Friday, January 11, 2013

Growing Fodder (part 8) - Success

Finally!  My dairy goats are energetically enjoying the Fodder that I'm growing for them.  I was beginning to wonder if my efforts in building the Fodder System and growing the Fodder were a waste of time, effort, and money.  But, feeding the fully grown 7 day old Fodder to my very pregnant does in the Kidding yard was met with enthusiasm for the fresh green food yesterday.

If you missed the earlier "Growing Fodder for my Goats" posts, you can access them here:

Growing Fodder Part 1
Growing Fodder Part 2
Growing Fodder Part 3
Growing Fodder Part 4
Growing Fodder Part 5
Growing Fodder Part 6
Growing Fodder Part 7


You see ... since my dairy goat herd can travel miles away from the milk barn and main shelter area in the course of a grazing day over 500 acres of the ranch .... I bring my does into a Kidding area a couple of days prior to their due dates.  These does are not going out grazing each day with the rest of the herd.  I want them close for giving birth.  I don't want to search all over the ranch to find a momma goat with her newborn kids. .... I'm funny that way.  I want them close so I can monitor births and give assistance if needed.

The does in the Kidding area are getting hay and oats each day. So, they're getting plenty to eat.  But, when I brought a tray of fully grown Fodder out to them yesterday ... they attacked it!  I felt like I was in the middle of a shark feeding frenzy!  Needless to say ... taking photos of them enjoying the Fodder was a challenge.  But I did get a few.....

The girls dove into the tray of Fodder 

Giving Lilah some 

Nellie stuffing herself on it 

Fawn pulling it off of the one I was feeding to Lilah 

And then there is Maggie ... she was taking it and shaking it wildly to break off pieces that she could fit into her mouth.

Maggie with a big mouthful 

It didn't take long for her to have it chewed up and gone

All the does in the Kidding area enjoyed the Fodder very much.  I am very very pleased.  The does that are not due to kid yet are still going out grazing and foraging each day.  So, they're not as enthusiastic about the Fodder ... but on the other hand ... I'm not needing to supplement the grazing part of the herd with hay or Fodder.  They're still coming in stuffed at the end of the day.

I'll be concentrating my Fodder feeding to the does as they come through the Kidding area for birthing.  As they go back out into the main herd group, they will have learned to enjoy the Fodder as s supplemental feed source.  Since they have learned to enjoy eating it, I feel like growing the Fodder is now a success. ... for the goats, the chickens, and the rabbits.


Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Growing Fodder (part 7) - Growing and Feeding

Once the Fodder shelving and irrigation system was in place, I began preparing the mix of seeds that I had planned to sprout and grow to feed the goats.  Here's how it's gone so far ...

If you missed the earlier "Growing Fodder for my Goats" posts, you can access them here:

Growing Fodder Part 1
Growing Fodder Part 2
Growing Fodder Part 3
Growing Fodder Part 4
Growing Fodder Part 5
Growing Fodder Part 6


If you recall from my Part 2 post ... my goats wouldn't even taste of the Wheat Grass Fodder that I had grown.  And, from the tests I ran on several seeds, I found some things they liked as sprouted Fodder.

Here is the seed mix that I'm growing for them......

RatioSeed$ per lblb per day
5 PartsRye0.3515
3 PartsWheat0.2911.25
1/2 PartWinter Peas0.571.5
1/2 PartSunflower0.531.5
1/4 PartTurnip2.000.75
Seed Mix0.4030
I weigh out each seed type and pour it into a large tub to mix the seeds together.

Seeds in the tub

Seed Mix

I prepare a 5 gallon bucket with warm water to soak the seeds in preparation for sprouting.  I add a cap (tsp) of bleach to the soaking water to kill any mold spores or bacteria that may be on the seeds.  This is to help prevent mold growth as the Fodder grows.  

Adding the Bleach

I add the seeds to the 5 gallon bucket and finish adding enough water to cover the seeds by at least 2 inches.  I soak the seeds for 4 hours.  I've found that this gives me the best germination rate.

 Seeds soaking

When the seeds have finished their soak time, I dip the seeds out with a strainer and place them into the growing trays about 1/2 inch thick.  I found that the 30 pounds of seeds would fill 24 trays.

Growing Tray 11x22

 Drain Holes in the Tray

Soaked Seeds in the Tray

At the end of Day 1 - you can already see root sprouts on the seeds.

Day 1 

Day 2 - More Root growth

Watering the trays from the irrigation system at the top of the shelving worked well by allowing the water to drain through the upper trays to and through the lower trays.

Watering the trays

Water running through the upper trays to the lower ones

You will recall that I built the Fodder System in the unheated entry room on the south side of the old farmhouse where I live.  The farmhouse's only heat source is with a wood stove.  So, I was hoping to be able to grow the Fodder in the unheated room without needing to open the door to share the rest of the house's heat with the "fodder room".  Without the door open the temperature was around 50* during the day and around 40* at night.  This was with outside night temperatures in the 20's.

 Daytime temp in the fodder room

What I found at this temperature is that the Fodder grew VERY slowly.  I realized that I was going to have to keep the wood stove burning pretty hot and share the heat with the fodder room so growth would be more acceptable.

Day 3 growth from the cooler temperatures


The main issue I had with the earlier Fodder tests is that my goats wouldn't taste of it.  They are the reason that I'm growing Fodder.  At the time I was running tests, they had LOTS of browse and graze out in the areas of the ranch where they free range forage every day.  So, they had no incentive to eat this strange looking grassy stuff.

At the suggestion of friends, I fed some of this batch of the mixed seed Fodder at the Day 3 early sprout stage.  It still looked like a grain that they might recognize.  They do get some oats when they come into the milking parlor during the milking season.

Day 3

 Removing the Sprouts from the trays

  Sprouted seeds in the bucket ready to take to the goats


I built a couple of feeders for feeding the Fodder to the goats out of a 7 foot x 8 inch pvc pipe.  I cut the pipe in half with the cut off wheel on my handheld grinder.  Then made legs for it from pressure treated lumber.  It should be a convenient height for the goats to eat from.

Pipe feeder for the Fodder 


 I took the Day 3 Sprouted seeds to the pregnant does in the Kidding area first to see if they would eat it.  Yes, they enjoyed it very much!

 Lilah and Fawn eating the Sprouts

Lilah especially liked it

Then I took the rest of the bucket of Sprouts to the rest of the herd before turning them out to graze for the day.

 Several of them tasted and ate the Sprouts

But, no one was really excited about them.

I encouraged more of them to come to try the Sprouts 

It was obvious that they would rather have me open the gates so they could go out foraging for the day.

After letting the goats out, the chickens came in to pick through what the goats had left 

The chickens really liked the Spouts

 I also took some to the rabbits.

The rabbits really liked it too

The rabbits are enjoying some of the fresh growing Fodder each day.


After opening the door from the house to the unheated fodder room, the temperature has stayed between 60* and 70* in there.  The Fodder has grown at a normal faster rate with the warmer temperatures.

 Day 4

Day 5

Day 6

You could almost see it growing with the warmer temperature and plenty of water from the irrigation system. I'll be taking that nice green Fodder out to the goats in the morning to see if they'll eat it.

I found that the grassy seeds - rye and wheat - out grew the other seeds in the mix.  The other seeds - peas, turnip, and sunflower - have sprouted and are growing, but not at the rate of the grassy plants.  I may be doing more experimenting with my seed mix to provide the goats with a Fodder they'll love.

In the meantime, the pregnant does who are in the Kidding yard ... are enjoying the Fodder since they are not going out foraging so close to their due dates.


Monday, January 7, 2013

Growing Fodder (part 6) - Costs

I've been asked if the savings of growing Fodder instead of purchasing hay this winter have offset the costs of building my Fodder System.  Here are my conclusions on the costs ....

If you missed the earlier "Growing Fodder for my Goats" posts, you can access them here:

Growing Fodder Part 1
Growing Fodder Part 2
Growing Fodder Part 3
Growing Fodder Part 4
Growing Fodder Part 5

For comparison ... 

At the current price of hay ... it would have costs me $1,100 per month to supplement my grazing dairy goat herd with hay each evening during the winter months when foraging is slim.  

At the current cost of the seeds in my Fodder mix ... it costs me $360 per month for the seeds to grow the Fodder.

The total cost of the materials to build my Fodder System is $408.31 (plus tax).  So, even with the cost of building the Fodder System and the cost of the seeds for the month, I have saved around $330 the first month when compared to the cost of hay.


Here is the breakdown on the costs of building my Fodder System ...

Item Qty Cost Total
10 foot 3/4 inch EMT conduit 24        4.25      102.00
10 foot 1/2 inch EMT conduit 27        2.75        74.25
1/2 inch 2 hole straps 160        0.12        19.20
3/4 inch 2 hole straps 48        0.16          7.68
Drain trays (bought at auction) 2        1.00          2.00
TOTAL      205.13

1/2 inch irrigation tubing roll 1      15.00        15.00
Adjustable Drippers (5 per pack) 6        3.97        23.82
End Clamps (3 per pack) 1        1.81          1.81
Hose End fittings 3        2.21          6.63
Y Hose connector 3        3.98        11.94
36" gentle wand waterer 1      14.98        14.98
Garden hose 1      10.00        10.00
Electronic Water Timer 1      30.00        30.00
TOTAL      114.18
Planting Trays 100        0.89        89.00
TOTAL        89.00

This gives a total cost of $408.31 for all the materials that I used for the system.  I am pleased that it has turned out to not only be a way to feed fresh green nutrient dense feed to my goats, rabbits, and chickens ... but, is also saving me money ... and, is really quite fun to watch it grow.

I'll be sharing my routine with the Fodder in the next post .....


Sunday, January 6, 2013

Growing Fodder (part 5) - Irrigation

Since Fodder needs to be watered several times a day to successfully grow, I needed to install automated irrigation into the Fodder System that I had just built.  Hand watering was getting old!

If you missed the earlier "Growing Fodder for my Goats" posts, you can access them here:

Growing Fodder Part 1
Growing Fodder Part 2
Growing Fodder Part 3
Growing Fodder Part 4

I had several ideas of how I was going to automate watering the Fodder....  At first I thought about putting tubs full of water below the shelves.  I could set up a timer on an electric outlet to plug a pump into to move the water up through tubing to water the trays from the top.  Then, let the water drain back down into the tubs.  After testing this idea on a small scale, I realized that the water in the tubs would sort of ferment between watering times.  I didn't want to water the Fodder with fermented water ... so that idea was out.  I decided to only use fresh water for the system.  I felt that this would cut down on the possibilities of mold growth ... and the funny aroma of fermented water!

Sometimes the simplest solution to a problem is right in front of your face.  The water access for the washer was only a couple of feet from the end of the shelves.  There was my water source!

Water for the washer was at the end of the shelves


I decided to water from the top and let the water drip down through the trays on the shelves.  The water would be caught in the drain trays (re-purposed RV tanks) and drained outside through the pipe through the wall.   I'll only be watering for a few minutes 4 times a day, so there will be minimal water used.


Here's how I set up the Irrigation for my Fodder System .....

I purchased these items from my local home improvement store:

Regular plastic 1/2 inch Drip Irritation Tubing

Zip Ties 

A Hole Punch for the tubing (and oops plugs for mistakes) 

An Electronic Water Timer 

Hose End Connectors for the tubing 

Adjustable Drippers 

End Clamps for the tubing 

Ys with shutoffs


I cut the tubing to fit the length of the shelving and zip tied it to the pipes of the top shelf.  I built the system to have 8 shelves.  I need 7 shelves for the fodder trays ... one shelf for each day of the week.  The pipes of the top shelf are the perfect place to secure the irrigation system directly above the trays on the shelves below.

I started with only one irrigation tube just in case I would need to change my design plan.  I used the punch tool to make the holes in the tubing to receive the adjustable drippers.

Punching the holes (it was very easy) 

Then I pushed the adjustable dripper into the hole.  The drippers can be adjusted from off to 1 gallon a minute for water flow.  I really like these!  I installed 2 drippers over each tray.

Pushing the Dripper into the hole 

The Dripper in place 

I installed the Hose Ends on one end of the tubing and the Clamps on the other end.


Time to hook up to the water and give it a test!

It worked! ... Yes, I was excited.

I had to make some adjustments to the drippers for water flow.  They were set on full flow when I installed them and I got water everywhere!  Adjusting them is very easy though.

The test was successful ... now to complete the irrigation system. 


I put a Y on the cold water line in order to share it with the washer and the Fodder irrigation system.

Hose attached to the Y to bring water to the system 

An arrangement of Ys with shutoffs to feed each of the 3 irrigation tubes 

The 3 irrigation tubes zip tied directly over the rows of trays 

A side view of the irrigation tubes and drippers 

The irrigation system in operation.

I will be installing the Electronic Water Timer to automate the watering of the Fodder system.  I'm very happy with how the system is coming together and functioning.  I'll calculate the cost of all the parts to include in the Growing Fodder Part 6 post.  I'll also discuss how the system is working for me.