By Emily Folk
The health and happiness of your farm animals will largely depend on how you feed them. Whether you're tending to your cows, pigs, goats, chickens or sheep, you need to take a special approach to their diet. Proper nutrition will keep them strong, healthy and happy.
Unfortunately, you don't have a one-size-fits-all solution for animal feed. Every species of animal is different with unique characteristics, and you have to acknowledge these distinctions if you're going to manage your livestock successfully. The right type of feed for a chicken isn't the right type of feed for a goat, and vice versa.
So what should you keep in mind when you're feeding your farm animals? What do you need to know? We'll provide an overview of the subject to guide you in the right direction.
Your cows should enjoy a good pasture, irrigated and deep in grass. A nutrient-rich type of grass is best, and you can supplement these meals with lucerne hay or chaff. They're highly nutritious and will provide your cows with the necessary roughage.
Dairy meal and dairy pellets are also an option if you'd like to improve your cows' milk production. They're a positive addition to their diet if you're hoping to boost their output. As for any foods you should avoid, meat is high at the top of the list — a recurring theme you'll see with many farm animals.
Pigs are omnivores and will eat a diverse variety of food if you let them. Though they're not exactly picky, grain and pasture should constitute their main feed. A balanced diet might consist of around 20% to 40% sun dried lucerne meal for growing pigs.
Green forage is also popular among pigs, and they can go through 4 to 5 kilograms a day. Corn is an important supplement, and potatoes, beans and soybeans are also fine if you cook them. Pigs are usually averse to onions, turnip tops and citrus peels, and you should avoid meat scraps since they may cause disease.
Chickens will benefit from feed in crumble form, as pellets are often too difficult for them to eat. This is an important precaution if you're raising baby chickens, as they'll have a hard time handling your average feed. Regardless, you should make crumble feed a free-choice option once your chickens have fully grown.
Whatever your reasons for raising a flock of chickens, your feed should provide a sufficient amount of energy, proteins and vitamins. You can feed them wheat, corn, meat meal, fish meal and fresh greens, or you could invest in a feed that covers their nutritional requirements. Whatever you choose, show restraint with table scraps.
Your goats can pasture on anything from green grass to hardy shrubs, but that doesn't mean they aren't sensitive to changes in their diet. You may run into issues if you make drastic changes all at once or feed them large amounts of something unfamiliar. Just give them time to adjust.
Concerning the contents of their diet, hay is the main source of nutrients for goats when they're apart from their range. Chaffhaye is a good substitute, and a 50-pound bag is equivalent to 85 to 100 pounds of hay. Grain feed can help supplement your goats' meals, while loose minerals are great to offer free-choice.
Sheep feed comes in several forms: pelleted feed from milled ingredients, sweet feed in the form of fresh grains and pellets or block feed, which are milled ingredients in solid blocks. Any of these options will work, but the percentages of protein, fat and fiber will differ from feed to feed.
Make sure you're getting the right type of feed for your particular animals, and remember a few basic rules for feeding sheep. Roughage should account for the majority of feed, and concentrates can provide enough nutrition to maintain proper body condition during breeding season and times of peak production.
Your Animals Are in Good Hands
As long as you follow the guidelines above, you'll ensure the good health of your farm animals. Just remember the details of their individual diets and continue with confidence. Your cows, pigs, chickens, goats and sheep are in good hands.
About the author: Emily is a sustainability writer and avid gardener. You can read more of her work on her site, Conservation Folks, where she writes about helping tomorrow’s planet today.