Saturday, March 21, 2015

WHAT THE FODDER?

Recently, we've been encountering more and more people who want to know what the buzz with fodder is all about.

So what, you water it and just watch it grow? 

Well, in an essence yes.....

Fodder came into my life at the perfect time. I had seen these 'fodder systems' begin to stream across my Pinterest page more and more. I had to know what this was...

Basically, fodder is sprouted grains or legumes that can be fed to all kinds of livestock.


I could go on and on about the bonuses of maintaining a fodder system. Ok maybe I will just a little, here's as short a list as I could make:
1. Fodder can be grown in the dead of winter.
2. Fodder only takes 8-9 days to grow.
3. 50 pounds of seed can be turned into 300 pounds of fodder. 
4. Whoa! Should I just stop??? 
5. Fodder is very affordable (depending on location) From my supplier I get 50 lb. bags if barley for $10. That's cheaper than a bag of organic hog feed, and it gets multiplied by 6!
6. That's reason enough right?!?
7. Our fodder is GMO-free. 
8. And organic.
9. Horses and cows eat it, after acclimation. The hogs LOVE it. The birds (chickens, waterfowl) LOVE it. On day 7 the rabbits receive clippings from the top, and devour it! All of my livestock eat it. 
10. Need I say more???

There's nothing like it..... Other than a fully sprouted pasture, I don't know about y'all but I don't have one of those in December, do you?  Didn't think so....


The only draw back to fodder I can see feeding is that's it's another commitment. Adding another task to an already busy homestead can be risky, but this one is so worth it. To keep on schedule you need to start a batch a day, in order to harvest for feed everyday. That's only if you're trying to feed solely fodder. We have chose to supplement with fodder currently. Our system is small and the homestead fund weighs I favor of some heavier tasks at hand. 

These days breakfast for the farm hogs consists of the fodder with a scoop of organic local hog feed. Dinner of combined fodder/kitchen scrap mixture. The birds all get their scratch feed mixture thrown daily as they free range and if we have enough fodder for the day they'll get a big chunk to spend the day on. Our rabbits also have a supplemental pellet/fodder grass mixed diet. We also provide the bunnies with feeder or orchard hay at all times.  When feeding livestock on fodder its helpful to incorporate grains and legumes, evenly if possible, into their diets in order to balance vitamins and minerals. Adding rations of diatomaceous earth can also be very beneficial to their digestive systems.

Since I began my fodder adventure about 6 months ago I have learned a tremendous amount. I've been lucky enough to learn a great deal from our supplier. He loves just 2 miles away and is full of fodder knowledge, and is more than willing to give it. Lucky me! If I haven't said before, farm tasks are my favorite.... so naturally, learning more about them is even more my favorite! Being open to ongoing education is a key aspect of homesteading, but I'm sure ya'll know that. So, I am always looking for better more efficient ways to accomplish our bazillion homestead chores. Yada yada yada back on topic Q!

Here's me excited to feed our new bunnies fodder for the first time couple months ago! BTW they loved it, now they can't get enough!!!

Recently I visited a local dairy, while tasting their fabulous milk, the owner gave me a tour of their fodder system.

Take pictures, measurements, make yourself at home.

He then strolled off to assist his friend with an automobile mechanical repair. 

And, of course, I have read and read..... and read about fodder until my eyes hurt. But nothing compares to seeing it in real life, and having those face to face exchanges. Yeah yeah I might be talking sprouted grass but hey, this mama doesn't get off the farm often these days. I'll take fodder conversation where I can get it! Above all I'm grateful for his generosity with knowledge and transparency of start up cost and up-keep of his system. 

My most recent take away lesson in fodder is bleach. Nasty smelly wonderful bleach. I've tried direly to remove bleach from out household for some time but it keeps making it way round and always proves it's worth. It's so harsh that when someone told me to put a little in the fodder water I was flabbergasted. 

In the water that grows the food I feed to my animals?!?!?

Heck no I won't!!!  

But in all honesty I should have listened...

Why?

The mold came....

Yup, this wonderful fodder gets really moldy really quick. And boy howdy does it ever stank!!!

Okay, I give up! I'll put a splash of bleach in there! You got me. 

Fortunately the pigs and chickens don't mind the mold too much but horses and cows won't prefer it. I urge you to experiment and test your own theories before you decide to use bleach. Then give me some feed back, would ya??? I would love to find a non bleach remedy for the mold. 

Luckily it's a small amount. Here's how I incorporate the bleach into my fodder routine:

1. I weight out the desired seed into a large container, using an old stock pot currently
2. Fill with water, add 1 tbsp bleach, stir, soak 10-15 minutes
3. Rinse barley thoroughly, refill container with water, soak 12-18 hours
4. Strain off seeds, pouring out water and chaff
5. Pour seeds into trays, drawers, tubs, whatever growing container you chose, and spread out evenly. We are currently using some plastic storage drawers. I'm looking into changing this up a little possibly (further posts about upgrades to come)**you will have previously made drainage holes for water to flow through
6. Water twice daily, rinsing water over seeds
7. No light is necessary until day 5-6, natural window light counts. Fluorescent light also appropriate
8. Feed on day 8-9

As you can see this is a very simple system, but it works very well for the small scale farming we do. And there are many more styles and procedures out there, I am an amateur folks. I simply want to share the knowledge I have thus far with the hopes that my trial and error helps in anyway. If we incorporate more animals later we may upstage to some fancy fodder system with a water pump and everything! Girlfriend can dream can't she?!

Until then I will simply rinse my fodder daily making sure no standing water is left, and yes I'll use a little bleach here and there to kill mold.

Fodder is such an efficient, healthy, and cheaper way to feed livestock our livestock.  Plus, it gives us gardening guru's some therapeutic attention over the frigid gloominess of the winter months. I highly recommend doing some research on fodder costs in your area to assess its affordability and integrity in comparison to your farm or
homestead.


^^There's me..... again^^
Way to excited about fodder.... again....

Happy sprouting folks!

Q