Luke, I Am Your Fodder

Wouldn’t that have been great if I were able to add the labored breathing? You know you totally just read that in Darth Vader’s voice! Jeez, you all must think I’m a sci-fi junkie or something between Vader here and my buck being named “Seven of Nine”. That’s right folks… I referenced Star Wars and Star Trek all in one post. This actually has nothing to do with sci-fi movies, but I couldn’t help myself.

I have Trevor excited about one of our next project! That’s rare enough for a celebration! We are going to be setting up our own fodder sprouting system. Huh wha? Basically, we will be using a combination of whole wheat and barley grain seeds to sprout into tall, nutrient dense food for our chickens and rabbits. We even hope to have converted all of our animals (except the bees of course) to a 90% sprouted fodder diet. The chickens will still need grit, possibly calcium, and will free range for bugs and the rabbits will still need hay for roughage. We want to get our animals off of processed, pelleted feed and on to a much more natural and delicious food source. Hold on to your pants…

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image source: google images

I know what you’re thinking, but this is bigger and better than rinsing some seeds in a jar until they sprout. Sprouting fodder takes the idea of sprouting and lets the grain grow until right before the sprout gets its second leaf at around 7-10 days. This amplifies the grains natural proteins, vitamins, minerals, enzymatic activity, omega 3s, amino acids, and natural hormones. Crazy stuff. Not only that (as if it weren’t enough), when you sprout grain in this way your feed expands in volume as well. When you start with a 1 pound bag of grain, you can end up with 3 to 8 pounds of sprouted fodder in about 9 days. What’s even better is that we can use the same sprouted fodder for the chickens, rabbits, and incoming quail year-round!

Our 50 pound bags of pelleted feed sits around for a few weeks and it certainly doesn’t multiply! So this is pretty much a win, win for the animals and for our wallet. And let’s be honest, our wallets do usually make the end decision right? Trevor is more than happy that our feed bill may very well be cut by two-thirds.

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image source: google images

The main idea is to keep sprouting grains in a cycle. Every day you start as many trays as you feed in a day. So if I feed 2 trays of fodder to the rabbits and 1 tray to the chickens, I will use 3 trays of fodder and need to start 3 trays of seed grain every day. For a 9 day cycle, I will need about 30 trays (this gives me 3 extra trays for emergencies). Of course it will also depend on the size of the trays too.

We hope to have everyone fully on the fodder system by the end of March. As always, we will be sharing our setup and progress with you here and I have started a “Sprouted Fodder for Livestock” section on our DIY Projects page to refer to. Feel free to ask questions or hopefully even share advice if you are using a sprouted fodder system already! This should be fun!

Featured on “Farmgirl Friday” Blog Hop

58 thoughts on “Luke, I Am Your Fodder

  1. I grow wheat grass the same way (for my own consumption). I have 5 trays set up and water them a couple times a day, keeping them covered until they start to grow. It is pretty easy to do. I have used soil, grow mat (felt) and just seed in a tray and each method works well. The only thing to watch for is mold growth. You need to have good ventilation otherwise mold will grow at the roots. Good luck!

    • I’ve read about poor ventilation or sometimes even too warm of temperatures causing mold so hopefully I can avoid it. We have dry, breezy airflow going through the property so I hope to avoid it. I may have to build the greenhouse and get started in there so it may prove difficult to get started in the dead of winter. Thanks for the tips!

      • I am really intersted in you fodder system, I am 6 months into a non GMO changeover for all my animals, Chickens, Turkeies and Nigerian Drawf milking goats.
        How much fodder do you estimate you feed each chicken or a small batch of twelve. I bet the goats could eat a full tray each but may have bloat concens. Anyone have any data for goats, cows or pigs as to how much feed to feed? I love you forsight!!By the way since taking my flock and heard non GMO the are doing much better.I will never go bk to commercial feed excpecially that contain soy.

      • I have had the same experience in switching my animals over to non-GMO, organic feed. They are just flourishing!

        Here are the percentages of feed for sprouted fodder. It is based on the body weight of each animal. As for goats, others have said that this percentage is about right with the addition of minerals and hay and that if introduced progressively, should help keep the chance of bloat down.

        • Horse: 2-3 percent of their body weight in fodder; 1.5% body weight in dry hay
        • Beef Cow: 2-3 percent of their body weight in fodder; barley straw ration
        • Dairy Cow: 3-5 percent of their body weight in fodder; barley straw rations
        • Sheep: 2-3 percent of their body weight in fodder; hay ration
        • Goat: 2-3 percent of their body weight in fodder; mineral and hay rations
        • Dairy Goat: 3-5 percent of their body weight in fodder; mineral and hay rations
        • Alpaca: 2-3 percent of their body weight in fodder; hay ration
        • Pig: 2-3 percent of their body weight in fodder
        • Rabbit: 3-5 percent of their body weight in fodder; hay ration for roughage
        • Chicken: 2-3 percent of their body weight in fodder; grit and calcium supplements

        Read more on my article for Mother Earth News: http://www.motherearthnews.com/the-happy-homesteader/sprouted-fodder.aspx#ixzz2QH2T707U

  2. OK, I’m excited! I’ve been looking into this also but I haven’t figured out all the ins-and-outs, ups-and-downs, etc. So I’m going to follow along behind you! Please post LOTS of pictures.

    • You know I will! I’m going to scout out the dollar store for trays tomorrow and then hopefully get some organic grain in a week or so. Like Terri, I am hoping to mix wheat, barley, maybe some flax (depending on cost), and maybe some black oil sunflower seeds (also based on cost). B.O.S.S. is really good for rabbits.

      I’ll keep you updated!

  3. UH OH DID I CREATE A MONSTER! LOL I THINK BETWEEN THE TWO OF US WE ARE GOING TO BE FODDER MACHINES! I FOUND A MIX THAT INCLUDES FLAX SEED WHICH IS PROVEN TO IMPROVE AN ANIMALS COAT! I ALSO HAVE ALL THE NUTRIENTS THAT ARE IN THIS MIX AND BEST OF ALL …….IT’S PROVEN SAFE FOR RABBITS AND OTHER SMALL ANIMALS! I INTEND ON GETTING THESE SEEDS THAT ARE IN THIS MIX INDIVIDUALLY FROM A DIFFERENT SUPPLIER AND MIXING MY OWN UP. AS THE PRE MIXED ONE IS NOT COST EFFECTIVE FOR OUR PURPOSES. I ALSO FOUND A SOILESS GROWING MEDIUM CALLED BABY BLANKET AND I WILL BE USING THE BLACK STYRAFOAM (SPELLING?) TRAYS THAT MY MEAT COMES PACKAGED ON. I BELIEVE IT WILL WORK AND ARE IN MANAGEABLE SIZES BECAUSE FODDER GETS QUITE HEAVY BY THE TIME IT’S DONE. SO EXCITED. I BOUGHT SOME BARLEY AND RAW SUNFLOWER SEEDS YESTERDAY GOING TO TEST MY THEORY SOON!

  4. This is a great idea! I hate the flavor or wheat grass myself but I bet the rabbits, chickens and quail will love it!

    By the way, I have been thoroughly enjoying your blog. I too am from Berkeley and moved up to the gold country but as fate would have it, I am living in a rented place not too far from Harley Farms on the coast now. BUT…we are looking for a place to buy in Nevada County and then we can start our farm!!! I can’t wait! I miss my old farm SO much!

    Do you ever sell your angora? I love to spin and I used to have a fiber arts studio where I processed raw fleece into dyed yarns. Knitting with angora is delightful!

    I really appreciate your book recommendations and also the way you include your successes and “failures”. Growing a garden can be tough and getting things from seed to food isn’t as easy as it sounds!

    Have a great day!

    Eric Bowman
    Davenport, CA

    • I grew up in Castro Valley and have family all over the Bay Area so I’m very familiar with Berkeley. In fact, my aunt lives in Moss Beach so whenever I make the trek to her house I also “swing by” Pescadero. I LOVE Harley Farms. I think their kids (now early 30’s) went to school with my cousins. I just love everything they are doing at Harley Farms and its always refreshing to see family working together like that.

      I haven’t really sold any wool yet, but I plan to soonish. I have used it to barter for other things though so its pretty useful!

      Thank you so much for reading! I love to hear from people all over the world, but its especially fun to hear from a fellow Californian! Happy reading and I hope to hear from you again soon.

  5. Um. Wow. This sounds so brilliant! I look forward to your posts on this with much anticipation, and I’m gonna start thinking of ways I could start using this around here, although I might have to wait until it warms up some more outside, lol! Even if I could simply cut the feed bill down by supplementing with this fodder sprout stuff it would be awesome, lol! Think about hte angoras, the chances of wool block they would even get with eating all that fresh stuff!!!!!

  6. I love this idea…and you make it look so easy. Congratulations! This post is featured this week on the Farmgirl Friday Blog hop! Thank you for sharing!
    Deb

      • “a good source for inexpensive, quality grain seed”…

        So where do you even begin to look? I love the idea, but I wouldn’t know where to start looking for seed.

      • The best place to look would be a local feed or farm store. Obviously not everyone has one of those, but Tractor Supply, Walmart, a local grain mill, or even online sources like Azure Standard or Amazon all have grain you can use. Look for whole, untreated grain in either barley, wheat, or oat. Of course “feed grade” grain is going to be a lot cheaper than “food grade” grain fit for human consumption, but both are usable. If you cannot find grain anywhere else, I put some options in our Amazon affiliate store (link can be found on the right sidebar of this website). Either way, your cheapest option is going to be finding it locally.

  7. Pingback: 12 Resources on What to Feed Your Chickens | From City To Farm

    • I get my barley seed from the local feed store/farm store, but you can also find it at places like Tractor Supply, a local grain mill, or online bulk stores like Azure Standard. Look for “feed grade” or “field run” because they will be much cheaper than human “food grade”. You can use barley or wheat, even oats but they do not germinate as well.

  8. Hello all! This blog is fantastic! I started Feed Your Farm (www.feedyourfarm.com) with The Dykstra Family and we have been sprouting over 2 tons of organic barley fodder each day for over a year now on the Dykstra dairy farm in Burlington, Washington. Our system that cost $50,000 to build saves the farm over $20,000 in feed costs each month, and milk production is actually up! You can find a lot of information on our website and don’t hesitate to contact me directly if you have any questions or suggestions! I love hearing about individual experiences with feeding sprouts, and of course love sharing what we have learned over the past few years building these systems all over the country.

    Matthew Sampson
    Feed Your Farm

      • When we first started this business and things were getting exciting one of my partners sent me a text that said “Luke, I am your Fodder” so it’s just perfect that I found this blog! I look forward to perusing through your entire site and educating myself!

      • Star Wars references are just so tempting. 😉

        Your site looks great by the way. I’m sure many readers would like to know how you feed your dairy goats (?) fodder and what kind of supplements are required. If you would like to write something up about dairy goats and fodder specifically, I would love to post your experience here along with a brief bio and links to your site. Let me know! (Fmicrofarm@gmail.com)

  9. I tried this system with both my rabbits and chickens this winter but abandoned the effort after two weeks. The chickens bit off the 2 inch sprouted stem/ leaf and devoured the seed, completely ignoring the green.The rabbit’s digestive tract couldn’t handle the green material and the buns developed diarrhea. The greens had to be dried before they could ingest the sprouts without suffering very loose stools. I tried three different seeds without success. This was a big disappointment as I was hoping for a good nutritional source of live foods for my animals during our long winters.

    • As with any feed change, it should be introduced in small amounts, slowly, over a span of a month or so before taking away the old feed. I suspect your rabbits developed diarrhea because they were switched over abruptly. This could be especially true if your rabbits were not used to fresh greens in the first place. It is not a matter of rabbits themselves not being able to “handle” being fed this type of diet. It is in fact much more natural than pellets. It is a matter of volume, consistency, and a slow transition to allow them time to adapt.

      I had great success feeding rabbits sprouted fodder and benefited from larger, healthier litters. I can tell you this is the truth because I benefit in no way from saying this worked. I am not affiliated with any feed or fodder company in any way. Feeding sprouted fodder is more labor intensive and may not be for every rabbit raiser, but I have no doubt that it is a great diet for most rabbits.

  10. Please help!! I have been experimenting with barley fodder for the past year now and I am just not able to combat the mold issue!! I only use 1/2″ of seed and I have a small fan consantly blowing on my system. I water twice a day with fresh water everytime and I rinse my seed before and after soaking. The temp stays between 63-68 in the house. My next issue is that my barley only gets between 1″- 3″ tall after 9 days. Any help would be greatly appreciated. I am very eager to get this to work for me. Feel free to email me at wild_colorado89@yahoo.com

    • Wow. That just plain sucks. Mold is tough. I have a few things you can try:

      1) different seed/grain source. Many times mold is prevalent because the seed is so dirty and you practically have to scrub each grain to get it to a good starting point.

      2) shallow seed depth. Try only 1/4″ deep instead of 1/2″. The seeds may just need more air contact.

      3) add vinegar to your soaking solution at 1%. It is just enough to kill most bacteria that causes mold, but not quite enough to kill the seed.

  11. First of all, I love your website! Great work!

    I’ve been reading up about sprouting and fodder feeding, and a voice I have come to trust is Harvey Usery’s (author of “The Small Scale Poultry Flock”–great book). He says concerning the feeding of oats and barley: Do not feed these grains at greater than 15 percent of the total diet, either individually or in combination–excess consumption causes runny droppings.” Unfortunately, he does not provide any footnotes giving any scientific data about why this might be the case.

    Two questions I have, then:
    1. Are the bad effects of too much barley entirely eliminated in the sprouting process? In other words, should Ussery’s advice be applied only to barley seed? (I presume the answer is “yes” since you use so much barley; I suppose I am trying to understand the science behind it)
    2. Do you have any thoughts on using corn as a fodder source? Pro’s and con’s?

    Many thanks!

    Bart in Virginia

    • I think that Harvey Usery’s suggestion of not feeding oats and barley in amounts greater than 15 percent is not taking into account the act of sprouting the grain and therefore is a completely irrelevant statement used in the context of feeding sprouted barley to poultry. It is so different that there is no point in even bringing up his opinion in regards to feeding sprouted barley. Dry grain is never going to be the same as sprouted grain.

      Before starting on my fodder growing journey, I did find an exceptional piece of research on the benefits of feeding sprouted barley fodder to all types of livestock that had been conducted in the late 1980’s. I have the details and resource listed in my article “Complete Review” under the DIY Projects page of this website. I’ll let you go over it yourself.

      Otherwise, all I have is my own experience in the benefits of feeding sprouted barley fodder to chickens: My laying hens have always been exceptionally happy to eat it during all seasons of the year. While during their transition to a fodder and forage only diet did decrease their laying for a week, afterwards they laid the same amount of eggs as they had before. I never saw any signs of “runny droppings”, ever, but I did purposely transition the chickens from commercial feed to fodder over the course of one month. The eggs from fodder-fed hens had much, much darker orange yolks than when they were on a commercial-feed diet.

      Pros: healthier eggs with darker yolks, cheaper feed, fresh food
      Cons: the effort put into daily care of a fodder system can be annoying

  12. Thank you so much for all of your insight in this. I am very excited to get started doing this. I have 3 adult chickens and 8 baby chicks that are a month old. Can you feed this to chicks and how should I transition them to fodder? I started my first batch yesterday, so it should be ready in 8 or 9 days. I keep going in there to see if there are any sprouts yet, knowing there wont be for a day or two. I guess I’m a little impatient. I watched your videos and read a lot on your fodder system the other day. In one of your videos you mentioned your daily routine as far as what you do in the morning and evening. I have tried to find that again and can not. Could you please tell me what you do daily. Again, thank you for all of your knowledge!!!

  13. Pingback: How to Grow Fodder for Your Livestock | The Tiny Homesteaders

  14. So one tray per day for the chickens- how many chickens do you have and are they a larger breed like Rocks or smaller, like bantams? Thanks 🙂

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