Growing Your Own Livestock Feed

Alfalfa and Orchard Grass

When you live in an urban environment it can be pretty much impossible to grow everything you need. I wish I had enough space to grow all the grains we need and all the animal feed as well. But we can’t – there just isn’t enough room.

But just because you can’t grow all of it, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t at least try to grow some of it. We have a fairly large area of fallow ground in our backyard. The reason we don’t plant it with crops is because it’s in between and behind our fruit trees.

This no-man’s land is perfectly suited for weeds, and boy, do they let me know. This year, however, we decided to seed it with various plants, including some forage for our livestock. I purchased some alfalfa and orchard grass seed from Peaceful Valley and spread it out last winter. Most of it was beat down by the weeds, but we did get some to pop up. Since both plants are perennials they will hopefully be back next year. I’m allowing them to go to seed so that they will spread.

Some other plants I’m working on bringing to the weed patch are mustard, oats, and wheat.

The alfalfa I seeded with was a semi-dormant type that was coated with mycorrhizae and calcium carbonate to help speed germination. You can plant it shallowly from fall, in mild climates, through to spring in colder regions. It will need summer irrigation if you live in a Mediterranean climate.

Because alfalfa is a legume (related to peas and beans) it fixes nitrogen – up to 200lbs of nitrogen per acre. It also offers habitat to beneficial insects and bees love it. While not shown here, ours just began flowering these beautiful purple flowers on spikes above the foliage. They have very deep roots so it works very well as a cover crop, bringing nutrients deep in the soil to the surface when turned in.

My hope is that eventually the wanted “weeds” will push out the noxious weeds that we can’t give to our livestock as forage. It may take a few years, but as long as I keep at it, good things will come.

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