Thursday, May 31, 2012

Foraging

Now that winter is over and things are growing, I've been doing lots of foraging for food for the animals.  I spend a few minutes twice a day gathering plants from our property for feeding the rabbits.  Mostly I pull grass, clover, plantain, dandelion, lambs quarters, and paper mulberry leaves.  I give each rabbit a good bit of vegetation twice a day, and they love it. Well, most of them do.  Then I supplement with hay and rabbit pellets.  It's so neat learning which rabbits prefer which foods.

This rabbit below is my small buck (for sale, if you're looking for a nice bunny).  He gets a few greens, but he doesn't really care for them much.  He prefers his pellets, and sometimes he'll eat hay. 


















This is Radish, my American Chinchilla/Silver Fox buck.  He loves, loves, loves anything I pick for him.  His favorite is paper mulberry, but he also loves the other stuff too.   He doesn't care for hay as much.


















This is Parsnip, my female who has not yet been bred.  She enjoys her greens too, but she adores hay.  I can put a big handful in for her breakfast and it'll be gone by afternoon.  She likes pellets too of course.  They all love pellets. 

















This is Turnip and her 12 babies.  They devour everything I put in front of them.  They LOVE greens and pellets.  They'll eat hay, but they save it for last.  I give them as many greens as I think they can eat, plus hay, plus pellets.  The other rabbits only get pellets as a supplement, and usually only once a day or every other day.  Turnip and her babies get lots of feed since she's lactating and they're growing. That's a lot of hungry mouths to feed!

















If you've noticed, there are some veggie scraps in their cages too.  I've been getting food scraps from a local restaurant for the pigs, and the rabbits get treats out of that bucket too.  Usually it'll be carrots, but sometimes it's celery or romaine lettuce. 

















I love feeding time because it's like an army of miniature bunnies chewing.  Cute!

















Here's a video of them eating:


Here's a close-up of the food bowl.  It's got a lot of plantain in it, because the rabbits seem to really like it and it's a good food source for them.


































The chickens forage too.  They spend the day in their yard, but I let them out in the evenings to forage. They used to be totally free-range until they started pooping all over the deck and destroying my garden!

















And even though the pigs are in a pen, they still get foraged feed.  Several times a week I go to the local restaurant to pick up the scraps.  I have 2 buckets, and leave one with them. Then I just swap out the full bucket for the empty one.  Usually it's a lot of vegetables, but sometimes there will be french fries or other things.  The pigs didn't like fries until just recently.  I guess they've decided they're pretty tasty.  They are good, too.  Sometimes I order fries from there since I work right nextdoor!  They're actually real fries, which you don't find very often at restaurants. 

















I was also offered the "seconds" veggies from a local veggie farm, so I'll be picking those up starting soon.  I also contacted a local bakery and a local donut shop for scraps.  I picked up a bag of donuts this morning that were going to get thrown out last night, but they saved them for me.  I know donuts aren't the healthiest thing to eat, but it'll fatten up pigs and it's a small part of their otherwise healthy diet.  In addition to the scraps, the pigs also get a hefty amount of goat milk and some pig feed.  Goat milk is their favorite, followed by romaine lettuce. 

















The sheep and goats also forage for their food, in a more traditional way...grazing.  Since I have more sheep and goats than my acreage can support, I have to be careful that the sheep don't destroy the pasture.  I do this  by using a sacrifice lot (a small area of their pasture I fence them in to keep them off the main pasture), and I often have to supplement with hay and sometimes grain.  Right now, our grass is growing pretty well since we haven't hit drought season yet.  I've been moving the sheep around the pasture and yard to take advantage of the free feed.  They're not eating any grain, and very minimal hay (mainly for the goats), which is ideal. 

















The electric netting fence is essential to the rotational grazing for me.  I got mine from Premier, and I'm very happy with it. 

















And since they graze a large portion of the lawn, it's less grass we have to mow! (Those are the lambs in the picture above.)

Feeding the animals like this takes a lot more time and effort than just giving them feed out of a bag, but it's healtheir for them and also healtheir for our budget!  Not a single bit of our food goes to waste either. Between the pigs, chickens, goats, and rabbits, everything is eaten!  I'm not against using bagged feeds, because I still use bagged feed. I'd just rather feed free food if I can!  So many "weeds" are actually wonderful feeds for animals.  I mentioned paper mulberry earlier in the post.  We have a HUGE hedgerow of it one one side of our property, and we used to think it was a nuisance. It's an invasive weed, and it took us a while to figure out what it was. We read that it is native to Asia, and is used to make paper and also feed deer.  The animals love it, all of them.  It's so prolific that I could feed armfuls of it every day and it would still persist.  It's now fed to the animals and cut back to keep it in check, but I don't want to totally eradicate it.  Lemons into lemonade, and all that.  :-)

Oh, and I forgot.  Sometimes we forage for food on our property too!  Last night I picked a bowl full of sour cherries from the tree in the pasture, and made a cherry crisp that was so delicious!  I love free food!

3 comments:

Becky said...

Fantastic!! Such healthy animals eating such great food! Those baby bunnies are getting so big! They're so cute! Are they still nursing? 12 bunnies don't seem like much when they're tiny in a nesting box but they sure fill up a cage now, don't they! :)
Nice job!!

Jennifer said...

Great job & post Katie. I love free food too! All your animals are healthy & eat good. Everyone is so pretty.

Deb said...

What a great post about using resources wisely, taking livestock as close to their natural diet as possible, and living off the land! Great job and I am very very proud of you, you hardworking gal! Love, Momma

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