From the first day I visited Rene and Bob’s farm, I’ve been perplexed at how they make it work. The fact is, they don’t. And they don’t care.
Every farmer who raises any kind of livestock has to be aware of who eats what, how much they eat in a day and where future supplies of feed will come from.
Rene and Bob give their alpacas hay on an arbitrary schedule that seems to fall on whatever day no one is readily available to feed the hay. Rene “works” at the shop Monday – Saturday from 1100 to 1800, therefore she is not available to feed her own animals on those days. It takes roughly 20 minutes to drive from the ranch to the shop, a distance of approximately 13 miles.
What? If she doesn’t need to leave for the shop until 1030, what is she doing until then? Can’t she feed the animals before she leaves for work? Nope. She claims to be a farmer, but her actions prove she is not a farmer of any kind.
Real Farmers feed their animals in the morning, often before they eat themselves. Real Farmers understand that livestock of all kinds, but especially those who chew their cud, like to eat early in the day, before it gets hot, and then lay down in the afternoon/early evening to chew their cud before nightfall. No Real Farmers I’ve ever known have fed their livestock after dark, as sometimes happens on this particular alpaca “ranch.”
Bob is not a morning person. He is a Vietnam vet with PTSD and shrapnel in his back. He is medicated to control his mood swings, manage his pain and help him sleep. According to both Bob and Rene, Bob does not sleep much, but what sleep he does get is in the early daylight hours. Of course, he doesn’t even try to get to sleep before midnight, so what can he expect?
I don’t know what Bob’s issues might be, but it seems to me that if a person gets, at best, four hours of sleep and they live on a farm, it would be helpful to tailor one’s sleep for the hours of darkness and get out of bed at daybreak in order to get a start on the chores before it gets hot outside. Maybe that’s just me?
But back to the subject at hand, livestock feed.
Every Real Farmer knows how much each animal eats on an ordinary day. If an animal hasn’t eaten their daily ration, said Real Farmer knows that something is amiss and will watch that animal closely to determine the cause. Often it’s nothing, but it could be a sign of intestinal distress, the onset of illness or bullying by another animal, to name a few causes. The Real Farmer knows his animals and how much they normally eat and drink on any given day.
If you feed your animals hay and they scatter it around on the ground, they are not hungry. It follows that you are feeding too much hay. Hay on the ground is money wasted – animals will soil it and then it’s ruined. You might as well shred dollar bills and toss them into the pens – you’ll go broke quicker, the bank will foreclose and the animals will end up being a problem for someone else, saving everyone time and the animals some heartbreaking interval of starvation.
Any Real Farmer understands that his animals should be eager for breakfast. They should come eagerly up to the gate for their daily ration – any other behavior is cause for concern. A Real Farmer will not waste resources.
Every Real Farmer is intimately familiar with their feed stores and supply lines. Be a Real Farmer and know where your feed comes from and where it goes!