Best Cover Crops that double as animal feed?

by James Nakahara » June 21, 2013 7:46 pm

I was thinking that it would be interesting to use a winter cover crop that would also double as feed for chickens or pigs. I know from experience that pigs love amaranth, but I”m not sure if that is a legitimate cover crop. Also, there are some grains that can be grown and eaten by poultry without having to process it beforehand ie wheat, rye, barley, etc. Would it maybe make sense to broadcast a cover crop with beans, legumes, and other whole grains? Then when it sizes up, instead of flail mowing and disking, you could bring in the animals to eat it? Once they move through it, you could then flail whats left, and disk, bed up, and get planting. Anyone’s thoughts on this would be most appreciated.

Lilian Tova » September 21, 2013 4:40 am says:

Hi James,

I’ve used a system like this with my goats and a buckwheat/crimson clover cover crop. The advantage for me is that I don’t own a tractor so getting the cover crop mowed down for planting would have to be done by hand if I hadn’t brought in the animals. The one disadvantage I can see is that I’m not getting any benefits of the ‘green manure’ aspect of my cover crop. Although I’m sure all those roots are building some percentage of organic matter I think losing all that lush top growth might shift this crop into the realm of an animal forage crop as opposed to a true cover crop. Hope this helps.

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