Farm Dogs

Gus, our 5 month old Anatolian x Labrador

Through a decade of research and trials on our five dogs (and a litter of 8 puppies!) I have adapted many “farm dog feeding” principles to fit our lifestyle and available foodstuffs. In my journey, I have gauged our dogs’ health, temperament, body condition, breath, waste, teeth, and even haircoat to make adjustments. Most of the time, the dogs are fed only homemade food, with a lot of it being raw, and homegrown or harvested.

I’m not sure that I could feed our dogs this way if we didn’t live on a farm with access to our own homegrown meats, veggies, fruits, goat milk products and fresh eggs. But since we do, making homemade dog food is simple, pleasing, cost effective and doesn’t take much time to do!

When I first got into preparing homemade food for our dogs I utilized this book, and still do!

I also like browsing online for recipe ideas. The basics are to provide a diet of whole grains, healthy fats, raw protein, and several supplements (nutritional yeast, kelp and salmon oil) and also knowing what to avoid. Of course, many dogs (even ours at times) thrive just fine on quality dog food from the feed store. The only caveat I’ve found is that once they enjoy homemade, it’s hard to switch them back!

Daisy & Liberty

Now, I think the very best part about making homemade dog food – just like making anything at home – is that not only do you know exactly what is going into the dog bowls, but you know what is NOT being added. No preservatives, rancid ingredients, plastic or chemicals… after all, why feed your farm dog food that YOU wouldn’t eat? As with all the feed on the farm, why even purchase and store it if isn’t fit for humans, either?

It is very important to note that dogs have different nutrient requirements than humans for their proportional body size. Their balanced diet includes:

  • High-quality protein (meat, seafood, dairy or eggs)
  • Fat (meat or oil)
  • Carbohydrates (grains, vegetables, fruits)
  • Calcium (dairy)
  • Essential fatty acids (egg yolks or oatmeal)

I aim for a recipe that is approximately 50% protein, 25% veggies or fruits, and 25% grains, but the ratios can easily be adjusted to suit your dog’s breed, age, gender and individual dietary needs.

Daisy’s pups – October 2017

For example, our older, female, spayed dogs might get cooked or soaked oatmeal in the morning, with raw eggs, a bit of cottage cheese or plain yogurt, and a supplement mix I make from kelp, nutritional yeast and flaxseed meal. Then for dinner they’ll get raw beef, poultry, venison or rabbit, salmon oil, cooked sweet potato, carrot or pumpkin, and more of the supplement. I’ll add cooked green beans, rice, homemade salt-free broth, raw milk pumpkin seeds, etc. as I see fit. After dinner they usually get a raw marrow bone (beef or venison) that keeps their teeth in top condition and busts the evening boredom.

But the puppy may get a variation of those meals, and he may get 3-4 smaller meals a day, depending on his energy, activity level and rate of growth. The pups often enjoy more goat milk or whey, and additions of bananas or unsweetened applesauce.

I avoid these ingredients: pork and pork bones, all cooked bones (raw beef, chicken and rabbit bones are fine), salt & pepper, onions, and most spices (though some herbs are ok). No fish skin or bones, no raw salmon or trout… but cooked is ok! I don’t feed much cottage cheese or cheese at all, unless it’s homemade, as commercial cheese is fairly salty. Also, I also avoid sugar and ALL artificial sweeteners. Xylitol, Splenda, and others can in fact be toxic. No chocolate! Oh, and no alcohol. Not kidding. Please refer to Juliette’s book for more on what farm dogs should/should not eat.

For their carbohydrate (energy) needs, I feed white rice (not brown), rolled oats or barley, or oat groats. The rice is steamed, and grains are usually soaked overnight in milk, whey or broth. Our older dog, Daisy gets skin irritation if she eats gluten, so we don’t feed much wheat and we don’t feed corn or soy.

This breakfast features organic rolled oats soaked overnight in whey from making goat cheese, a raw pastured egg, unsweetened homemade applesauce, homemade goat milk ricotta, ground organic flaxseed meal, nutritional yeast flakes, and North Atlantic kelp meal (for potassium and trace minerals). Just before serving, it will also get a spoonful of salmon oil on top.

I do make lots of dog freezer meals (great for the farm dog sitter) and home canned salt free stews for them. With everything I cook or prepare for the family, I keep the dog’s food in mind. Drained juice from home canned meats? Into their soaked oats! Cooking water from blanching veggies? Into their next stew! And I plan ahead, often cooking or soaking a large pot of rice or oatmeal and use it all week long.

I began canning homemade dog food many years ago. For this meal, the broth is drained off the “stew” and used to soak oats which are served for breakfast along with raw eggs & milk, salmon oil and a kelp-flax-yeast supplement. The “stew” is served for dinner, the quart jar split between two very healthy (and spoiled!) yellow labs. The stews are all varied: carrots, sweet or white potatoes, winter squash, venison, rabbit, chicken, etc. Salt, pork or fat are never added. My canner holds 14 quarts, so when I have a case of empty jars, I simply prep 5# each of veggie (carrot, squash, etc.) 5# starch (sweet or white potato), and 5# meat. Divide among the jars, add water to cover, and process at 10# (under 1,000 feet above sea level) for 90 minutes. In a pinch, this can be a human dinner… just add some seasoning!

Occasional, the dogs get a “fasting day.” On Sundays the dogs (adults only) will have a rest day for their gut, enjoying just lots of fresh clean water until offered a very light early dinner. They don’t seem to mind a bit!

Day of Rest.

Treats! Homemade dog biscuits are awesome and fun – check online for a multitude of DIY recipes! (Made with whole grain flour, lard or coconut oil, flaxseed meal, nut or seed butter, eggs, pumpkin, etc.) The dogs also enjoy marrow bones and raw carrots from a young age.

MASTER RECIPE INGREDIENT OPTIONS (see something not on this list? email me with your ideas or recipes:

50% raw protein

  • beef
  • chicken
  • turkey
  • duck
  • venison
  • eggs
  • dairy
  • fish (cooked)
  • rabbit

25% veg/fruit

  • green beans (cooked)
  • apples (cooked or raw)
  • banana
  • winter squash (cooked)
  • summer squash (cooked or raw)
  • greens (spinach, chard, parsley, etc, raw or cooked)

25% grain or other carbs, cooked or soaked

  • rolled oats
  • rolled barley
  • cooked white rice
  • cream of wheat or rice
  • cooked oat groats
  • cooked sweet or white potatoes

Fat, calcium, fatty acids, etc.

  • lard
  • oil – olive, coconut
  • salmon oil (commercial brand by Grizzly)
  • nutritional yeast
  • kelp
  • egg yolk
  • milk/whey
  • flaxseed meal

Success Story

This is our Winchester “Winnie” gal. We rescued her at about a year old when I was expecting our 2nd son. When we moved to the farm 5 years later, she had started to grow some small skin tumors and fatty lumps, and was quite lame in her hindquarters. After a year of our homemade dog food diet, the skin cleared up and she regained her health and vibrancy. Winnie was THAT dog who would play ball until she couldn’t walk anymore. She was loyal as could be, the boys’ ultimate protector, and everyone’s best friend. Winnie was about 17 years old when she finally crossed the rainbow bridge.