Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Growing Fodder for my Goats (part 1)

Okay ... So what is Fodder?  ...... Simply put ... Fodder is grains/seeds that have been soaked, sprouted, and grown hydroponically for around 7 days and fed as a fresh green food source.

7-day old Wheat Grass Fodder

Imagine feeding sweet green nutrient dense fresh fodder to the goats (or other livestock) in the middle of the winter instead of expensive dry hay.   That's what I'll be doing this winter.

Even though my 100+ dairy goats are out free-range grazing on around 500 acres of the ranch's pastures each day ... the foraging is getting pretty slim this time of year.  They need plenty of nutrition since they're all pregnant and will be milking as soon as they deliver their kids.  I would usually be supplementing their grazing and browsing with several square bales of hay each evening during the winter.  But, this year good hay has been difficult to find and expensive to purchase due to this past summer's drought.

When doing the calculations on how much it was going to cost for me to supplement my goat's grazing diet with hay for the winter ... it came up to around $1,100 a month due to the increase in hay prices.  So, I started looking at alternative ways to make sure they had enough to eat this winter and still be able to afford to feed them.  That's why I started researching Fodder and how to grow it.  It seemed like a good way to have better control of what my goats were eating instead of being at the mercy of the weather ... such as the drought conditions that hit here in the Mid-West this summer.  And, according to my calculations I could supplement my goat's winter diet for $350 a month feeding the Fodder.  So, it was time for running some tests to see how well I could grow Fodder.

By calling my local feed and seed stores, I found prices on seed in bulk that I could grow as Fodder.  Barley seems to be the most popular seed to grow as Fodder.  But, I couldn't find a dependable local source for barley.  So, I started my testing and research with Wheat seeds.

Here's how my first round of testing went ....

I bought a 50 pound bag of Wheat seeds at the feed store for $14.95 in Mid-October.  I bought some small tubs at the local Dollar Store and drilled some drain holes for growing the Fodder in.

 Drilling drain holes in the small tubs

Tubs ready with drain holes

I weighed out 1 pound of seeds per each of the trays (tubs) ... 3 pounds total for the first growing test.

Then I soaked the seeds in a 5 gallon bucket overnight with warm water covering the seeds. (I have since changed the soaking time to 4 hours.)

Wheat seeds soaking in warm water

The next morning, I drained the soaked seeds in containers that had drain holes in them.

 Draining the soaked seeds

They had plumped up quite a bit from the soaking

Then since I had started with 3 pounds of seeds, I divided the seeds between 3 of my prepared trays.  For this test, I sat the 3 trays on the kitchen counter to drain into the sink when I watered them.  I watered the seeds 4 times a day.

 Soaked seeds in the tray

 Day-1 There is already root growth from the seeds

 A closer look at the Day-1 growth

 Day-2 The roots are forming a thick mat

 Day-3 The tops are growing well and the root mat getting thicker

 Day-4 You can almost see it growing before your eyes

 Day-5 The growth is getting thick and lush.  The roots are a thick mat

 Day-6 Growth continues

 Day-7 The Wheat grass has grown above the top of the trays

 Day-8 The trays are thick and full

 Day-8 The Wheat grass is about 3 inches over the top of the tray

 Day-8 The Fodder Mat is easy to lift out of the tray.  Here is the root mass

I cut the Fodder Mat from the bottom side with a kitchen knife to make it easier to feed to the goats.

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So ... My first test growing the Fodder with Wheat seeds was a great success.  Each tray had received 1 pound of seed at the start of the test and each tray weighed 6 pounds when I concluded the test on the 8th day.

Now on to the most important test .... Would the goats like the Fodder?

Hummmm ... Not too sure about that stuff!

1 comment:

Mary Ann said...

Did they ever eat it? Are you sure the wheat is balanced enough for them? I am guessing from the picture you are continuing to feed hay as well as the fodder.