Animal feed can be a very controversial topic. You can choose anything from completely commercial feed to completely ‘natural’ feed or anything combining the two. Different animals as well as different breeds and ages all have individual nutrition requirements.
Commercial feed is anything that you find in a store. There are a lot of choices to make in this area. Usually, the lower the cost of the food the lower quality it is, but this is not always the case. Make sure to read the ingredient list on the bag to ensure you know what you are purchasing and that it is the best choice for you and your animal.
‘Natural’ feed is anything from forage and graze material to the raw diet for carnivores in your family. These require some thought on your part to make sure that your animal is getting all of their nutritional requirements met.
We personally feed somewhere in-between. Our dogs and cats are on a commercially produced pet food that has meat as the first ingredient but is readily available at our local department store. When we have leftover meat that has been cooked or raw bones from a large animal we do use these to supplement their diets as a treat. Please keep in mind not to feed bones from small animals or from cooked animals as these are soft bones very liable to break and splinter and could get caught anywhere in your animals digestive tract.
The rest of our animals are all on both an acceptable (to us) commercial feed and as much graze as we can provide. During the year as the seasons allow it we adjust their commercial feed rations to make the most out of the graze and browse that we have on the property. This also allows us to save money during the green seasons. During the couple of months of winter when we do not have any graze or browse available on the property we supplement with hay or other scraps. Also throughout the year we treat the animals with things like scraps from the kitchen or offal from butchering – animal appropriate of course.
One thing that you have to keep in mind when supplementing feed is the individual animals nutrition requirements and what foods are not good for them. For instance, you do not want to feed onions to your dog, milk to your cat, apple seeds to your rabbit or small poultry, copper to sheep, etc., because each of these could cause anything from simple digestive upset to death in the animal.
Another thing to think about when choosing feed for your animal is how readily available it is. In my area, when winter is well on its way, we have to remember to get enough hay to last the entire winter. If we do not get enough hay then we run the risk of not being able to find any in February or March. One option to this is to grow your own forage during the winter by setting up a fodder system. Barley, oats, and wheat are some examples of easy fodder that you can feed to most forage animals.
Above all, when choosing the way you are going to feed your animal, make sure that you are feeding not just the right foods but also the right quantity for your animals type, breed, age and weight to make sure that it stays the healthiest that it can be all through the year, because when an animal is fed right it will generally stay healthy, and healthy animals save money in the long run.
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