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Monday, December 30, 2013

Growing Fodder for your Farm Animals


growing fodder, how to grow fodder, growing barley, alfalfa, oats, fodder for farm animals, cheap way to feed farm animals, frugal farming tips



   As most of you know, we raise goats, chickens, donkeys, and rabbits here on our little homestead. During the summer, our animals forage and graze around for food and we supplement it with grains and sunflower seeds when need be.  In the winter, we used to have to buy a LOT of feed and hay to sustain our animals through the winter.  It quickly becomes quite costly.
    A few months back we decided that we would look into growing fodder for the animals.  We read all we could and decided it was the right path for us.  We have been doing it ever since and we are HOOKED!  Growing fodder is easy, cheap and takes up a minimal amount of space.  How cheap is it?  Well, a 50 lb. bag of grain will grow into 300 lbs. of fodder.  Yes, you read that right.  50 lb. becomes 300 lbs.  You save money and your animals will LOVE it.  They go crazy when they see us coming with it.
     When you decide to grow fodder, you have a variety of grains to choose from.  The most popular that are used are barley, oats, or alfalfa.  I know people have also used corn and wheat with success too.  One note, if you buy oats, just buy whole oats.  Crimped or rolled oats will NOT work.   Just go to your local feed store to buy the grains.
    Most people start off with barley because it is the easiest to grow.  We started out with oats because our local feed store does not carry barley.  We have grown alfalfa, oats and barley now and they all do fine.  Barley does grow the quickest and thickest but our animals seem to prefer the oats.  We grow oats for 2 weeks, then switch to barley for a week, then to alfalfa and repeat the cycle. Do what works best for you and your animals.   Oats are really good for goats and donkeys digestion.  It has great rumen fermentation and is a rich source of protein and it is high in fiber.
     My husband built my shelves out of scrap lumber and welded wire we had laying around.
growing fodder, how to grow fodder, growing barley, alfalfa, oats, fodder for farm animals, cheap way to feed farm animals, frugal farming tips
The shelf my hubby made for our fodder system.

        The trays I purchased from a dollar store. They are just cheap, aluminum roasting pans that you usually use and throw away.  The size I bought are 15 1/2" x 12" x 2 1/2".  We purchased 14 of these because I like to "harvest" two a day to feed the animals.  Hubby drilled a lot of holes in each pan and I was ready to start.
     On the first day, soak your grains in a bucket of water for 8-12 hours.  Cover the grains with about 2" of water.  I generally soak mine right before I go to sleep so they are ready when I am the next day.
    On the second day, rinse the seeds well and then rinse them some more.  Now, pour the rinsed grains into your tray(s) and place on the top shelf.  You want the grains to cover the bottom of the tray but be no more than 1/2" deep.  Again, I "harvest" two trays a day so I have 14 trays with 2 trays for each one of my 7 shelves.  Be sure to soak seeds for tomorrow.
     On the third day, move the tray(s) from the top shelf and move to the second shelf.  Take the grains you soaked and rinse them and put them in trays and they go on the top shelf.  Each day you will do this and lower the trays down a shelf.  You will need to water these trays about twice a day.  You water the top shelf and the water runs through each shelf to water the ones down below.  Just be sure the water drains out well. They need to be moist but not soggy or else mold will grow and you don't want that. Do not forget to have some kind of tray on the very bottom to catch the draining water or you'll have a big mess.  :-)
   Remember, to have fodder every day, you must start a new batch soaking every day.  It takes a week (for barley) or 10 days (for oats and alfalfa) to begin with but the nutritional value of fodder is so much greater than grain alone.
   You can "harvest" it at any time but I do mine anywhere from 7-10 days depending on the grain I am growing.  By this point, the greens are about 6"-8" tall and there is a nice root mat also.  The fodder is easy to work with at this point also.  Just pick it up in one big piece or tear it up and feed the animals.  The animals will be almost salivating when they see you coming.  How they enjoy the seeds, greens, and roots so much more than just plain grains and the digestibility is so much better that they eat less too.  Another bonus of fodder is it takes no fertilizer, no soil, no special knowledge. That's right.  It only uses water and sunlight to grow.  Amazing!
     With winter time, we place 4' plant lights on each end of our shelves to help the fodder grow better.  We have had great success with this method.
growing fodder, how to grow fodder, growing barley, alfalfa, oats, fodder for farm animals, cheap way to feed farm animals, frugal farming tips
Isn't this oat fodder beautiful?!

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24 comments:

  1. Looks like you're growing in a greenhouse. We've got pretty cold winter days/nights even here in So. Virginia. Doesn't it have to maintain temperatures? Will the greenhouse do that?

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    1. No, we are not growing it in a greenhouse. It is growing here in my home office. The shelf's picture was taken outside right after my husband finished building it. The plants are lit up so well in the photos from the plant lights that we mentioned we use.

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  2. Replies
    1. Michaele, no I am not using soil. It is just the grains going into the pans by themselves. I water them twice a day and they grow beautifully this way. That is one of the truly amazing parts. :-)

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  3. This is an excellent post. Thank you for explaining your method so well. I hope to work out a similar system to feed our animals.

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    1. I am glad it could be helpful. If you have any questions, feel free to ask and I'll do my best to answer it!

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  4. Do you grow fodder in your home year round or only during the winter months?

    Thanks

    Joe

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    1. Joe, we are only growing it in the winter months. Our animals get enough greens and roughage from our property during the summer. If it ever happens that they are not getting enough from the land, we will grow in the warmer months also. Thanks for stopping by!

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  5. I enjoyed this post. Thank you for being so thorough with your instructions. I am going to share this with my mom for her goat and plan to do it for my animals too. I think my duck would like it and I think my bunnies would even like some.

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    1. So glad you liked it and glad you are sharing what you learned.

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  6. I've been researching a fodder system for a year, and have been deterred by cost. Your system sounds very affordable. Thanks for sharing it. I am going to dive in and do it.

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    1. Heidi, did you ever make your system? I'd love to hear how it worked for you.

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  7. Great post!! We've actually been considering growing fodder or just sprouting seeds for our animals. I think we should look more into growing us some!!

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    Replies
    1. Good to hear Mary. It really is a great way to feed your animals and save money.

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  8. Great post. How many animals doe syour two trays a day cover and what else are you feeding them?

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    1. We gave a tray to our 2 donkeys, a tray to the goats and the third tray (we do 3 trays now) divides up between the chickens, rabbits, and ducks. We let them forage and supplement with other feed and hay.

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  9. This was a wonderful post. Thanks for the excellent information on fodder!

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  10. When I offered fodder to my hens, they looked at me like I was nuts. :o( But I do fermented feed which is also a big cost cutter for chickens. I haven't offered the fodder to the goats yet as they have plenty to eat as it is.
    I'm having fun browsing your site!

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    1. Marianne, Wow, our chickens LOVE it. Glad you stopped by and hope you find other posts that are helpful!

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  11. Thanks for this post! I have two questions. 1) How many animals are you feeding with your two trays per day? 2) What kind of lights do you use?

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    1. We are using plant lights or grow lights (full spectrum light bulbs). We took out the flourescent bulbs and replaced them with these.

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  12. Do you feed the hens oats? I read someplace (after I bought 25lbs.) that oats would make hens molt and/or stop laying? Have you had any trouble with your girls?

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    Replies
    1. Yes, I feed the oat fodder to my hens too. I have not heard this and have not had this issue myself. My layers are still laying like crazy. :-)

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