Are you like me? Do you struggle with giving your animals commercial feed? Are you concerned about nutrients with home mixed feed? Commercial feeds are so cheap and easy. They are the perfect no-brainer option for the busy homesteader, but are they meeting the needs of your farm? I’m finding that they are meeting our needs less and less, which means it’s time to look into home mixed feed.
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Our Nigerian Dwarf goats are not on commercial feed of any kind. They eat alfalfa hay, water, and goat minerals, unless they are lactating. I am looking into whether or not this is my final choice of how to feed our goats. I just became aware that alfalfa is a GMO crop in America. Since I am able to source non-GMO alfalfa very close to our farm, I’m comfortable with what we are doing.
Our chickens were switched in May from commercial non-GMO feed to my Homemade Whole Grain Layer Feed, which they did really well with. The first formulation was just straight grain, with no additives. The aspiring herbalist in me couldn’t leave well enough alone and formulated a new and improved homemade whole grain layer feed. This new feed includes herbs like garlic powder and kelp, and is being tested on my hens this month.
Our rabbits, on the other hand, are still on commercial feed from a local-to-us mill. I do love the fact that the feed we buy is local, because buying local is something I really find to be of value. However, I still believe that nutritionally, I may be able to do better for them. Using non-GMO grains, fresh vegetables and grasses, herbs, baled hays, and occasional fruits would fit the bill.
But They are JUST Animals!
You might be wondering why I care enough to spend my time studying animal nutrition and using home mixed feed. After all, the feed companies have studied and perfected their formulations for many more years than I have even owned animals. My belief is that we don’t really understand what eating a diet rich in genetically modified organisms can do to us, or to our animals.
Corn and Soy
Because of American subsidies to farmers, we are very rich in crops like corn and soy. Farmers that grow these crops do so in the fashion of monoculture. This means that they only grow one crop on one plot of land. When we do that, we invite all manner of problems in the form of pests and diseases that have an affinity for that monoculture crop. Because of that, farmers have been turning to genetically modified seed which is resistant against these pest and diseases.
Corn and soy are two of the top genetically modified crops that are used for animals feeds of all kinds. You will find corn in most all livestock feeds, and if you don’t find corn, there is likely soy. Both are often part of commercial feeds. There are sometimes other genetically modified grains and plants included. Corn and soy are also a staple in some dog and cat foods. It’s not easy to find a decently-priced feed for even domestic animals that doesn’t include these GMO crops.
Another concern is pesticides in the commercially manufactured foods that my animals eat. There is plenty of scientific proof out there that a diet rich in pesticides is bad for us, and I’m convinced that it’s bad for our animals as well.
I have read stories about rabbits developing cancer on commercial feeds. After being switched off these feeds, the instances of cancer in their herds decreased dramatically. I have no scientific proof, and I’m definitely not paranoid about it. Still, stories like this just make me think about what could be happening inside of my animals’ bodies without my knowledge.
But They Are Our Animals
Many people feel that “they are just animals”, and they are just animals. But in addition to being “just animals”, these are our pets, our friends, our sources of food. I can’t help but feel that our animals need a GMO-free, pesticide-free diet just as much as the members of our family do. And ultimately, the better care we take of them, the better care we take of ourselves financially, nutritionally, and emotionally.
Would You Make Home Mixed Feed?
Do you have the same concerns that I do? How have you worked it out on your farmstead?
If you’d like to check out and try my home mixed feed for chickens, head over to this post for my homemade whole grain layer feed recipe.