Friday, October 16, 2009

Hay Isn't Just For Horses

Most everyone knows that hay is for horses.

Bess here is extremely picky about hers.

And of course most people know that hay is for cows and Tinker Bell here bellows loud and clear if you are not fast enough to bring hers.

While Tinker Bell is hurrying you along, Chicory is bleating in a most irritating tone but after all she is a Nubian and they have many opinions, most all of them a complaint.

But did you know that hay is also for pigs? You heard me, pigs. Yes, we have been feeding our feeder pigs hay for years. As you can see they love it. Sophie and Ellie Mae here have scarfed up all the weeds that grew in their pen and now munch on luscious hay. It isn't their only food source for we frequently hear the clank of the metal lid on their self-feeder as they chow down on the grain inside. And today, they're smacking there way through damaged apples from our trees. But first they had a warm drink of fresh goat's milk.

You could say we feed them a smorgasbord diet. It keeps them happy and well nourished. I figure a variety is best and so when the garden was going strong, they were given produced from it and then as I tucked it away, scraps from my canning. So you can see they eat what's in season. During the winter, I'll get around to cleaning the freezers and give them all the older vegetables. But right now, they are eating hay that was just baled and they are given all they'll eat which is about a couple inches from a small square bale each day.

No it isn't meant to be a filler. High quality alfalfa is an excellent feed though not meant to be fed exclusively but in combination with grains. Our hay is a blend of third cutting alfalfa and orchard grass. The alfalfa hay aids the digestion system and this causes our pigs to eat more grain. Hence, gain weight more quickly. This is a US Agricultural fact proven by a number of experiments. I did read a US Agriculture Department experiment with Sweet Clover hay and it said that the hogs ate more of it than the alfalfa hay and so they ate less grain. This equated to a lower weight gain than those fed on alfalfa and grain but was still a good deal. This feed program isn't just for feeder pigs but has shown excellent results with sows farrowing a healthy litter.

My hay feeding doesn't just stop with the beef, horse, goats, and pigs but continues on into the chicken coop. Hens need a high protein diet also and alfalfa hay supplies part of that need. It also helps lower the bad cholesterol levels in your eggs. And sometimes even more importantly, it keeps the girls occupied scratching it apart to pick through for food. You know how cantankerous the hens can get when they are cooped up and bored. They form these high society groups that exclude others to the point of picking on them, sometimes to death. So I bring scraps to them from the kitchen scattering them about and throw in a flake of hay now and then.

The only thing I don't feed hay to is the mouse patrol- the barn cats. They enjoy the hay stack for its comfort and warmth but prefer a nice bowl of goat's milk.

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