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What Farm Animals Eat in a Day

I  look at all these animals we’re feeding and I’m amazed at how we are feeding them from our land and from our labor. That’s special! We are sustaining these animals off the labor of our hands and working together as a family to produce something incredible together. It’s crazy priceless!

A hand with chicken feed falling to the ground.

If you are wondering “what do farm animals eat?”, you are in the right place. Read on to learn the nutritional needs of a pig, chickens, geese, and cows, what food can be used to put on body weight, and even activities animals naturally do to help you maintain your farm.

Why We Use the Permaculture Approach to Feeding Our Farm Animals

Have you ever wondered how to feed hundreds of animals daily on a budget? We’ve learned the secret to making everything work together, and it’s called permaculture. 

Permaculture means using all of your available resources to encourage the growth of agricultural resources. Everything gets used and there’s no waste.

Animals naturally provide when it comes to farm maintenance. For example, cows work for you by mowing down grass and getting rid of weeds while also providing fertilizer for our pasture land.

How Do Animals Benefit the Permaculture Cycle?

Food For Your Family

The first benefit we might think of when raising farm animals is the food it provides to our families. Cows give us milk and chickens give us eggs, and many farm animals provide us with meat.

A man moving portable fencing for farm animals.

Farm Maintenance

You can use animals on your farm for a variety of work. Setting up an electric fence is a quick and easy way to keep your animals right where you want them.

Goats are fantastic for clearing brush, pigs are great for tilling up the ground, and sheep and cows are very skilled at mowing down grass. Did you also know that geese are very good at weeding, and  chickens, ducks and turkeys are great at pest control?

A hand holding compost filled with worms.

Improve Your Soil

Manure is mostly made of carbon compounds already broken down by the animal’s digestion process. Putting carbon back into the soil improves the soil in many areas, including adding nutrients, increasing the soil’s ability to hold water and controlling the pH of the soil.

Healthy soil also attracts beneficial insects and earthworms which will only continue to improve the soil biome.

Chickens eating from a feeder.

Supplementing with Animal Feed

Even if you have acres of pasture land for your cows and sheep or an abundance of garden vegetables that can be fed to pigs and other farm animals, you will still require large amounts of animal feed. There are many feed manufacturers to choose from for your farm animals.

Chickens

The benefits of having chickens on your farm go far beyond just having fresh eggs and meat. Chickens produce manure that is very high in nitrogen, and they are also extremely good at natural pest control.

Chickens are great at tilling up the soil, and they also eat many pesky weeds.

What Should Chickens Eat?

Chickens have six nutritional requirements. These are carbohydrates, fats, protein, vitamins and minerals and of course, lots of fresh water.

Chickens are omnivores just like humans. This means that they enjoy eating plants and animals. Chickens are happier with room to forage for grass and seeds and also love some insect and worm treats.

Chickens don’t have teeth, so they need to have grit available. Grit helps to break down food in their gizzard. The grit works to help grind down the food like a grinding wheel.

Chickens will also need chicken feed with special nutritional values based on their age.

Two sons adding feed to a chicken feeder tray.

What Are the Nutritional Needs of Chickens?

Different kinds of poultry and different ages of poultry have different nutritional requirements.

Chicks will need to be fed a starter feed from 0-6 weeks, a grower feed from 6-14 weeks and a developer feed from 14-20 weeks.

Laying hens should be fed a layer feed which contains more calcium which is needed for strong egg shells. Make sure your layer feed contains at least 2.5 to 3.5 percent calcium.

Breeding hens should be fed a layer/breeder feed for proper nutrition.

A father and his kids feeding chickens.

What We Feed Our Chickens

Today we fed 1 pound of organic feed to our broody hens, 10 pounds of organic feed to our layers in training and 9 pounds of organic layer feed plus two piles of compost to our layer chickens. Our chicks received 5 pounds of organic starter feed.

20% of the chicken’s diet will come from grass and fly larva in the cow manure. If you’re a person who kisses your chickens, you may not want to know this, but they eat a bit of cow manure too. They are getting the amino acids and undigested food from the manure.

We had some extra scraps today, so the chickens also got to have some table scraps.

We also are raising meat chickens. Our Cornish Cross hens received 40 pounds of feeder plus all the fresh grass they can eat.

They love lambs quarter, which is considered to be a weed. It’s very high in fiber and protein and loaded with vitamins.

That is NOT what you get in the grocery store. Those birds are raised 100% on grain. The lamb’s quarters will make these hens delicious come harvest time. 

A man letting a goose and chickens out of a mobile chicken coop.

Geese

Geese are incredibly important in permaculture farming. They are extremely skilled at eating grass! Use a goose in areas to control the grass growth, like around the base of your berry bushes or fruit trees. Geese can move easily around bushes and clean up under them much more effectively than a person.

Geese are wonderful livestock guardians for the chickens and also provide eggs. For some, goose dinner is a Christmas tradition.

What Should Geese Eat?

Geese are happy to eat off their natural environment. They love grass and will graze on wheat grains and cracked corn if given the chance. They’re also happy to nibble on fruits and vegetables. Geese are also pros at eating insects and worms.

Geese, more than any other poultry, love to graze. Their beak is well equipped for grazing with serrated edges, making cutting grass easy. Also, their tongue has hard projections which point backward toward the throat and help move the grass into the throat.

What Are the Nutritional Needs of Geese?

Geese do well on a starter feed containing 20% protein for the first four weeks. After four weeks, they need a feed containing 16% protein. This feed should be paired with good grazing for a complete diet.

What We Feed Our Goose

Our goose lives with our Cornish Cross hens, so he eats what our chickens eat, which includes some feed but mostly lots of grass, weeds and bugs.

A man giving a cow a scoop of feed.

Cows

We know that cows provide us with meat and milk, but in permaculture farming, they also provide so much more.

Cows love to eat down the long grass in your pastures. They produce great manure for natural fertilizer, which naturally rebalances the carbon in your soil. 

What Should Cows Eat?

A large portion of what cows eat is grass. Often the grass is fresh from grazing, but cut and dried grass will be called hay or silage (when fermented). Cows will also eat the leaves and stems from corn, wheat and oats.

A cow eating feed pellets.

What Are the Nutritional Needs of Cows?

Beef cows need carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins and minerals and lots of water. Water is their greatest need.

Dairy cows should be supplemented with a dairy meal to boost their milk production. They will also have more water requirements, drinking up to 50 gallons of water per day!

What We Feed Our Cows

Our cows are on a pasture where they can eat over 40 pounds of grass daily.

Our cows are providing us with milk and also feeding calves, so they have additional nutritional needs. They also get five pounds of alfalfa pellets, half a scoop of RC Gold Probiotics and half a cup of apple cider vinegar.

Our calves are on mama’s milk, but they also get about 12 pounds of hay a day.

A man dumping pig feed into a bowl.

Pigs

Pigs provide us with bacon (here’s our yummy bacon recipe) and a host of other delicious cuts of meat, but did you know they are also great little rototillers? A couple of pigs can till up your garden in a few days. They will also dig up rocks for you and eat pesky grubs.

What Should Pigs Eat?

Pigs are omnivores and will eat a diverse selection of foods. They aren’t exactly picky eaters, but grain and pasture should constitute 20-40% of their food.

Pigs love a variety of foods, including vegetables, fruits, nuts, grains, mushrooms, seeds, grass, roots, eggs and insects. Historically, wild pigs would root for insects and grubs.

Pigs eating feed.

What Are the Nutritional Needs of Pigs?

Pigs need lots of fresh water. They also need food containing carbohydrates, fats, protein and other vitamins and minerals. Most nutrients necessary for healthy pigs can be found in organic pig feed.

What We Feed Our Pigs

Today our pigs are getting 12 pounds of kitchen scraps plus 1 ½ gallons of skim milk and a dash of apple cider vinegar twice daily. After a little gardening, they also get ½ of a wheelbarrow of lettuce and a bunch of kale.

Milk from our cows gives our pigs the protein and fats they require and is another example of the whole farm working together.

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Hi, I'm Justin

I share from a love of teaching and the sustainable movement. Here, you’ll find exhaustive permaculture articles, plentiful photos, cinematic educational films and business tips and tricks.

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