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The biggest thing about it is that you have to have a plan so that once a container/bale/etc is opened you can feed it out quick enough before it starts to turn. Once opened to the air it starts to change and go off.
For the sheep I know to estimate they need 3% to 4.5% body weight in feed/forage/hay. I don't know of any estimation like that for the rabbits. And as I plan for the future I would really like to consider trying breeding guinea pigs again. I won't be able to do it for a few years once several other things are well settled. But that goes into the consideration of how much I would think about putting up.
With the sheep I'm aiming at a flock that ewes average 100-140#. Thinking for winter I'm looking at.. 3% would be 3# to 4.5# per ewe plus they'd get hay and late gestation grain increase that would decrease to weaning lambs. For my current flock size (24 sheep) that would be 72 to 108# haylage or silage per day, lets say average of 90#. Probably feeding it Nov through March, so lets say 150 days.
150 days x 90# per day = 13,500#
Obviously I'm not able to do that right now. And without machinery or a silo to boot.
So I'm thinking this year I'd like to see if I can get those real heavy bags and pack it inside metal barrels. I just need a place to store it that mice and coons can't wreak havoc on the bags. Although properly sealed silage is supposed to keep away such pests because there isn't a food smell to it but pests like to nibble everything just because so I'd rather not chance it.
Put it up for the rabbits and if I'm not getting through it quick enough I will feed some out to the sheep to keep from losing it to spoilage. This would also learn the sheep to it if I get round to making much more for them too.
This is some 3 and 6 mil contractor bags that look like I could use well enough and maybe even be able to reuse. 30gal to 95gal sizes. The 55-60gal in 3mil is 15 bags and $21 a box, $20 if you get 3 or more. I haven't checked what mil the stores carry/how many bags if I can find the same cheaper locally and not pay shipping.
But I figure if I can make a few bags to test how difficult it is to get right in bags... Well heck I could at least do enough to really supplement the rabbits. And the nutrition of it is much better than hays. I would like to try to do some bags with forages (mixed grasses, weeds) and some bags with crops (corn, sorghum, millet, etc) depending on what kind of area I can commandeer in spring to plant.
And I am lucky enough to have neighbors that had dairy cows until last year and they did silage. So I hope to be able to ask them about tips for good silage/haylage.
I don't keep too close track of the rabbit feed since I only have three adult rabbits right now and not breeding much, I don't go through many bags of feed. But estimating 7# adults and feeding breeding does 1lb of haylage/silage (alternating as working through the bags) plus choice of hay and pellets (which I'd guess they'd eat little)...
Right now I've got a Dutch doe, a Mini Rex doe, and a 1/2 dutch 1/4 mini lop 1/4 Flemish doeling. If I fed 3#/day that's 21#/week.. 546#/six months. Depending on how much ends up in each bag I think that could be doable. If I find a good storing area.
I am looking at this site already for planting areas that will get grazed by the sheep. I think the mix I've come up with (with their super epic calculator!) will be perfect as well to cut some for silage experimenting and cutting for fresh forage for the rabbits(/guinea pigs). It'll be $66 for ~56# seed, plus whatever shipping will be. That's supposed to be enough to broadcast plant 1 acre but it'd probably end up an area I'd plant and do a couple years.
If I can get dad to agree to commit to an area I'm gonna go ahead and go forward with that to see what shipping estimate will be.. (and probably buy it because I clearly don't have enough to do and I'm glutton for punishment)
And I have quite a bucket of "indian corn" from the last several years that I'd hand shelled into jars but not planted. That would be fine corn silage.
__________ Fri Jan 04, 2019 12:28 am __________
I've not actually handled haylage or silage before. I asked dad and he thinks if I packed the bags in a barrel that a full barrel size bag would be around 250-300# Sooo...
Let's say I buy 42gal bags at the farm store, 20 in a box. They are 3mil. I fill them about half way and estimate them at 100+# each. I could do 2,000#! Even with breeding regularly I could go up to feeding 5# out a day and have enough to feed for 400 days if this is any kind of near true estimate!
If I can swing it ((after paying the insurance.. oops no seed order for me yet..)) I want to finally buy a livestock scale (it's decent priced and goes to 120# so should last a bit until I can buy a 'real one' that goes to a couple hundred pounds). Then I can weigh the bags and know how much gets put up.
I could still pack them in a barrel I think. I'd probably only need one other person to help me. One to scoop in and manage chopping, one to stomp pack bags and tie em off.
And I didn't think about it until I was asking dad just now but he has a little brush chopper. He thinks it would totally work for the scale I'm talking. I'd just need to figure out a system to move the forage from the hill/field to near the barn. And set up there to not have to move the packed bags too far. And If I build some kind of elevated floor there is a corner of the barn near the feed that is unused. I could pile the bags there. I'll have to watch for mice though! I can't think of anything around that. I have mint spray that's supposed to keep away mice and coons etc but I've not tried it yet.
.....well this has quickly gone from hypothetical to talked myself into it and basically planning... So I guess we shall see how it progresses I suppose. If I can get a raised floor built before spring... hmm... I need to look at the rest of this forum section again and the ebooks. I think if I can make the time to cut and pack it that I could stop buying feed altogether once this is in place. I'd just be buying mineral.. maybe some oats and stuff.. Well heck I was not expecting this enlightenment when I started this thread...
__________ Fri Jan 04, 2019 2:50 am __________
Reviewing the ebook downloads...
In 1818 some sketchy stuff was recommended but I'm trying to figure out what growth rates was expected on these natural diets.
One book says the NZ rabbits weights- 4.5# at 3months, 5# at 4months, 6# at 5months, 8# at 8months, does 10# at 12months, bucks 9# at 12months.
Dutch- to be under 5#
Maintenance feed per rabbit
morning- 0.158# (2.53oz) alfalfa, 0.127# (2oz) barley
night- 0.158# (2.53oz) alfalfa, 0.07# (1.12oz) bran, 0.053# (0.85oz) beet pulp
double maintenance feed for does with litters 2wks old through 6wks old (weaning)
double maintenance feed for weaned litters
Just after that the give example with those feed rates says "with the stock above described, litters of 5, 6, or 7 youngsters will dress an average of 10# per litter at 8wks"
10# dressed plus 50% offal = 15# divided by a litter of 5 = average 3# at 8wks butchering.
Talking about feed conversion and profit margin, it gives some price of feed/# vs how much feed to grow a 4# fryer and shows 13 to 16# feed.
Average litter 8 or more
weight of litter @ 4wks total 10#
4# at 8wks left with doe, 4# at 9wks if weaned at 4wks
maintenance 12% protein, nursing does and growing young 17% protein
maintenance for 5# =3oz.. 10# =4-6oz
pregnant does 5# =4oz.. 10# =4-6oz
nursing does full feed
2.7# feed produces 1# meat between 4-8wks
1966, slightly revised 1971
maintenance protein 12-15%
does with litters 16-20%
surprisingly still suggested to give cow or goat milk to all rabbits
hay and oats, if you can't find oats then barley. All the greens they'll clean up before it's gone wilted and off.
winter keeping to feed- carrots, parsnips, turnips, rutabagas,
summer garden- new Zealand spinach, trimmings, weedings
grains- oats, barley, wheat. keeper should have small hand mill to prepare own oats.
"feed the hares as one feeds sheep and there can be little room for error"
1.5 part bran
1 part ground oats
1 part whole oats
.5 part whole wheat
.5 part cr corn
.25 part hominy
all mixed thoroughly
3 days- oats & greens (in winter, carrots)
1 day- warm mash 3part bran to 1 part barley meal
3 days- wheat or barley & greens (in winter, swede turnips)
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First issued in 1941, when the national crisis made it essential for every scrap of kitchen waste and spare time to be used for increasing the nation's food resources, this book enabled the meagre official wartime rations to be supplemented in thousands of homes by a regular supply of eggs and meat, at a minimum of trouble and expense.
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