Last year it was the cost of hay and straw and this year due to the wet summer, the cost of feed wheat has gone through the roof. (And the cost of hay and straw doesn’t really seem to have come down either). livestock keepers from back yard poultry keepers to large farmers will find that feed bills increase this winter. So how do you manage the costs? Here are some dos and don’ts.

Don’t stop feeding balanced compound feeds such as layer’s pellets or sheep nuts. These contain all the nutrients needed for whatever they are formulated. Modern hybrid hens simply cannot lay on grain and scraps (which incidentally are largely illegal to feed) alone. All you will get is a decrease in eggs and if you are trying to finish an animal for the freezer, a lack of growth. Do feed the correct amount and make sure it is all eaten up by the poultry or livestock. You should never have to discard waste feed – either you are feeding too much or your feeders are not keeping it clean and dry in winter weather. You are literally throwing away money.

Don’t necessarily go for the cheapest feed. Laying pellets can have different formulations and hybrids or ex batts will need a higher protein. Check out the label. Take advice from feed companies on the right feed for your stock.

Do give thought to safe storage of feed. Rats and mice should not be dining at your expense. It is easier to protect the feed with metal bins than to eradicate rodents if they can get free food. Plus there is a disease risk if rodents are contaminating your feed Don’t underestimate how much feed you need – be realistic. It’s better to be able to budget for the correct costs than be taken by surprise.

Do make sure you have enough feed in stock to get through bad weather when you perhaps cannot get to the feed merchants and plan ahead for the Christmas period – some business close for quite a long time over this time and deliveries can be affected.

Don’t undervalue your produce when you sell it. If it is costing you more to produce eggs then put the price up. Most smallholders sell eggs way below the supermarket price anyway. Don’t just give eggs to visitors unless you are bartering. Just because you produce eggs and they don’t doesn’t mean that just turning up with an empty egg box means you have to fill it! Do feed plenty of forage – hay, haylage or barley straw and buy this ahead as well. Good quality forage or access to a well grassed paddock will help keep your livestock healthy.

Although of low feed value, winter grass does have some nutrients and is a natural feed for livestock – but you’ll still need to keep up the bagged feed and get a mineral lick.

Don’t feed worms – get worm counts down on all your livestock and have programme for worming poultry Do check the weight of your livestock by feeling them, measuring them in the case of equines and weighing them if finishing for meat. Feed chickens their normal laying diet through the stress of moulting.

Don’t think that rugging your equine means you can feed less – this is a common myth. Rugging is to keep ridden animals clean and dry, not to cut feed costs in equines that have perfectly good coats of their own such as native ponies. Older animals may benefit from a rug but it’s no substitute for feeding the right amount of a balanced ration.

Balancing your smallholder stock’s diet A simple and cost effective method of providing the necessary nutrients to maintain optimum health in your smallholder stock is through a well-formulated, free-access lick. Because licks are fed on a free access self-help basis the blocks are typically consumed on a “little and often” basis throughout the day. This trickle feeding system mimics the way all ruminants – such as cattle, sheep, goats and deer – naturally graze and provides them with a continuous delivery of essential nutrients over a 24-hour period.

In nature, ruminants would have free access to a wide variety of different vegetation by grazing large areas during the day. But domesticated livestock are kept in very different circumstances with limited access to grazing and a very restricted variety of plants within the grazing area. Feeding a lick has many advantages over other types of feeding systems and will reduce the time and labour involved in feeding your stock.

Sugar is vital for optimum forage digestion in ruminants as it provides a readily available energy source for the rumen microflora. In addition a continuous nutrient delivery increases dry matter intake and digestibility, which ensures optimum growth or milk production and overall, improved animal condition.

Feeding a lick, such as the Smallholder Block by Horslyx will provide all these necessary nutrients in a palatable form, as well as anti-oxidants to maintain a healthy immune system, and fatty acids to improve skin, coat and joint condition for all the traditional smallholder stock.