Currently we have enough hay and feed to get through December and January. That will leave February and March for us to buy hay. I'm hoping that Spring babies, fiber, and milk products will bring in enough to pay for winter hay, grain for does and the occasional mineral block, which are the only costs I have for keeping my goats. Already I can predict how much my goats will cost per year to keep ($55 hay + grain for 4 months, and $15 grain for 8 months = $340).
Cost Cutting With Free Resources
My goal this winter is to stretch the hay as much as possible. In order to do this, I'm using some alternative feeds that I can get for free here on our property. You wouldn't believe how many different plants you can feed goats. They really do eat anything! Fias Co Farm has a list of poisonous plants to avoid feeding goats, and also a list of plants that goats will eat. I used this list as a guideline for feeding my goats.
When To Harvest
I am still learning and experimenting with alternative animal feeds. There were several things I could have grown or harvested this summer, which I obviously missed. Many people feed pumpkins or winter squash, and there is something called "tree hay" which is basically tree branches that are harvested while still green and then dried like hay. I could have done this with willow and maple leaves, but I wasn't aware that it was an option.
Earlier this fall I walked our property and harvested the sumac and curly dock, but the corn stalks and pine branches were harvested after our first snow. The apples were harvested just before it snowed, so they wouldn't be all mushy.
One thing I didn't mention in my video was feeding kitchen scraps and rotting garden produce. The chickens are really the ones who appreciate the scraps- potato peelings, veggie ends, loose leaf tea, egg shells, etc. However, the goats will also go for things like lettuce or even squash. While Hubs and I will be eating most of our winter squash, I had a lot of volunteer cushaw pumpkin this year that we will probably not eat. This, then, will probably be eaten by the animals.
Whatever you do, don't give too much of something. I remember earlier this fall dumping a whole pile of apples in the pasture. My goats went crazy! Unfortunately the next day they had soft poop and my doe would not eat any of her grain. Thankfully it was just a tummy ache for my goats, but since then I've given treats more sparingly.
To feed branches, stalks and other branches, I just put a armful in the hay feeder beside the flakes of hay. I feed the sumac fruits by hand, as a treat. This is helpful for winning a goat's love. :)
Have you experimented with alternative animal feed? What was the outcome?