What Can I Grow As Stock Feed In SE Queensland?

Queensland Arrowroot, Canna edulis

Queensland Arrowroot, Canna edulis

Question
We live on 1 acre of land at Boonah, Qld approx same temperature as Ipswich, Qld, in black soil country.

We run our own poultry and a pig and are working towards a reasonable self-sufficiency with substantial vegetable garden, orchard, plus a food forest.

What I am wishing to do is try to cut back on the feed costs for these animals, by way of growing a tree of some sort on our property, instead of the large outlay of animal pellets.

Do you know if Spanish Chestnut would grow here, or my thoughts were Carob or Avocado, have you any suggestion that can help us?

Regards

Rob

In warm climates, use Arrowroot as an alternative to comfrey for composting and mulching. In fact this drought tolerant perennial is superior to comfrey because it also yields edible rhizomes and shoot tips.

Answer
Dear Rob,

Carob and avocado are good choices. Don’t think about growing sweet chestnuts – it’s too dry and the winters are too brief. Even in the Blue Mountains (NSW) sweet chestnuts produce small, dry nuts when compared to the results you get from a cool temperate European climate with more fertile soil.

For pigs and poultry:

Put Queensland arrowroot (Canna edulis) in your top five fodder/ composting crops for livestock – in the subtropics this is my substitute for comfrey.

Queensland arrowroot rhizomes are useful as stock fodder, their rhizomes are carbohydrate rich, and their fresh leaves contain up to 10% protein. In a good year, I can cut them down two or three times during the warm seasons, harvesting stems and leaves for mulching and compost making.

Plants only need occasional watering, but if you want a good crop of rhizomes for human consumption, plant rhizome sections 45cm apart at Christmas. Keep them watered in dry weather and harvest them in May. I get around 45 kg of rhizomes from 10 square metres soil.

Queensland arrowroot flourishes in damp to moist conditions, so I wouldn’t recommend planting them around dams or waterways. My guinea pigs eat young leaves. I also use the leave as alternatives to disposable plates for picnic food.

For human use, rhizomes are picked when fully formed – about half the size of a fist. Fresh rhizomes are the best quality, they will have a shiny, purple outer layer. Peel, then slice thinly (like potato crisps) and soak them in water for six hours, ideally overnight. This leaches out the excess arrowroot starch, and makes them palatable.

Slow roast or simmer sliced rhizomes until soft. Their flavour and texture is reminiscent of water chestnut.

Sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas) too is extremely useful fodder. Leafy shoot tips are great food (bland tasting, but OK if used in small amounts in stir fries) plus the tubers are good, carbohydrate all rounders. I get three crops of foliage/ runners a year for composting and, like arrowroot, they need very little
water. Yellow fleshed tubers can produce a crop in 7 – 9 weeks in SEQ during summer with some irrigation and mineral rock dust.

Lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus), can spreads by seed, making it a bit weedy. Plants needs watering to establish and maintain during drought. Leaves can be cut for bedding and for mulching or compost making.

Use sunflowers for green manuring, composting, and their mature seed heads, complete with seeds, as a source of protein and oil rich feed.

Chinese spinach, Amaranthus spp, including A. hypochondriacus) is good when picked very young – around 15-20cm high -when they are tender. I use them in stir fries, as spinach curry, etc. The seeds are oil and protein rich and were once more widely used to make gluten-free flour.

As Chinese spinach matures it’s great for composting and fodder. Chinese spinach attracts caterpillars, and by growing them in between corn they can attract caterpillars away from the corn, reducing any need to spray. I sow them in the warm seasons, but seed will germinate in warm periods during winter. Chinese spinach seedlings need regular watering to establish, but maturing plants don’t need very much water.

If you can water, and have blocks of soil for growing green manures, try lentils, chickpeas, mizuna, rocket, mustard, lucerne, millet, barley, peas, beans, and maize (corn). Apart from being suitable for green manuring, for compost making and stock fodder.

Choko shoot tips, which I use in stir fries, can be fed to poultry and livestock. The guinea pigs love them.

As for carob, you’ll need to get male and female trees for seed production, and you plant one male to pollinate six female trees. This tree is adapted to winter rain and summer drought. Their shoots, leaves and pods are good, nutritious fodder. I noticed that in Sydney during wet, humid summers cropping can be reduced.

If you generally grow non-hybrid cultivars you can save your own seed from them year in year out. Home saved seed is a quick, cheap way of bulking up your seed supply for future crops plus, over about five years, these annuals will adapt – acclimatise – to local soils and conditions. If you join up with the Seed Savers’ Network they share their seed resources free.

Cheers

Jerry Coleby-Williams
25th January 2009