My livestock that are ruminants (four stomachs) are fed only fresh grass or hay. I believe this is how ruminants, such as cattle and sheep, should be fed. They were designed to get their nutrients from forage, which is why they lay down for part of each day and chew their cud to digest their feed.
From spring to fall, I use a method called rotational grazing. My largest field is divided into paddocks and each day or two the cattle are moved to a new paddock with fresh grass. The sheep are rotated between fields.
My cattle and sheep are never fed grains. Some farmers will state that their ruminants are grass-fed, but neglect to tell you that they are grain-finished. Grains add fat to the meat and the cattle are ready to go to the abattoir several months earlier. It simply takes longer to ‘finish’ ruminants on grass, but I believe the taste, quality and nutrition of the meat is superior.
Also, most farmers that feed grains are feeding genetically modified corn and soybeans, so if you are avoiding GMOs and you also don’t want them fed to the livestock you eat, then you need to be sure the animals were grass-finished.
3) PIGS THAT GRAZE
I raise the only known breed of pig that actually grazes pasture and roots MUCH LESS than other breeds. They are called KuneKune and originated in New Zealand, but are now widely available in many parts of the world.
Most breeds of pigs that have access to the outside are called “pasture raised”. They don’t really eat the pasture, but love to ‘root’, which means they turn the grass upside-down. This destroys the pasture, but it is healthy and great fun for the pigs.
4) WINTER FEED FOR PIGS
Over the winter my pigs are given a NON-GMO chop (chopped grains), squash or carrots, and alfalfa hay. They could probably survive on just the hay, but it is unlikely they would thrive, since unlike my cattle and sheep, the pigs simply don’t seem to enjoy the cold of winter. They need the chopped grains to retain their fat, which keeps their bodies warm.
My dog, Haggis, lives in the house, but he is always ready for a visit to the livestock. The cattle, sheep and pigs have grown up with him by my side and he has never threatened or hurt any of them, which is why they are so comfortable with him nearby.
Like humans, pigs have only one stomach (monogastric). This is why pigs can safely eat grains and veggies, while cattle and sheep with their four stomachs (ruminants) thrive on grasses.
6) MOTHERS’ MILK
One more ingredient I believe is important to the health and well-being of my livestock is mother’s milk. The calves and lambs are eventually weaned by their mothers, and the piglets are able to nurse for at least 4 weeks. Longer takes a toll on the sow’s health and it is amazing how sharp the piglet’s teeth are. Within the first month the piglets are already beginning to eat grass or hay, fresh veggies and drink water, so the transition away from the milk isn’t difficult for them.
7) HAY FOR WINTER
All of my livestock have access to pasture year round, but in Canada fresh pasture is only available for half of the year, so hay is harvested off of half of my land during the summer.
My hay fields were seeded with a blend of several varieties of grasses and organic alfalfa seed. My cattle and sheep are never fed grains, so their protein source is the nutrient rich alfalfa.
My cattle and sheep have free-choice supplements available year round and the pigs have these supplements available when they are on pasture and not receiving chopped grains.
I buy Certified Organic supplements from Bio-Ag (www.Bio-Ag.com). These include: minerals that are specifically blended for either cattle, sheep or pigs; a blend of three types of seaweed; diatomaceous earth to help with parasites; and Redmond salt.
What do I do if an animal is sick or injured? Each situation is different, so I might try a homeopathic remedy; I will consult with my veterinarian and possibly have the vet visit; I’ll call one of my friends that also has livestock and ask for advice; or I’ll call a specialist, like my hoof trimmer, to see what he recommends.
I’ll always try to eliminate suffering, but I’ll never give medicated feed the way a factory farm does. Animals that aren’t stressed and have good feed and living conditions seldom get sick, but injuries and illness can still happen. All I can do is assure you my animals are well cared for and I do my best to keep them healthy, happy and pain free.