Thursday 6 September 2012

Grain Hungry

One of our greatest vulnerabilities is our lack of capacity to provide food for our animals.
The self-sufficiency books suggest that animal feed is easy to produce.
I'm not so sure that it's necessarily simple.

Typical farms have fields of course, while we are still working on making some arable land.
Even if we had some fields, it would still be a dominating endeavour to grow and mix enough variety to keep everyone fed all year long.

We buy all of our feed from Merrylynd organics.
They are an hour away, but considering the extent of large organic grain farms,
we're fortunate to have one so close.

But we are dependant on their ability to provide the feed we need.
Certainly, that is their business, and as such, they are specialists.
And I feel as though we would be left unable to keep livestock if Merrylynd was out of action.

The space where the big pigs were this year is close to being ready for growing some grain.
Quinoa is my first a choice, though we will need a mix of grains, if only to keep a good crop rotation.
Reining in our livestock numbers would also be helpful.

Summer and Autumn are fairly good producers of natural forage.
The problem is that a dry year, such as the current one, reduces the amount of natural forage available.
Even the plan to harvest insects as a protein source for chickens would have let us down this year.

I suppose that we need to try growing some grains first, before deciding that it will be difficult.
Chickens will do fine on greens when things are green, but they are graminivores;
they do need grains for a balanced diet.

Ideally, I would prefer to grow fish as our main protein source.
The feed conversion ratio is superior, and choosing herbivoracious would eliminate the need for growing large amounts of grain.
The long term plan never did include large numbers of livestock, but animals are an integral part of natural systems, and should be part of the farm.

What I do know for sure is that as long as we must import so much animal feed,
we are unable to be completely self-reliant.
And after two years of heavy grain buying, it's time to re-evaluate where those resources should be directed.

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