardest part of making a feed is probably coming up with a good protein source, ideally this would be live worms, larva or bugs of some sort. There is a lot of controversy surrounding soy meal, although that is probably one of the most used protein ingredients. Meat and Fish meals are also somewhat controvertial, but I feel pretty safe using an Alaskan Salmon meal. The alfalfa meal is also high in protein. We may just switch and give them fresh alfalfa hay a couple times a week, it is better for them and they prefer it. I can probably save exploring other feed ideas for a different post, but here are the main sites I used in researching this subject: 


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