Growing your own vegetables for livestock feed is a viable solution for farmers who have limited access to high-quality feed due to ongoing drought conditions. Depending on where your farm is situated, the availability of feed might be limited, meaning that it will become more expensive to feed your animals.
Making your own feed is affordable. It also means that you have complete control over the nutrients your animals are consuming, and you can test and adjust your approach accordingly to suit their needs. While it might seem like a challenging task, there are plenty of vegetables and crops to choose from that will add the much-needed vitamins and minerals to your animals’ diet. In order to get started, all you need is the correct farm equipment to mix your feed in and the correct crop seeds to begin your harvest.
Because you’re not utilising these vegetables to sell or to consume yourself, the pressure of picking your vegetables fresh is less. So, if you choose to grow your vegetables in bulk, mix them in your feed mixer equipment and store the feed for later use, make sure that your feed is stored in a dry area to avoid anything from spoiling it. Here are the most popular vegetables and crops used for livestock feed:
Corn and grazing corn
Maize is a popular choice for livestock as it provides your animals with a high-energy diet, and can be consumed by all ages. This forms a staple for any animal’s diet, as it helps animals to digest their food easily and deliver healthy waste. Due to water shortages, the availability of corn is starting to become scarce. If you grow your own, you will be able to reduce costs significantly, without having to supplement your livestock feed with other chemical protein options to make up for the lack of maize in their diets.
If you choose to allow your animals to graze their corn intake over mixing it into their feed, you will need to manage their intake daily and rotate your livestock when corn gets below a certain height. The reason for this is that it can affect your livestock’s digestion, leading to health issues if not monitored properly. Many animals enjoy feeding off of the crop residue left behind after a crop harvest, but this also needs to be monitored as it is not recommended for growing calves and lactating or pregnant females. The nutritional value is low, therefore it could affect their growth and the health of females significantly.
Sweet corn and dent corn
Sweet corn is suitable for livestock, however, if not used promptly, it can become contaminated quickly due to its high sugar content. Sweet corn is moist in comparison to grazing corn, which can serve as a helpful binding agent when mixing food together in a mixer. This type of corn should be shared with livestock in moderation as large volumes of high-sugar feed can lead to digestive problems. This is not ideal for livestock as it can affect their stomachs and cause them to bloat. When their digestive system is not in good condition, their immune systems drop and can become vulnerable to diseases.
Dent corn is known to be a traditional animal feed. It is identified as a dry, cornmeal kernel, slim in look and yellow in colour. This type of corn is a cost-effective feed option for farmers looking to cut costs and reduce waste because it is disease-resistant. Because of its dryness in texture, it’s easy to grow and it requires minimal water, making it an ideal feed option for farmers during the winter months.
Pumpkins, squash and other root crops
It’s recommended that you grow pumpkin and squash to feed your animals during the winter months. These sweet crops are filled with good fats, high-fibre and protein for your animals. When fed with other dry ingredients, animals are kept full for longer and their bodies can withstand dry, cold conditions. It is necessary that you remove the seeds and the skin before mixing it into your mixer, helping them to digest the content easier. You can also store these crops in a cool environment for later consumption.
Many root crops contain plenty of water, therefore they need to be mixed with dry materials before fed to your animals. Root crops such as potatoes and carrots are particularly popular for animals, however, they take some time to get used to as they contain laxatives that may have a negative effect on certain age groups of animals. If possible, try and introduce these elements over a certain period of time to ensure your animals slowly get used to them without shocking their digestive systems.
In addition to standard hay that your animals find on their pasture, try and grow your own crops to ensure your animals are consuming the nutrients they need. Depending on the size of your herd, you should invest in a feed mixer to help mix the correct ratio of food for your animals. There are plenty of options available, for example, a vertical feed mixer or Radium’s Horizontal Feed Mixer design. Your choice depends on your needs, but it’s an important piece of farm equipment if you’re working with livestock.
If you’re farming with animals, you’re likely to be dealing with large volumes of animal waste. And considering how often animals graze, it’s mandatory to have an effective manure management plan in place to distribute this waste in areas where it’s needed most. You might think it’s easier to dump it elsewhere, but with the right knowledge, you could use it as valuable nutrients for your crops and soil.
If you leave the manure untouched, it can pollute your environment and have a negative impact on your animals, the community and your workers’ health. Farmers are encouraged to collect any manure lying around, load it onto their fertiliser spreader and strategically spread the material onto your farmlands. Depending on the size of your farm and the amount of fertiliser needed to be distributed, you will need to have a precision tool in place to assist you in accurately spreading your manure on targeted areas.
The main manure management approaches used are known as on-pasture management, composting and stockpiling for storage or removal purposes. Each technique has its own benefits, therefore it is recommended that farmers choose a variety of techniques to help yield positive results.
Here are three ways to utilise your livestock’s manure effectively:
This is commonly used for organic farming as the raw manure does not get tested. In fact, it’s a very simple, natural process as the waste material is collected and distributed without adding any further chemicals or minerals to remove any weeds or pests to improve a particular issue. Bear in mind that large amounts of waste in one area will not benefit the soil or plants grown below, so make sure that the manure you collect is evenly spread across an area if you want to see positive results.
This low-cost approach does not require heavy farm implements or materials to manoeuvre aside from a fertiliser spreader to assist you in the moving process. On-pasture manure management is ideal when you make use of rotational grazing with your livestock, as it gives your soil an opportunity to absorb the necessary vitamins and minerals, namely phosphates, nitrogen and potassium. If manure is monitored and you choose to use your animal’s waste as a tool to help restore your pasture, you will help the land to return to its original state before grazing took place. Make sure it’s evenly spread for the best results.
This approach requires you to treat existing animal manure by actively adding in any minerals or nutrients that are missing in raw animal manure. The purpose of this approach is to balance out the manure in such a way that the compost applied to a specific area can easily break down the organic matter available without burning or killing any important soil or plant nutrients which are needed for your pasture’s health.
It is also recommended that you use compost for a particular reason. For example, if you have experienced a lack of minerals in your soil or you’re experiencing an influx of weeds. This will then help to reduce those concerns while treating the area. Before you begin placing your compost down, it’s important to till your area with the correct farm tillage equipment to prepare your soil. It’s also important to note that composting works best with fresh manure, so try and monitor your animals and when you see a slight buildup of manure, be sure to remove it immediately and proceed with your composting procedure.
Stockpiling can be used for your own storage purposes, for instance, to use when needed, or it can be collected to sell to other farms in the area. This process is popular for farmers which only use fertiliser over the summer months and halt farming operations over the winter. However, if you choose to store your animal waste, keep it in a dry area where it cannot become contaminated. Have a clear plan on when you choose to use your stored manure as it can lose effectiveness over long periods of time.
Established farmers will understand the importance of utilising the correct agricultural machinery to increase the outcome of a project. And this is particularly important when it comes to vegetable farming. In order to experience sustainable crop yields with impressive results, you need to ensure that your soil is healthy, your seeds are planted accurately and there are zero weeds or pests threatening your harvest.
If you want to move into vegetable farming to sustain your own health needs or to sell your produce to local markets, you need to invest in the correct equipment and farming implements to boost productivity and guarantee a selection of fresh produce at the end of your harvest season. While it may seem like you’re expected to buy a range of new equipment, covering the basics will help you more than you know.
Speak to a reputable dealer such as Radium to assist you in purchasing high-quality farming equipment that lasts. Here is a list of the equipment you need to ensure your croplands are off to a good start.
A tractor to move around on the farm
If you’ve been farming for years, you are likely to have a tractor. But if you are new to farming and want to purchase the necessities, you will need to invest in a tractor. This piece of versatile equipment will be able to assist you in nearly every farming procedure as it just requires you to attach the right implement to your tractor when you need it. Modern-day tractors are compact and engineered to offer you the comfortability and production assistance you need. Many of them can fit through tight spaces and speed up your farming activity drastically, especially on a large-scale farm with plenty to do. When you search for the ideal vehicle, factor in your farming needs. You will also need to budget for a reliable and trustworthy brand that can operate for years to come. You might think that settling for a used model is the best option, but always remember increased maintenance will lead to downtime and a drop in productivity.
A fertiliser spreader to evenly distribute your compost
This must-have attachment is handy when looking to quickly manoeuvre through your croplands and spread your fertiliser evenly. As any farmer would know, the fertility of your soil is key when looking to deliver high-quality results from your harvest. If you spread your manure evenly, and it’s rich in the necessary vitamins and nutrients your soil needs to thrive, you will be able to guarantee a stronger yield.
Soil ripping equipment to clear the area from rocks
When you prepare fresh land for crop planting, you will certainly come across uneven grounds. Either you’re trying to plant on a slope or the land is filled with rocks that will affect your soil’s fertility. You will need to make use of soil ripping equipment to get rid of any rocks and stones that could affect your land, and till the soil thereafter. These two important processes will assist you in disrupting your land for the better, allowing you to successfully test and treat your soil accordingly before you proceed to plant.
Rotary cutter equipment for weeds
Getting rid of weeds is a time-consuming, yet necessary task. Regardless of how large your croplands are, it’s impractical to think that you can pull out your weeds by hand without the help of a rotary cutter to help speed up the process. Weeds can be challenging, especially if you do not catch them in time. Weeds can quickly spread and lead to an infestation which might affect the growth of your crops. This means that you will need to dispose of your plants and crops and wait for the next harvest season. As you can see, this is a costly experience, so be sure to invest in a specialised tool to remove weeds when they appear.
Seed planters to lay your seeds
When you start out, you can easily plant your seeds by hand to test the soil and see a harvest season out before you decide to step things up a notch and plant an entire area. However, when you decide to farm your vegetables across a wide area, a seed planter or spreading machinery that can do the job for you. This is an accurate approach to planting your seeds evenly and in bulk. How it works is that you move around in rows, allowing you to maintain a consistent planting depth for successful results.
As you can see, there is a handful of important farm equipment needed to assist you with your vegetable farming venture. To find out more about your specific needs, contact Radium about our offerings.
Depending on the location of your farm and the climate conditions you experience, you’re bound to experience different soil properties that may or may not make your planting experience trouble-free. While you might be struggling with poor soil fertility, penetration or erosion, there are plenty of soil management strategies to implement that can improve your soil structure in order for your plants to grow better.
There are many tried and tested techniques that can help to revive your soil, however, organic methods have proven to deliver amazing health benefits for the soil as well as the produce. Organic farming is not rocket science, so with the right farm implements, you will be able to improve your soil, sustainably.
Soil is home to a number of living organisms. And despite what most farmers think, soil is not always damaged by pests, diseases or a lack of nutrients. It’s damaged by physical condition and how you treat it. Be it bacteria, fungi, insects or more, these are the different organisms that you need in your soil in order for your plants to grow and deliver successful yields. While you need to apply the correct methods when watering your plants, over watering can also lead to the soil becoming compact and dead.
Tips for reviving your soil the organic way
Before you consider the different ways to revive your soil, you need to have a clear understanding of what organic farming is and how to implement it on your small farm. In short, organic farming is referred to as an agricultural practice that supports the environment. These activities reduce human, pest and plant hazards by eliminating chemical products and certain farming practices in your approach. Look at using green fertiliser options and trying new ways to improve the health of your crops with minimal disruption.
Here are a few ideas to consider.
Practice a no-tillage farming approach
Many commercial farmers are against tillage as a farming practice, while small farmers tend to make use of a no-till farming approach, which simply includes minimal tillage with their farm tillage equipment. Most organic farmers do not make use of this practice at all, however, you will need to base your decision on your soil’s health and the size of your crop. If you till your land in moderation, you will be able to reduce soil erosion and you’ll be able to strengthen your crops. In order to reduce the amount of disruption you do on your farm, you can make use of smaller farming implements such as a hand rake to create minimal disturbances on the soil. This can then be followed up with cover crops for further benefits.
Add mulch to your crops
Also known as cover crops, this technique allows you to retain as much moisture as possible in your soil so that it isn’t exposed to wind and sun that leads to soil erosion. If you live in an area where there are heavy rains, you can rest assured knowing that heavy rains will still not affect your crops when covered.
Covering your crops with organic-friendly mulch bags will add organic matter to your soil and reduce the chances of pests getting into your planting areas and destroying your plants. Another tip with this is to plant as much into your soil of combination crops to ensure the majority of your soil is covered.
Keep your feet and wheels off of the soil
Once you revive your soil, you will need to pay careful attention to the amount of time you spend on the soil itself. Heavy machinery and pressure from farm workers’ feet will damage and crush the soil structure. If possible, walk or drive on the same areas to avoid damaging the soil on a large scale.
Don’t forget about pest control
When your soil becomes healthy and your crops start to flourish, you will see an increase in pests. If not controlled, you will also start to see an increase in weeds, which can become an infestation if not cleared. Monitor your crops daily and invest in chemical-free products to clear the problem you have. Of course, some plants need more attention than others, so be sure purchase the correct product for your needs.
Organic farming has many perks, both for the soil as well as the quality of the produce. If you make use of the correct techniques, you will be contributing to the environment at large. Sustainability contributes to a better future. And if you want to improve the quality of life, take advantage of organic farming.