Typically three things happen:
1) You thin the herd.
2) You hunt for alternative feed sources.
3) You raise prices.
I wasn't surprised when a couple of days ago I saw an article in the LA Times titled "With High Corn Prices, One farmer Copes by Feeding Cows Candy." You can access the article here: Candy Cows.
Now that's pretty creative! He has basically located expired candy and is using it as added calories in the cows diet.
I personally don't have any interest in eating candy fed cows but hey the guy is being transparent and it is a free country.
Which leads me to the next thought:
How else might farmers cope with record high grain prices?
Stale pastries - Not a good choice in my book. Many small hog and cattle farmers use everything from a very small amount to huge portions of this in the animals diet. Ever see a healthy person live on stale donuts? I rest my case.
Restaurant Waste - This requires a license in many states and must be cooked to reduce the chance of disease spread, trichinosis etc. It can be everything from plate scrapings to unused or dated product. Like stale donuts, I personally would not use this type of feed or purchase meats from those who do.
Grocery Store Dumpsters and/or Bad Produce - This is the typical "dated product" that if handled properly is still fine for consumption. Think milk or yogurt that is one day past due. The trouble with this (in my opinion of course) is that most of what is available is conventional foods that I try to avoid myself. So why feed it to my livestock?
You might be saying "yeah but what about vegetable produce David? Surely that's okay..."
Consider this: Much of the produce in conventional stores is laden with pesticide residue. Who is going to haul a load of have rotten produce home and wash it before giving it to the pigs? Some produce, with more to come on line, is now genetically modified.
Distiller Grains - This is the spent grains from breweries. Possibly one of the better choices as far as finding waste products for alternatives feed sources. I have casually kept my eye open for these but they are wet when you get them so it can become more of a labor and storage issue than it is worth to me. For me this one would be dependent on where they came from and what they consisted of.
Dairy Waste - This can come from the actual dairy its self or maybe a cheese factory etc. I classify these as I do distiller grains. They could be a good source or maybe not depends on who, where, when, and how.
I'm sure there are some others I'm forgetting but I think these are the main sources of alternative feeds in the waste category.
In closing I'll say I think the best alternative feeding strategies are what we incorporate here at Spring Hill Farms. We grow forages that the livestock can thrive on to help take the place of grain in their diet. In some cases we grow the grain vs buy it.
Don't get me wrong the high cost of grain and other production inputs are being felt here also. But I'm not heading to the grocery store dumpster for hog feed anytime soon.....or ever.
Until next time...