Follow our series on starting and maintaining a sprouted grain system for natural livestock fodder! It’s like providing pasture for your animals without needing the pasture and at a fraction of the cost! Enjoy!
We have decided to try growing sprouted grain as fodder for our chickens, rabbits, and (soon) quail. There are many benefits to sprouting grain for livestock consumption and not only can our small animals be fed almost solely on fodder, but so can cattle, horses, and sheep. Of course, chickens will need calcium and grit, rabbits and horses will need roughage like hay, and sheep may need some supplements as well. But even so, think about the money saved and nutrients given by turning 1 pound of seed into as much as 3-8 pounds of sprouts in just nine days. It’s amazing.
Barley, which is what we will be trying first, has an original crude protein of 12.7% and an original crude fiber of 5.4 that jumps to crude protein of 15.5% and a crude fiber of 14.1% after an average seven days of sprouting. I have even read that sprouting increases the digestibility of the grain from 40% to 80%. So the livestock will not need to eat as much because they are obtaining more from a smaller volume of food. Cool right?!
Eventually we would like to add into our sprouting barley a little oat and black oil sunflower seed for added nutrition. Suggested main sprouting grains include barley, wheat, and oats. Just be sure to purchase: untreated (pesticide-free), feed grade or field run (cheaper than food-grade for human consumption), whole grain, unprocessed, and not rolled grain. The pearled barley at the grocery store won’t sprout. The seed needs to be complete.
Before getting started, you will need to soak your grains to give them a jump start. Recommendations vary from 6 hours to 24 hours. We will be starting with one 6-hour batch and one 18-hour batch to see which grows better.
Figure out how much grain seed fits into your tray. Our trays are 13.8″ x 10″ x 2.5″ and yours will most likely be different. You can use as many trays as you want just make sure that the grain in each tray sits at about 1/2″ inch deep. Try not to go over 1/2″ inch deep. You will need enough trays for the entire 9-day cycle. For example: we need 2 trays every day. 2 trays a day multiplied by 9 days in the growing cycle = 18 total trays. I weighed our tray filled at 1/2″ deep to see how many pounds of dry grain seed fit in each tray. One tray ended up weighing 1.16 pounds. Now when the fodder is finished, I can compare.
To get started, rinse your grain seeds very well and then drain the water. Fill up your bucket of washed grain seeds with enough water to cover your seeds by about 2″ inches or so. Now just let your grain soak for whatever time you want to try. I suspect that different grains will like different soak times and temperature may even factor in as well. Some people add a teaspoon of bleach or peroxide in the soaking water in order to help prevent mold, but we are frankly uncomfortable with that, so we will be trying it without.