Our 14 goats browse 450 acres in southern California @ Quail Springs Farm, clearing brush, foraging on a wide variety of high desert shrubs and trees for about 4-5 hours a day. In addition to that the dairy does in milk also eat a high quality organic feed on the stand. For the past 6 years we’ve fed a combination of organic alfalfa pellet, and soaked grain. In the following article, we’ll share how local farmers and their winter squash seconds have helped us reduce our feed costs and produce high quality organic milk.
In the fall of 2014 I was talking with my longtime farmer friend, Jose Baer of Rancho La Vina, and he mentioned that there were some winter squash seconds at Tutti Frutti Farms that we might be able to have for our Quail Springs farm animals. I’m always looking for food to glean for our livestock, and various food preservation projects (contact me if you have any leads for me: [email protected]), and I was excited to see if winter squash with its combination of high protein seeds, and sweet mineral rich flesh might be a good dairy goat feed. My husband, Brenton Kelly, and I met up with Jose the following week, and happily loaded our van with about 400 pounds of a hubbard type squash from Tutti Frutti Farms. Back at Quail Springs Farm we chopped about 20 pounds of squash into bite sized pieces with a sturdy cleaver in a large rubber feed bucket, and used it for the milking time feed. Our dairy does LOVED the squash.
After about 3 weeks with our goats still happily on the winter squash diet I was getting very excited. I checked back in with Jose, and he put me in contact with Cindy Douglas of Tutti Frutti Farms who said they had some more butternut squash seconds that they were willing to let go to our livestock. I met up with Cindy, and we worked together sorting squash into what they could bring to market, and those with blemishes or other flaws that we could take back to the farm. I came away with about 1200 pounds of seconds for the goats! By my calculations, that amount of squash could feed our dairy does another 2 months.
Over the winter, we connected with John Kiddie at Nojoqui Farms, located in Buellton near Tutti Frutti Farms and Rancho La Vina, and they also generously donated butternut squash seconds to our livestock. Over the next few months, between Tutti Frutti Farms and Nojoqui Farms we were gifted another 3500 pounds of assorted winter squash!
At this writing, our dairy herd has been happily and healthily turning winter squash into goat milk for over 7 months, and we still have quite a bit of squash left! People ask us if the milk has started to taste like squash!? NO, but it’s delicious and creamy, and the goats are looking healthy and happy. Last month we started to supplement with a few daily cups of organic alfalfa pellet for 2 of our milking does who looked like they needed a bit more nutrition. We also supplement a few of the does with a little local hay, but overall, our dairy does are winter squash and Cuyama forage (trees and brush) powered!
I’ve found out recently that winter squash is historically used as high quality winter feed for goats. Let me know if any of you readers are doing this as well. I’d love to hear your results. If the squash begins to rot, then it’s a big favorite with our chickens, and in the end, anything that didn’t get into the belly of an animal goes to the compost pile and from there into soil building.
When I asked Cindy of Tutti Frutti Farms what she’d like for me to share with people reading this story, she said, “Tell people to support their local Farmer’s Markets!”
Hey, People! Support Your Local Farmer’s Markets!!!!! Keep our communities filled with a rich diversity of beautiful locally grown food.
I’d like to thank Jose Baer of Rancho La Vina and Oso Ag, Chris Cadwell and Cindy Douglas of Tutti Frutti Farms, and John Kiddie and all the good folks at Nojoqui Farms for donating their produce seconds to our appreciative animals at Quail Springs, and for helping us move toward deeper understandings of what it takes to grow local, unprocessed, high quality feed for our food giving animals.