Tuesday, November 6, 2012

A Noodleville Review: Chaffhaye Alfalfa

Thought I’d share a bit about one of my new favorite feed items for the goats.

As my readers know, I raise dairy goats. I want healthy, productive animals who maintain body condition and I want to be able to afford to maintain them.

Each producer manages their herd in their own way based on what they can afford and what works for them. I’ve always fed a diet that includes grass hay of some sort for roughage, whole grains on the milk stand for calories to maintain body weight, good quality loose minerals and alfalfa in some form as the base of their diet to provide calcium and protein to fuel milk production. I don’t feed much grain or concentrates and feel my animals are healthier on a forage based diet.

In west Texas, good alfalfa is hard to come by and even harder to afford. And, if you happen to spring for a nice bale, those picky goats will pick through the bale, eat all the soft leaves and waste most of the stems… When a so-so quality, 55lb bale of alfalfa is running $18.50 a pop, this is far from economical. Alfalfa pellets on the other hand have no waste & they store easily. I would only buy Standlee brand pellets because they are a GMO free product and unlike other local brands, it was dust free, not preserved with animal fat (yes, some pellets for herbivores contain animal fat and that's just nasty!) smelled great and at $10 per 40lbs, I felt like I certainly got my monies worth.

A couple months ago, I started having supply issues… My store frequently ran out. And then the price started creeping on up… Current price is $12.99 for 40lbs.

Heard about Chaffhaye and discovered I had a semi-local dealer and thought I’d give it a test run. First, I gave Kimber a call and chatted a bit… She was really helpful and even sent me these lil sample packs in the mail to try out:

Chaffhaye sample packs
Chaffhaye is a GMO free, fermented alfalfa. It’s chopped in the field, allowed to dry to 50% moisture.. Afterwards it’s misted with a smidge of molasses and then inoculated with beneficial bacteria… Once it’s been inoculated it’s baled into airtight packages so the beneficial bacteria can get to work breaking down some of the plant fibers… The end result is a semi-moist, highly digestable fermented alfalfa loaded with natural pro-biotics and beneficial yeast. Click on the video below for a short clip showing how Chaffhaye is produced.

I was VERY skeptical.. Price was $12.50 per 50lbs, but since it’s a semi-moist product, part of that 50lbs I’m paying for is just moisture…. Really thought I’d have to feed more pounds per animal than I was feeding with the alfalfa pellets and if that was the case, it would not be an economical choice for my herd….

Despite my reservations, I bought 6 bags and worked on introducing the new food slowly. Being a new product to me, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I once tried a bag of this chopped, dried TNT brand alfalfa and it was chopped so fine it was almost dust, it smelled stale and no one would eat it…. Knowing this was a product with 50% moisture I had pictured kind of a damp mush..

I was pleasantly surprised when I opened the first bag that it smelled wonderful and it was only a coarse chop, not a fine chopped, mushy mess… There were several stem pieces in there in the 6”-10” length, but all were very soft stems..

Here is an up close picture of a clump of Chaffhaye… On the left is what 90% of the Chaffhaye looks like… On the right is a picture of a giant beneficial yeast colony I found in one bag. These yeasty bits are like a super food…. It has a velvety texture and the consistency of a good Greek yogurt.

Chaffhaye up close. Beneficial yeast colony pictured on right...

Curiosity, as always, got the best of me, so I tasted a bit on a dare from my 9 year old son (He double-dog dared me, so of course I couldn‘t chicken out, so quit with the disapproving head shakes!)….

It was kind of yogurt-y with a yeasty hint… Almost like someone mixed beer and a mild yogurt.

I will say it certainly was NOT my cup of tea, I prefer my yogurt sweet, without beer & alfalfa undertones, but the goats fight over these pieces! I have to break them up and distribute evenly between feeders or Bleuberry will hog them all.

Large yeast colony in Chaffhaye
Kimber up at Chaffhaye recommended fluffing up a bucket full and letting it air a bit before feeding the first time and I found this really helped my picky girls give it a try. My grown does LOVED it… Ginger, my old girl who hails from Idaho, land of beautiful alfalfa, was MOANING in her feeder and trying to cram as much in her mouth as possible… She certainly thinks this is much, much better than pellets..

The doelings shocked me.. Being younger, I thought they’d readily attack it, but they acted as if I put poison out for them. Snorting, head shaking and staring at me as if I lost my mind.
So I mixed it up ½ & ½ with their alfalfa pellets and gradually reduced the amount of pellets each day.. By about 10 days in. the doelings were mobbing me at the gate when I brought in the Chaffhaye & were picking around the alfalfa pellets so they could eat just the Chaffhaye…

The bucks took about 17 days to finally try it. Goats like routine so I guess I shouldn't be so shocked that they took a while to make the switch.

We’re almost 8 weeks into feeding Chaffhaye and I must say I’m truly impressed. I have dried up all but one of my does and I am feeding my milking girl about 2lbs - 2 ½ lbs per day. When I fed alfalfa pellets, I also fed about 2lbs- 2 ½ lbs a day, so my fears about having to feed more because of the moisture content turned out to be unjustified.

I had another pleasant surprise… Since I already fed an alfalfa based diet before the switch, I didn’t expect a change in milk production at all, but Bleuberry went from producing right at 4lbs of milk (½ gallon) each morning to producing 4 ½ lbs - 5lbs each morning! She’s a first freshener who has been milking for almost 10 months now, she’s pregnant, plus I cut her down to once a day milking in preparation for drying her up… Yes, I know ½ lb - 1lb isn’t a huge jump or anything marvelous, but to see the jump this late in lactation while feeding the same amounts as I was feeding of the pellets was pretty nifty.

March 2012 doelings: All ear varities love Chaffhaye! Mocha the Lamancha, Heidi the Alpine & Rosie the Nubian
I’m very happy to see that Ginger, who is going on 9 years old, is putting on weight even though she too is not eating more pounds of Chaffaye than she was of the pellets… And Austin, the scrawny Alpine buck I bought at the beginning of fall is actually putting on weight as well which is awesome!
Oh! And I must mention the packaging! I love the packaging on these bales.... It's very compact so you don't need as much storage space and the packaging is very durable. If you're like me and don't have a big hay storage area, you can stack this up outside and just cover with a tarp to keep the sun off of it and it will store well for at least 2 years with no spoilage or loss in nutrients as long as the package is intact.... Plus, you can toss a few bags in your car and not worry about a mess:

I had 6 bags tossed in my lil SUV, plus still had room for groceries & a few bags of feed.

Tricks stopped eating to have her picture snapped.
I have no waste, the goats lick up every last stem & I’m finding that as long as I close up the bag, my Chaffhaye isn’t drying out or spoiling even on a bag that’s been open for 2 weeks.

So, color me convinced, I love this stuff!

For those of y’all interested in learning more, hop on over to Chaffhaye's website for all the techincal info I left out of this post, and if you still have any questions, contact Kimber by clicking here.

For my local readers, hit up Mr. Jack Cress.. He’s been wonderful about accommodating my schedule and is always helpful… Plus, he’s offering the best local price per bale.

Oh, another nifty thing… I am a frugal goat keeper, so anytime I can save a bit of $$$$$ I’m a happy camper.

In October, Chaffhaye did a photo contest on their Facebook page which you can find here: Chaffhaye on Facebook and this picture of Blueberry & Ginger won!!

Our Chaffhaye Photo Contest picture.
I must confess, getting that picture almost killed me. I wanted to be able to show that they were truly eating Chaffhaye, so instead of my usual bucket feeding, I toted the whole bag out.

I had this cute idea of all the girls standing around the bale eating peacefully and looking serene….. But what I got instead was a mobbing, mad dash of goats everywhere, I was barely able to hold on to the bag and get the gate closed!!

Fighting, ear biting, shoving and I had my toes stomped on more than one occasion… Star ducked between by legs trying to get around Ginger, which landed me on my rear, and Bleuberry, in an attempt to keep the bag to herself, knocked it over twice.. One head toss sent my cell phone flying out of my hand and I‘m actually very shocked it didn‘t break and I was able to continue snapping pictures…Took about 30 shots to get just one non-blurry picture and I tried to get Star in a shot, but the Alpines weren’t allowing a Lamancha at the bale, so I had to settle for just a shot of Blueberry & Ginger. To say I worked for that darn picture is an understatement!

And here is our prize.. Hard to read, but it is a coupon for 5 free bags of Chaffhaye! Pretty spiffy eh? They had 2 of these contest in October, so I think it’s great that they hook up customers with cool prizes. So, go “Like” their Facebook page and watch for tidbits and future contest.

Kidding season in Noodleville starts February 2013 and I'm really looking forward to seeing how my next kid crop does when started on Chaffhaye instead of pellets... Also looking forward to my milk numbers next year so I can see how all the girls milk on this at peak lactation...

As a parting shot, here's some of the March/May 2012 doelings chowing down on some Chaffhaye. Cookie the Alpine has a big mouthful and 3 of the other doelings are trying to lick every last leaf from the bag.

Cookie, Mocha, Rose & Tricks

Best Wishes,