Friday, January 4, 2013

Growing Fodder for my Goats (part 3)

 If you've missed my first Fodder post showing my tests on growing Wheat grass, you can click here. And, for the second post on testing a variety of seeds, you can click here.

In this 3rd post, I thought I'd share some of my reasoning and calculations behind the decision to build a Fodder system and grow it as a supplement feed for my free range grazing dairy goats.

Since the grazing and browsing becomes more difficult for my goats to forage during the winter months, I usually supplement them with purchased square baled hay.  This year the summer drought has made good hay hard to find and very expensive to purchase.  I have 100+ dairy goats and during the winter I usually use five 50 to 60 lb square bales of mixed grass hay per day to supplement their grazing when they come into the shelter area in the evening.  With the cost of hay this year, supplementing them with hay would cost about $1,100 per month.  That's out of my budget by quite a bit!  I looked at growing Fodder as an alternative supplement feed rather than purchasing the hay.  So the research began ....

I found these Nutrition Benefits .... 
  • The digestive system of ruminating animals works most efficiently when digesting fresh green feed.
  • Fodder is 80% digestible as opposed to 30% of grains.
  • Sprouting grains releases vitamins, minerals, enzymes,and growth factors.
  • Protein content is doubled in Fodder.
  • Digestible fiber is doubled
  • Starch is changed into soluble sugars
I also found these Benefits for growing Fodder .... 
  • Organically and Hydroponically grown
  • Small space to grow
  • Do not have to wait on rain or soil conditions to grow
  • Able to control growing environment
  • Low water consumption
  • Low energy consumption
I was convinced that Fodder would be good for my goats nutritionally and I really liked the idea of being in control of growing it myself.  But, would it be affordable?

My tests showed me that 1 pound of grain/seed became a little more than 6 pounds of Fodder when it had 7 days growth. 

So ...
  • 1 lbs becomes 6 to 7 lbs
  • 10 lbs becomes 60 to 70 lbs
  • 20 lbs becomes 120 to 140 lbs
  • 30 lbs becomes 180 to 210 lbs
If I grew 200 pounds of Fodder a day, that would give my goats roughly 2 pounds each per day.  According to a webinar I attended, the speaker calculated that 1 pound of finished Fodder was needed per 100 pounds of animal weight.  This would be 1% of the animal's weight ... of finished Fodder fed each day.  According to a friend (thank you, Rosina) who feeds Fodder to her goats and other livestock, 1% will work for a "maintenance" diet. But, for a working animal ... such as a heavily milking dairy goat ... the percentage will need to increase to 3% of their body weight per day.  So, 2 pounds of finished Fodder per each goat would be enough to supplement them until they have kidded and are milking.  Then, I'll increase the amount grown and fed to meet the heavier nutritional needs of a milking doe. 

Since my goats didn't like my tests of grassy Wheat Fodder ... I had to come up with a mix to grow of some of the other seeds I had tested to make a Fodder that they would eat.  How much would it cost me to grow 200 pounds of Fodder per day that my goats would like? 

Based upon the seed that I can easily obtain locally and their similar sprouting and growth rates, I designed the following mix ....

Ratio Seed $ per lb lb per day
5 Parts Rye 0.35 15
3 Parts Wheat 0.29 11.25
1/2 Part Winter Peas 0.57 1.5
1/2 Part Sunflower 0.53 1.5
1/4 Part Turnip 2.00 0.75
Seed Mix 0.40 30

Since the Seed Mix will cost $0.40 per pound and I need 30 pounds per day to grow the 200 pounds of finished Fodder each day ... My daily cost for seed will be $12.  This will be $360 per month.  That fits into my budget much better than the cost of hay!

My next Fodder post will include the photos and details of designing and constructing the Fodder Growing System.



*~*~*~*~Tonia said...

I have heard that you can add mineral to the water and also use the water off of the seeds for watering the goats and that it is full of nutrients..
Anxious to see how your goats do on this.. ;)

Linda said...

I am impressed! Looking forward to hearing how to make the growing system... if this works well for you I may use it when I get goats again...