By Jennifer Poindexter
Do you have livestock or a small flock of backyard chickens? Feeding your livestock friends can become expensive. However, there are ways to offset the cost of raising animals. One way my family likes to do this is my growing fodder.
If you’ve never heard of fodder, it’s basically sprouting grains. These sprouts can even grow into full grown plants, such as wheat grass. Your animals get something fresh and green that they love, and you make a fifty pound bag of feed go much further.
If you’re interested in growing your own fodder, here’s how you can do it:
· Something to sprout (we’ll talk about this in greater detail below)
· A fodder system
1. What Should You Sprout?
There are many things you can use to make your own fodder. My personal favorite is wheat. It’s easy to purchase online or from a local mill.
Plus, the seeds are large enough that there’s little error in sprouting this product, and it produces a nice product that my animals love.
However, there are many other things you may sprout as well such as alfalfa, broccoli, corn, quinoa, barley, amaranth, millet, radish, lentils, oats, sorghum, and salad greens.
Depending upon what you’re feeding may depend upon what you sprout. For instance, we used to raise goats in a paddock because we didn’t have pasture.
They enjoyed wheat grass. Since we moved to our farm, they have pasture and don’t want fodder anymore.
Now, I feed fodder to my turkey, ducks, and chickens. My turkey and ducks still enjoy wheat grass. My chickens are fans of sprouted salad greens.
What you sprout may depend upon availability, the animal you’re feeding, and your success rate with the seeds.
2. Soak Seeds Overnight
Prior to growing fodder, you must soak your seeds. I’ve grown fodder using various set-ups, so let’s take a moment and discuss how your set-up is going to determine your seed soaking process and beyond.
Our first fodder system was a large, homemade set-up built by my husband. It was a nice set-up, but it was rather bulky.
You can search the internet for DIY fodder set-ups, but be prepared as you may need space in an unused room, sun room, or greenhouse for growing fodder on a larger scale.
Our initial set-up included large black trays that we found at our local big box hardware store. From there, he built a stand for the trays to slide in and out of.
These trays were larger, so we cut a milk carton down to size and used it as a scoop for our seeds. From there, we covered the seeds with lukewarm water and allowed them to sit overnight inside the carton before pouring the seeds into the tray.
Be sure to drill holes in the trays as it’s vital that water be able to drain away from the seeds during the watering sessions. We’ll discuss this in greater detail below.
Each tray represented a day, so we only filled one tray of soaked seeds each day. It’s important that you add enough seeds to each tray.
They should form a single layer along the bottom of the tray. You don’t want too few seeds as this tends to hurt the end product and overall germination.
In recent times, I’ve purchased a couple of smaller sprouting systems. They each have their pros and cons.
The first system I used is a small, round stackable set (like this one from Amazon). It’s very compact and is easy to keep around the kitchen for this reason.
The downside to this sprouting system is it isn’t good for smaller seeds. They clog the holes, stop up the water, and cause poor germination.
If you use larger seeds, you may avoid these issues. When using this type of sprouting system, it’s best to soak the seeds in a cup overnight and then pour them into the trays once ready to start the sprouting process.
The second fodder system I purchased uses a series of trays (like this one from Amazon). These work well if the seeds are larger than the holes.
The main downside to this is if the seeds are too small, they fall through the holes of the trays which causes issues. You could line the trays with sprouting paper or a paper towel to avoid the seeds falling through.
However, the biggest issue with this system is it takes up a lot of room as the trays don’t stack, so this can cause an issue if you have a small kitchen, like myself.
When soaking these seeds, you place them in the bottom tray overnight in lukewarm water. Then pour them into the draining tray the next day when ready to begin the sprouting process.
Once you have your fodder system in place and your seeds are soaking, it’s time to get started growing fodder.
3. Rinse the Seeds
After your seeds have soaked overnight, pour them into the trays. If you have a stackable system, the seeds most recently soaked overnight should go on top.
Then pour lukewarm water over the seeds and allow the water to drain through each tray until it reaches the holding reservoir at the bottom of the set-up.
If you use non-stackable trays, fill the bottom holding reservoir with lukewarm water. Then take the tray holding the seeds and rinse them with lukewarm water under a faucet.
I typically only dump the water in the holding reservoir once per day for the non-stackable trays. However, the stackable trays should have the water reservoir emptied each time you rinse to avoid water running over.
Be sure to rinse your seeds thoroughly twice per day. I usually rinse mine first thing in the morning and again before I start dinner in the evening.
When using a stackable system, be sure to rotate the trays down one level each morning. This means the bottom tray will become the top tray at each rotation.
4. Watch Them Grow
This next step is simple. It’s important to keep an eye on your seeds as they sprout and grow. I recommend adding something to cover your seeds.
Some sprouting systems come with a lid. Others don’t and in these cases, it may be wise to cover the seeds with sprouting paper, a paper towel, or a coffee filter.
This can help absorb some of the excess moisture and keep the seeds from forming mold. It may also be wise to grow your fodder in a warmer location (such as on top of a refrigerator) or place them in a location which receives indirect sunlight.
By doing this, it could provide the warmth needed to deter mold as well.
Continue rinsing the seeds twice per day and rotating the trays (if your set-up calls for it) once per day. In approximately seven days, your fodder should be ready.
5. Feed Your Animals and Repeat
When your seeds have sprouted and formed nice greenery, it’s time to feed the fodder to your livestock. The fodder easily slides out of the trays.
I like to carry the trays to the feeding area and break the fodder up into smaller pieces. This will allow each chicken to get a piece and run away with it.
Most livestock don’t like to share, so breaking the fodder up could deter disagreements. It’s common to have a few seeds which didn’t sprout.
Dump them on the ground and allow your animals to enjoy them as a special treat. Then you’ll repeat this process each day as you add a new round of seeds to be soaked or added to the fodder system to create more food for your livestock.
With a little preparation, you can begin growing fodder quickly. Find what you like to sprout and the set-up which works for your living arrangements.
Then you can begin growing fodder to supplement your livestocks’ feed and save money as well.