March 21, 2017

Sprouting Grain for Goats


Sprouting grain for my goats was something I first experimented with when I was preparing to write How To Garden for Goats: gardening, foraging, small-scale grain and hay, & more. Sprouting their grain is a nutritious way to stretch the grain budget, whether one is purchasing grain or growing one's own. I continued until the weather got too hot and had trouble managing the project. My sprouts started to smell bad no matter how often I rinsed them.

Why go to the bother of sprouting grain for goats? Is it really better than feeding grain straight out of the bag? There is a lot of information out there on the benefit of sprouting grain. According to Sally Fallon in Nourishing Traditions, sprouting grain:
  • increases vitamins B2, B5, and B6, C, and carotene
  • neutralizes phytic acid, which inhibits absorption of calcium, magnesium, iron, copper, and zinc
  • neutralizes enzyme inhibitors 
  • produces digestive enzymes
  • breaks indigestible starches down into digestible sugars
  • inactivates aflatoxins (which are carcinogens)

This is my simple winter system. Each screened
bowl holds one days-worth of grain for my goats.

All that has proven great for monogastric humans, but what does it do for ruminants, i.e., multi-stomached goats? Especially the sugars. Goats' digestive systems are designed to extract nutrients from roughage. The longer digestion times allow for the breakdown of cellulose into simpler carbohydrates they can assimilate. Grains, which break down quickly, end sitting in their gut so long that they begin to ferment and become acidic - not healthy for the goat and why most goat owners offer free choice baking soda to their goats.

I do feed small amounts of grain, especially when there is little forage available, or for does in milk who need the extra calories. The does in milk get one pound of grain twice a day (with one quarter of that being wheat bran); dry does and bucks are currently get half that amount. I feed our homegrown grains as hay, i.e. it isn't threshed but still in the stalk. I think this is the healthiest way to feed grain, because the goat gets the long stem part of it as well which aids in digestion.

Chaffhaye, bran, sprouted grain, sunflower seeds, & chopped carrots.

Back to sprouting. I can't help but wonder how sprouted grains digest in the rumen, but can't find any answers. Most other blog posts or web pages on sprouting grain for goats say the same thing I've told you, but there doesn't seem to be any information out there specifically on that.

One thing sprouters do agree on, is that it only takes about half the sprouted grain as it does non-sprouted. I've found that to be true as well. So cutting down on that feed bill is a good reason to sprout. At least during winter when the temperature isn't too hot. I'll have to wait to see how it goes this summer. If we have too much heat and humidity to keep the sprouts fresh, I'll just save it for winter feed.

Sprouting Grain for Goats © March 2017 

18 comments:

  1. You always make me miss our goats! Our homestead is full enough with the steers, chickens, milk cows, ducks and the pigs we always raise over summer. Still, I do miss our goats. Thanks for the great info on the grain sprouting.

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    1. I'm sure your cattle, chickens, ducks, and pigs would appreciate some sprouts! ;) And I have to say that we miss our pigs. We've had a lot of fence damage lately from falling trees, so until we get all that taken care of the fences remain in danger so it doesn't make sense to get more pigs. :(

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  2. Interesting, I've often thought of doing it for the chickens but never the sheep.

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    1. (Which are quite similar to goats!)

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    2. I'm sure both your chickens and your sheep would love it!

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  3. Interesting. I can see why it would cut it in half. Double the food action.

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    1. Exactly, and while increasing nutrition. A win-win, don't you think?

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  4. That's interesting Leigh. Saving money is always good and if it gives the goats more nutrition it's a great idea. I'm gaining so much knowledge from reading your blog :)

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    1. Rain, the internet is a wonderful resource! I learn from others as well, and love to share what I'm trying and learning. :)

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  5. Although we've sprouted for our own consumption, kinda sporadically, right now we're working on getting a dedicated sprouting area set up. Big enough that we can sprout for the poultry and, eventually, any other homestead animals we may add. Have you tried sprouting sunflower seeds? You must use ones specifically grown for sprouting for human consumption rather than using ones sold as "bird seed." They are planted in trays of dirt, grow quickly into the crunchiest, greenest, tastiest, little sprouts you can imagine.

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    1. When I was sprouting last summer, I used my basic grain mix which included black oil sunflower seeds. They sprouted! And the goats loved them. I understand corn can be sprouted as well, but takes longer than the other grains. I'd like to expand to include the poultry as well, but my biggest concern right now is that hot weather will bring an end to it for the summer.

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  6. Very interesting and I'd love to know exactly how you're doing the sprouting, Leigh. Cutting my grain bill - and the fetching and carrying, especially in winter - would be a huge help.

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    1. I guess I figured folks would know how - sorry! I measure out half-a-day's grain into a small bucket and cover with warm water. I've been doing this in the morning and letting it sit all day before draining, but it could be soaked overnight instead. Drain and keep them damp. I use the screen bowls, but many people seem to use buckets with drainage holes added and one person used a pillow case.

      I give them a stir with my hands once a day and water if needed. When they are 1/8 to 1/4" or longer sprouted they can be fed. As long as they smell okay (earthy) they're good to feed.

      Some people report that their goats don't care as much for the sprouts as dry grain. I had one doe like that, so I mixed them with the unsprouted grain at first. Since forage is limited this time of year, they're hungry at feeding time so it didn't take long for her to scarf them down too.

      When our weather warms up it will likely take less time to sprout and I'll have to rinse more frequently to make sure they don't go off. I've also read that adding apple cider vinegar to the soak water helps deter mold, so I'm probably have to try that as well. Also read that spreading them out more (as in a tray) helps reduce mold and off smells in summer. I haven't tried either of these but now that I've got my routine, I'd love to continue sprouting!

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    2. Thanks very much for the details, Leigh - much appreciated. I have never sprouted anything in such quantity, and didn't want to just give it a shot and risk wasting a bucket of oats. In winter I often sprout lentils in a quart jar for myself and the chickens, and I have trouble keeping just that tiny amount of seed from smelling "off" despite frequent rinses. But now I will try your system for the goats and see what happens. My grain bill really adds up. Thanks again!

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    3. You're welcome Quinn. Funny I didn't think to add the details in the post, I just figured most people knew how to sprout. In thinking back about my own jar sprouting, however, it seems to me that that method lends itself to the sprouts going bad quickly, probably because they don't get enough air - too enclosed even with a screen top. With my screen bowls they're easier to stir. That seems to help.

      I admit that I'm not sure how well this will go once our weather gets hot. Im really not buying so much grain and would like to keep it that way!

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  7. intriguing post, I think I need to look more in to both sprouting grains and fermenting feed, simply cannot ignore the health benefits and cost saving of the additional work

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    1. Agreed. The next step with the sprouts is to pour them into a large tray and allow them to grow into grass a couple inches high - fodder!

      I'm collecting information on fermenting feed but haven't tried it yet. Makes more sense to grow our own probiotics than to buy them.

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    2. It isn't my day. This is the third time I have tried to post to this and each time my lap top has magically eaten it. Third time is a charm lol.

      I have combined fermenting and sprouting to become fodder. Ferfoddering? The chickens love it the buck goats love it the does not so much in the first couple of years. May be the girls are spoiled but I am starting year four of my ferfoddering and we will see how they like it this time.
      The raw dairy I purchase our milk at when my does are dry has a large scale hydor fodder operation like the one that they offer in FarmTek https://www.farmtek.com/farm/supplies/ExternalPageView?pageKey=EXTERNAL_PAGE_3017
      It is a treat to watch the cows after the fodder is cut in huge mats and tossed into the feeders. Those girls grab a mat and start tossing their heads to encourage it to break up into smaller pieces. If you are with in a few feet of the feeders you might get smacked with small pieces of flying fodder. Ask me how I know ;-)

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