December 16, 2020

Fodder For Feed

I sprout grains regularly for our chickens and goats. (See "Sprouting Grain for Goats" for why.)

Sprouted wheat, oats, and black oil sunflower seeds.

But until recently, I'd never tried fodder. And what is fodder? In this context, the term is popularly used to describe sprouted grains that are allowed to grow leaves to several inches in length. Since they are grown without soil, it is a clean feed for poultry, rabbits, and ruminants alike. Here's my first attempt at growing it. 

I used the same seed mix as for sprouts.

After soaking in warm water overnight, I spread
them out about ½-inch thick in an old nursery tray.

It's watered daily, and after about 5 or 6 days it's showing good growth.

After about 8 or 9 days.

The sections lift right out of the trays. 

The critters love it! They especially appreciate fresh food during winter.

Mine took a little longer than most people said because of our cooler house temperature. It took off better when I put the tray outside on a sunny mild day. That being said, I probably wouldn't do this if the weather was too warm. One problem people face is the grain souring or getting moldy. Because of that, many use diluted bleach water for their soaking and daily rinsing. I'd rather not use bleach if I can help it, because I prefer to minimize inputs to make the process as simple, and as economical, as possible. Plus, it would restrict what I could do with the rinse water.

This was just a first-time experiment, but for an ongoing fodder supply, most folks set up a series of trays stacked on shelves. The trays are tilted slightly, so that when the top tray is watered, the water drains onto the tray below, which drains onto the tray below, etc. The best set-up I saw was in a greenhouse, where the bottom tray emptied out into a greenhouse bed. Otherwise the drainage water has to be caught and removed to wherever one wishes. 

I see two huge benefits from a fodder growing system.

  1. It richly increases nutrient value of the grain as a feed.
  2. It cuts the feed bill by (an estimated) 50-75%.
I felt like this experiment was quite successful. So now, I have to work on a system similar to what I described above. One more project to add to the to-do list!

Fodder For Feed © Dec 2020 by Leigh 


Gorges Smythe said...

lol - Fodder will always mean dried corn stalks to me.

Cockeyed Jo said...

I've made fodder for almost a decade to feed our rabbits and chickens. It a more digestible protein for them.

Cockeyed Jo said...

I used $1 shoe boxes with holes drilled in the bottom and a shoe rack to drain it. I just reversed every other rack so I could water from the top and have it alternately drain from one level to the next. I believed I used the ratio of 65% of animals weight as a guideline per animal per day. For the rabbits I did a mixture of wheat, barley, and BOSS. For the chickens I added corn, black-eyed peas and oats to the base rabbit mix.

At one time I had 20 shoe boxes going for both species. Rabbit fodder was 7 days in the making and the chickens were 3-4 days.

Leigh said...

Gorges, I have other ideas about "fodder" too! But that's what most people seem to call it. Either that, or sprouts. Maybe I should just call it "chicken grass."

Jo, the shoe boxes would be a good size for just a few animals. I used to buy barley, but our feed store no longer carries it, which is sad. Nor bulk beans or peas of any kind. I guess not enough people buy these for their livestock.

Annie in Ocala said...

I've read that a little vinegar added to the water can help avoid molding or souring.

daisy g said...

I'd love to try this over the winter. What kind of seed mix do you use?

Mama Pea said...

Fodder, heck, you could call it candy for the poultry! I'm sure they see it that way in the winter time. The idea of possibly adding vinegar to help prevent souring or molding sounds like a good idea. Papa Pea uses a small amount of vinegar added to the grain he mixes with the kefir/yogurt mix we feed each day to our birds.

Retired Knitter said...

I can see why your animals like this. It looks appealing to me as well. I happen to like sprouts and sometimes make my own.

Toirdhealbheach Beucail said...

I, too, had a completely different view of fodder.

It makes total sense (they do sell these as small things for cats so that they can get grass inside).

I am sure it has all the amazing nutrition that sprouts do for humans.

wyomingheart said...

What a great experiment Leigh! Looking forward to what you figure out for a growing rotation method. I use bird seed to sprout in the winter for our inside cats, as they both love eating grass in the summer. Would this be something you could give to the goats, as a treat, or is it just for rabbits and chickens? Thanks and have a merry week!

Leigh said...

Annie, yes, that's good advice. I use a dash of vinegar in my soaking water for sprouts. I did try this first batch with plain water, just to see how well it fared. Seemed to do okay, probably because of our cool temps.

Daisy, I used the only seeds I could find at the feed store! For me that's feed wheat, oats, and black oil sunflower seeds. Barley would be great if you can get it. I've used corn in the past for sprouts, and they like those too. I'd try rye or triticale if I could get it, but I'm limited by availability.

Mama Pea, "candy" is a good comparison! Interesting about feeding kefir to your birds. Did it take much getting used to for them? That's something I could do too.

RT, I agree, sprouts are a wonderfully easy fresh veggie, especially this time of year. Even as fodder, it does look pretty tasty, doesn't it? :)

TB, well, language is constantly evolving! Whatever they call it, it's a great method for adding fresh greens (plus sprouted grain) to the critters' winter diet.

Wyomingheart, the biggest challenge right now is finding someplace neither too hot nor too cold to set up. Our house isn't set up well for that. Working on it!

Yes, this could be to the goats. They've gotten several samples and really liked it. And I'm sure we could expand chickens to all kinds of poultry to feed it to.

Ed said...

I have never tried fodder but back when we had chickens, we would toss them the garden scraps all the time and they absolutely loved them. It was fun for a young boy to watch them fighting over them. I can imagine fresh green stuff in the winter is even more of a delight to them.

Leigh said...

Ed, it's definitely a more complex system of feeding critters. That's the main reason I never tried it before. But I was revising my How To Garden For Goats eBook and wanted to include it. Over the years I've figured out that if I can work something complex into my routine, then it works out. If it makes more work, it isn't worth it to me. Getting more nutrition and lower feed costs is certainly an incentive! All that being said, I don't see how it could work on anything but a small scale.

Cockeyed Jo said...

Leigh, it might not be that nobody was buying it as much as they can only carry do much inventory or the minimum quantity per went up higher than demand. I asked my feed store if they could order it and they did. It cost about a couple dollars over their over their cost per 50# sack. He even showed me his book with his prices. Now, it's a simple phone call a week before I need it. I just go pay for it, and they'll load it in my boot before I'm done. It doesn't hurt to ask. But sometimes though, the vendor for particular seed goes out of business so supply isn't available.

Not many folks are making their own chicken feed these days too.

Cockeyed Jo said...

Oh and Leigh, the 20 shoe boxes were for just the rabbits. I grew fodder for the chickens in 5-gal buckets.

Nancy In Boise said...

Answer where do you buy your seeds? Or these bulk human eating seeds so to speak or do you buy them from a feed store? It looks like your chickens are liking them I'm assuming?

Leigh said...

Jo, my feed store used to order things for me but now they tell me they can't get it. (???) I was especially disappointed with this over kelp, which I now have to order from Virginia.

Sounds like you had a good set-up with proper temp and light control. That's my hold-up right now from developing a larger ongoing foddering system.

Nancy, I buy the seeds in 50# bags as livestock feeds at the feed store. You could certainly use "human quality" seed, but the livestock grade is much more economical. 50# of wheat berries is less than $10 and 50# of whole oats is about $15. Barley was higher, but I can't get it anymore. I've used corn seed that we've grown as well. The chickens LOVE it! We have to break up the fodder blocks and spread it around because otherwise they fight over it.

Chris said...

I missed reading your blog posts, Leigh. I'm looking forward to catching up fully with what you an Dan, have been doing. This is a relatively low input way, of feeding greens in the winter, while increasing nutritional content. I love reading about your experiments.

Leigh said...

Chris! I had just found your new blog post on my feed reader and here is your comment! I'm delighted that you're posting again. I'll be by to read your post after morning chores are done. :)

Nina said...

I've often sprouted wheat for cat grass but never thought of doing it for the chooks. What a brilliant idea! With our long, cold and snowy winters, they'll love it.

Henny Penny said...

Like the first comment, I always thought fodder was dried corn stalks. Daddy would have us pull fodder for the horses. How healthy your fodder green and pretty. My chickens would LOVE that! We have had so much rain, the chicken lot looks like a mud hole. I've been raking leaves for them to walk on. I'm going back and read again how to grow fodder like yours. Thank you!

Leigh said...

Henny, it's interesting how terms evolve, isn't it? I suspect there's regional meanings as well. I save dried corn stalks and leaves as feed too, but I call that stover!