Livestock Sprouted Fodder System :: day nine

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!

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The last day of our livestock sprouted fodder system! It went surprisingly well and I didn’t even have to try very hard. The barley seed really just wanted to sprout and grow. Thank goodness it did because this was such a fun experiment and I think it will benefit our animals greatly in nutrition.

During this little trial on growing fodder, I have noticed that for all the things that can go wrong, they are easily avoided with a little thought. Firstly, I kept my fodder system at the recommended 50-70* degree range while sprouting. This could be a big problem if growing outdoors. Cooler temperatures can slow or halt the process and warmer temperatures can halt the process or cause mold.

Adequate drainage is obviously a must. With how thick the root “mat” mass grew and how tightly knit together it became, it was obvious that it wasn’t getting air circulation. Mold could be a problem again if the fodder grew too much longer. When I pulled the fodder out of the tray for the first time, I literally had to cut the root mat apart with a box cutter. It’s that thick. Even then, I still had to muster up some strength to pull scored chunks off. I’m no brute, but I’m no wimp either!

The other key ingredient to successful sprouted fodder seems to be moisture. If you have been following along you would know that I started with two trays of seeds soaked for different amount of times. The first tray was soaked for six-hours and the second for eighteen-hours. The six-hour soak didn’t seem to be long enough. After trying out a middle ground twelve-hour soak, I came to the conclusion that either a twelve or eighteen-hour soak were much more effective than the six-hour soak.

Keeping the grain moist, but not overly wet during the nine days is equally important. By rinsing the trays two to three times a day and keeping the system well ventilated, mold didn’t have much of a chance to show its ugly head. Always remember to provide good air circulation!

All in all, the livestock sprouted fodder system was an easy success! I am already transitioning the animals onto a 90% fodder diet and I’ll post the results on their progress soon with animal weight comparisons. But after just two days I can tell you that they gobble the sprouted fodder down in a blink of an eye. (I think they like it.)

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57 thoughts on “Livestock Sprouted Fodder System :: day nine

    • For rabbits you want to feed 3-5% of their body weight in fodder per day. I am leaning towards 5%. Right now I am still transitioning my rabbits off of pellets and onto a pure fodder and hay diet. So far so good, but I will be posting an update on the whole system and animal diet transition in a couple weeks when I have them switched over completely.

  1. I was really glad to see these tips and the awesome daily photos. We’re always looking for ways to feed our chickens fresh food and have thought about sprouting for them. I wonder if I could do this in the coop or greenhouse even in winter with our seed-starting mats. Thanks!!

    • I don’t see why you couldn’t grow this in a greenhouse as long as you have good air circulation. I haven’t even been using mats… you are only growing these out for nine days so the seeds don’t need anything other than water and they create their own mat of roots. All you need is a tray/baking dish/dish pan with holes drilled in it to drain. Voila! Fodder!

  2. I am so glad you are sharing this information. We are getting chickens and rabbits this year when we get our property in a couple of months. I want to stay pellet free, but everyone seems to think that live stock needs pellets to survive. It makes me wonder how animals stayed alive before pellets. :) Have you thought about the fodder and vegetables and no hay? Do you have the directions for growing the fodder? Thank you for any help. God Bless Carrie

    • If you look for “Livestock Sprouted Fodder System” under the “DIY Projects” page on the menu bar, you will see the whole day-by-day break down of how to soak and grow the fodder.

      I could see the chickens needing nothing more than the fodder and maybe some yard time to scavenge for bugs (remember that chickens are omnivores and not vegetarians). That is to say that they won’t need supplements IF they have access to sandy soil or grit for digestion and also IF you feed their shells back to them for their needed calcium.

      The rabbits WILL need hay. It can be low-quality hay because they will only need it for roughage to keep things moving (if you catch my drift) and not for protein. Within my fodder, I plan to add some black oil sunflower seeds to sprout along with the barley to help with coat condition in my angoras.

      Good luck! Let me know how it goes!

  3. Your posts are so helpful!! And inspiring :) You don’t mention light – is light really not a variable? I’m in Ohio – where it is VERY grey right now. I have some wheat growing in my kitchen window – but it’s not this high and it’s 2 weeks old. So I’m trying to figure what the missing link is here before I go for it. My rabbits are jealous!!

    • Direct light is not an issue, but your system should receive ambient light of some sort. Complete darkness won’t work so just keep it in a laundry room, or under a deck, or in your dining room window (like me). I have my system in a window that receives only ambient light, no direct light. Direct light won’t harm it in any way, but it isn’t necessary. Since you are only growing it out for a maximum of nine days, direct light doesn’t come into play.

      As for what might be hindering your fodder growth, what type of grain are you using? Oats will be the hardest and wheat the easiest. Another major factor is temperature. The optimum sprouting temperature is 63-75 degrees Fahrenheit. Maybe your house gets too cold at night? Or the space by the window gets too cold? Or… maybe you purchased some old grain. Those are the most common problems in slow growth.

      • We got a trio of French Angoras in October & transitioned them onto the wheat fodder we we already feeding the sheep. They get fodder, hay & BOSS. Litters have averaged 7 healthy babies. It’s great that you’re taking the time to chronicle your journey.

      • Wow, that is fantastic! My rabbits go absolutely WILD when I go into the Rabbitry now because they all think they are getting more fodder. Silly rabbits… When I head back to the feed store for more barley, I plan to pickup BOSS (black oil sunflower seeds for the rest of you) to mix into my barley fodder too. Thanks for reading Diane!

  4. This is so interesting — I saw the very expensive system mentioned in an earlier post comment, and was turned off by it, but you’ve made it seem very reasonable and doable. Like you, I’m on a small suburban lot — we have 4 hens and 2 Nigerian Dwarf goats. Rabbits are on the horizon, as well as bees — one step at a time! I’m also planning an aquaponics system to grow greens for the animals and tilapia for the humans (and worms for the chickens without sacrificing my compost heap), but this seems like a much cheaper precursor to a full-on aquaponics system. Thanks for the step-by-step, as well as the facts and figures — it helps a lot to know what kind of poundage in/out, cost, etc. Very useful info. Off to web crawl for a local source for barley!

  5. Well I am on day 3 of offering my bunnies barley grass. They dont want to eat it. The chickens and ducks on the other hand wolf it down. Did it take your rabbits a while to get used to it or did they eat it right away?

    • Here’s what I did and maybe it will help you:

      I always fed my rabbits fodder when they were most hungry. I usually feed them their pellet ration in the morning, but instead I gave them fodder… no pellets. Then a few hours later I came out and fed them their pellets. After 2 or 3 days of this they started scarfing it down.

      I think they shun the fodder at first because it smells different.

  6. Mine weren’t wild about it either at first. I pulled it apart into very small sections & loosened the root mat. They soon discovered it was tasty. It might help if you can wait a couple of hours after giving them barley grass to feed them their pellets. They might taste it out of desperation, lol.

  7. This is the most complete easy to follow method for the fodder system I have found. Excellent information! I have 18 hens and was looking for a suitable way to get greens into their winter diet. Again I had looked at this idea in many places but you put it all together perfectly. Can’t wait to get started.

    • Thanks! I try to show as many photos as I can to illustrate how easy these things can be. As with most “farm chores” growing fodder isn’t complicated, it’s just a little time consuming until you have your system down. Now I can get 5 adult rabbits, 3 litters, and 6 chickens fed and watered in under 20 minutes. That’s from carrying the trays inside to in their mouths outside!

      Thank you so much for reading and be sure to let me know how your fodder system goes!

  8. You can sprout corn, sunflower seeds, birdseed (if it is not heat treated), and many other seeds and grains. Many people sprout them in a 5 gallon bucket and feed when they have tripled in size. You still have to tear off pieces by the third day of feeding them. Our goats loved anything sprouted, so did our chickens. We grew some grain grasses for our rabbits, but we cut it, and fed it multiple times (which is potentially healthier for them since the grasses toughen and the older grass gives them more long fibers to aid with digestion – older grasses avoid the need for hay since they have sufficient roughage). Cutting was more cost effective too, since we got four times the growth from it. We grew the grain in soil for the rabbits also, which helped control mold, drainage, and root mass. We also grew alfalfa like this and cut it at a few inches tall, to feed to our poultry (they thought it was candy, and just loved it).

    The major limitation to this is that you have to have space to be running several trays at a time to feed any quantity of livestock. A shelf unit near a window, with shelves spaced about 1 ft apart is ideal. It will provide enough light, even at the back, though you may need to rotate the trays some. Nice thing about sprouts like this is that they can grow well even with just the light from a window. You don’t need grow-lights.

      • Yes, very helpful! I’m on day 4, and my trays seem to be growing a little slower, but we have good root growth so far. The trouble has been keeping it moist; I live in the desert and it’s very arid. Once I get the system down, I may try the alfalfa and the sunflower seeds as well. Thanks for the tips!

      • Sounds like a good plan. Most every seed will sprout like this so it really just depends on what species of animal you are planning to feed. If you are just using the sprouted fodder as a treat, it doesn’t matter as much as if you are feeding it as a whole diet. From research papers that have been tested in other countries, barley and wheat grain have the best balance of nutrients as well as the most growth in protein and fiber. Just keep your fodder in temps of 65-75 degrees and they should be fine… you’ll figure out a temperature and watering method that works best for your area with a little trial and error. Good luck to you!

  9. Laura, I’m very interested in hearing more about how you grew the grasses you were feeding the bunnies. What kind of soil where you growing the grass in & what grain were you using? About how many cuttings could you get from a tray? Did you need to fertilize? I’d love a way to cut down on hay consumption. Thanks for the tips.

    • Hopefully Laura will respond, but I wonder if perhaps she is using the fodder as “treats” and not a complete diet? Otherwise I don’t really see how just the grass/greens would be enough to sustain the needs of rabbits. The protein levels that they require are present in the whole sprout; root mat, seed, and greens as a whole. I’d love to hear how Laura’s feeding works!

      • I was thinking 9 day hydroponic fodder + grain growing in soil for hay would be a great side-by-side system. If it works, I’d be “mowing” the soil grown grass & drying to feed as hay.

      • Oh, I see! I hope I didn’t sound too sassy with my last comment. I really am interested to hear how you use your hay trimmings and how you feed your fodder. Do you go to day nine?

        I was reading the first comment as you were planning to clip the hydroponic fodder and dry it at day nine, but I see now that you meant to grow out wheat or barley or whatnot to a full stalk in soil and then cut and dry it. Excuse my speed-reading.

        Now that you mention it, with the right amount of space, there is no reason you couldn’t grow your own hay! Unfortunately a 1/4 lot is hardly spacious enough, but if you can do it more power to you!

  10. I grow my fodder to day 8. It is fed in the morning before I return their water bottles to them. At noon I return the water bottles & give BOSS & hay. This has worked out great through a long snowy winter. When I was watering them first thing, they weren’t really drinking because they dove into the fodder & the moisture quenched their thirst. The bottles were frozen by noon & I had to get them, bring them in the house to thaw & then return them.
    My understanding is that Laura gets multiple cuttings from soil grown grain. I figured I’d grow it in the house alongside the fodder. I have to buy hay for the sheep anyway, so adding a few bales for the rabbits isn’t such a big deal. It’s more about the satisfaction & knowledge that I can supply for most of the rabbits’ needs right in my kitchen. I like the control it gives me in what they are eating. Especially, we eat some of them.

  11. I really like this simple system you have come up with. I will probably be stealing the idea for my goats and chickens and ducks. I started looking at fodder systems, both commercial and home grown, last spring when I was desperately looking for hay several weeks before I could turn the goats out onto pasture. Yours seems to be well thought out and scalable to fit the needs of your “herd”.
    Have you tried reversing the trays? Soaked seeds on the top and sprouted at the bottom to get better water usage? Just a thought. Thanks for the posts.

    • You know, I was at first, but after switching the trays around everyday to keep the tall stuff on the bottom of the rack I decided it wasn’t worth it. With the trays on an angle, it doesn’t matter much and eventually it all rotates around with regular use.

      Those commercial fodder set ups are so expensive! It’s not hard to modify what I’m doing in size or to setup an automatic watering system… I just don’t have that need yet. The only thing I would NOT recommend is recycling the water.

  12. You talked about comparing the fodder weight at day 9 to the seed weight at day 0, but I never you where you published that. How much of an increase did you finally get?

    • I know I put it in a post somewhere… I just can’t think of where right now. Anyhow– on trays with poor growth (during cold snaps), the fodder grows from 1 pound to 4 pounds in eight days. On trays with great growth, I have gotten a little over 6 pounds with the same 1 pound of starting seed in eight days. So either way, I am, at the very least, quadrupling my feed.

  13. I think this is the feeding route I’ll be going once I get my rabbits. You make it so easy any affordable! Thank you!

  14. I was wondering how you handled the watering; I’m thinking of setting up a smaller system inside by a window, but I’m concerned about over- or under-watering. If you’re hand-watering, how much, and is it over the entire tray? With your setup, do you just water the top tray and let it filter down, or some other method?

    • Yes, I do just water the top tray and it drains and waters each consecutive tray beneath. All of the water ends up in a bin at the bottom. I water enough to flood the first tray. So the water should just reach the tops of the seeds when you water and it should drain off fairly quickly. I flood the tray twice a day.

  15. I just found this blog, quite by accident, and I LOVE it! I do have a question about the fodder. Could it also be fed to guinea pigs? We have a rabbit, 21 chickens, and a guinea pig. Wonder if the guinea pig could have it. She lives greens carrots, etc. I can’t see where it would hurt her. Your opinion?

    • Yes, yes, yes. I bet guinea pigs would love fodder! Even though they are a rodent (not a lagomorph like rabbits) I am sure they would benefit from some roughage, like hay, in addition to a sprouted fodder diet. Also remember the mineral salt lick and I think a guinea pig would be perfectly happy on fodder.

  16. The weight? What was your final fodder weight?
    :) thanks for your detailed post. I haven’t been this excited about a new project in a while- because I feel like I can actually DO it!

  17. I loved your series of posts and videos! So informative!! I was wondering if you could answer a few questions? I actually own domestic house rabbits, purely for enjoyment. I would like to feed them as natural a diet as possible. I was wondering if this diet is appropriate for in house rabbits as well? Also I was wondering on a small scale production (feeding 1-2) rabbits what’s your recommendation for amount of grain used, tray size, amount given per rabbit, and how many trays to keep in rotation? I was also wondering for a small scale production is it necessary to do a gravity watering system? I would appreciate any advice you could give! Again thank you for this amazing post!!!

    • A gravity-fed system is never necessary, just handy. Yes, domestic rabbits of all breeds and kinds can benefit from fodder. I suggest 8 trays (about 4×8″ in size or larger) so that you can start one tray everyday for an 8-day rotation. Use maybe 2 cups of dry seed a day. Barley or wheat are best and what you use will depend on availability on your area.
      Good luck!
      – Sarah Cuthill of Frühlingskabine Micro-Farm

      • Thanks Sarah! I will definitely be trying this out. I will try and see if the gravity fed system works on a smaller scale production. If the buns enjoy is I was even thinking of setting up a small fancy pump system to minimize the work even more. I wanted to know if you can feed the buns other veggies and treats while on this diet? Mostly to maker sure they are getting all the nutrients and vitamins they need. Thanks for the great website!

    • I did it with mine for a while (1 angora, two small rabbits). I used the drawers from a little craft-storage thing from Walmart (could probably find something similar at most craft stores or box stores) with holes drilled in the bottom (drill and/or screwdriver). Set up 9 of them so I could start a new one before cleaning an old one on a cabinet organizer (teeny rack of shelves) and had that on the kitchen counter. I set them up so they were tilted in opposite directions and just watered the top one so it would trickle down.
      Having a serrated knife (bread knife) worked well for cutting the root mass at the end. I think I did 1/2-1 cup (dry) per tray, per day, and that worked well to feed everyone (about 1/2 tray for the angora and 1/4 for the littles). I followed Sarah’s chart, though, so that might be more reliable in terms of amounts.
      I got a 50lb tub of barley seed off ebay, there’s a number of sites that sell them. Definitely lots of fun on a small scale!

      • Oh thanks for the tips Jesse! How often did you feed them with 1/2 and 1/4 tray portions? Did you split those up to do one in the morning and one at night? Or just all at once during the mornings. Also why did you stop feeding them this diet? I am concerned with them getting too plump on this diet since it is very to rich. I am wondering if you can still feed them other veggies like leafy greens while on this diet?

      • I did just once a day, in the evening. I stopped because I some of the trays got mold and I didn’t have the supplies to disinfect them properly, and because I didn’t have space/time during crunch periods for school. If your bunnies start getting fat, you can always lower the amount of fodder you feed them by sprouting less at a time. I gave mine other greens, but not in large quantities.

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