The chickens are a very important part of the farm. We all love the great tasting eggs. Their real job is fertility and pest management. They are our clean crew eating lots of bugs and fertilizing our fields as they go.
A couple of week ago I had a long conversation with our feed merchant Chris at Modesto Milling. His company only supplies organic feed. He sells us wheat and a special make up pellet to balance all the other good things the chickens get to eat.
There is a real problem with organic animal feed. There is just not enough of it grown in this country to meet the demand for organic milk, meat and eggs. So again this year all the silos are empty and he is importing feed. Firstly I have to say when I heard this news I was dismayed. Our corn which is organic and gmo free is coming from turkey. We use a small amount of soy 7.5% compared to 30% for regular organic chicken feed. The soy is coming from India, yes India, certified organic. This is the only other source to China which I refuse to accept. The wheat is coming from Canada.
So, like you, I think this is absolutely crazy. You only have to talk to Lorraine who will tell you how much we are paying for the organic feed. Obviously this is not enough to persuade Midwestern farmers to go organic. Organic corn can sell for six times the price of Monsanto’s gmo. There is something very seriously wrong either the farm bill and the corporate subsidies for corn and soybean farmers.
So what can we do? Chris at Modesto milling says nothing for this season. He buys his feed way ahead but still the demand is so great. Local wheat is possible but it would not be organic. Soy is not grown around here, and these three crops do not make enough money and need valuable irrigation water. This water can be used for crops much more valuable. Winter rains will help the wheat farmers in the foothills get a good crop this year so that will help.
I have poultry nutrition books from the last century that I have to study. This helps but we still need the basic feed ingredients. I have to admit that our options are really slim. It is nigh impossible to rent more land around here.
Our journey into broadacre permaculture will help considerably over the next five years. So long term I believe we can produce much more of what the chickens eat. Your comments and suggestions would be very much appreciated. - Nigel