I have discovered some pretty neat hacks for spending less money on feed the last few years….
For anyone not familiar with the history, I did not grow up on a farm and had zero experience with farm animals when I started trying to help the ones in need. I just did what was needed in the moment and built my up my little box of knowledge as I went…. We also don’t have any farm equipment - no tractors, no plows, no nothing really…
I do a lot of maintenance on the horse pasture to ensure the least amount of parasites and the least amount of weeds are present. Yes it’s most definitely easier to hit the weeds with a chemical that’s ‘safe for grazing’, but when Hazel (hospice cancer resident) was here and I researched those products, there was zero information that made me feel ok about them being safe… Some of my neighbors think I’m crazy on my little mower, mowing all that invisible grass in the dead of winter months until they see my beautiful green fields popping at the first signs of spring. One of my old school cattle farmer neighbors who is in his 70s even asked me about my madness - ha! I explained that I prefer to keep the pastures cut at a certain length all year even when it appears it doesn’t need cutting. He looked as if something clicked and said “oh yeah, they always have said that the most nutrition comes from the shortest grass”. So at least he knows what my goals is… Who cares if everyone else thinks I’ve gone mad? When you live out in the boonies, sometimes that’s a good deterrent for trouble ;)
Ya see when I don’t have weeds to mow over, I drag my fields at least every other week all year long - even winter. Breaking up the manure and exposing it to air and sun - especially in our cold wet season - is crucial to keep parasites at bay. I do this by running over it with my mower…and that is how I discovered this little economical and sustainable tip… ready made SEED BOMBS!
I’ve always started the horses on a Bermuda/crabgrass hay in the fall since 2015 when Rose first came here. Then we added Hazel in early 2016. Then I had a few fosters that same year and my supplier ran out of our usual hay and I had to get rye. I was also tired of shoveling the manure, so my ‘work smarter, not harder’ brain decided to break it up. That’s when I decided to just mow over those piles… My vet had also informed me that rye was excellent for horses that had any type of digestion issues or were prone to colic, so that was nice to know.. anyway I learned that if you feed rye in February, it’s perfect timing for the perfect temps and that spring, I had beautiful little patches of delicious rye! So now, right at the start of the new year, I start adding a little rye hay until I can safely switch them completely over to rye by late January/ early February… then late February I start switching them slowly back over to the Bermuda/crabgrass hay. In the meantime, I’m running over my pasture either weekly or every other week, breaking up those natural rye seed bombs (aka horse shit), with my mower. If I know a good rain is coming, I’ll try to get it done just before the storms to ensure a good soaking for germination. I’ll move them over to a smaller field for a few weeks and then when spring rolls around and before the summer grass is thriving, I have plenty of rye for them to feed on.
Years ago, I had a guy that used to come out several times a year with his tractor and help me with this overgrown forgotten farm back when we first bought it. Only about three of the 8.5 acres was even walkable at the time due to major overgrowth. There were bramble patches everywhere that even made it hard for a tractor to get through with a bushhog. He told me about ‘training grass’. He said you could train just about any grass if you were consistent enough. He informed me after he cleared all those brambles, that if I ran over those acres with the mower whether it needed it or not, that eventually I’d have a beautiful grassy hillside within a year. And he was right.
I didn’t put out one single seed and the land went from red muddy clay and to a park-like setting within less than a year. You talk to landscapers and plant nurseries and they might tell you that’s impossible, but it worked for me.
Another thing that has made things easier on the wallet over the hay season is I’ve learned to separate and throw out the hay - scatter the ‘flakes’. I do this for a few reasons. It results in less waste - if I throw out one square bale and just let the horses chow down on it, over time they step on it, then don’t want to eat what they’ve stepped on, and so it just sits there and goes to waste. I detest wasting hay, so I learned if I toss the flakes about 10-15 feet apart, it mimics grazing, and they also walk and poop all over the field leaving me little ‘seed bombs’ everywhere instead of just one small area.