Recently my family and I had a field trip to a large, organic farm. I honestly do not know who was more excited…me or the kids! With a fresh litter of 13 Great Pyrenees puppies greeting us as soon as we walked into the yard, it was hard to find any motivation to play with any of the other animals.
Our tour was simply fabulous. We played for a couple hours with puppies, goats, ducks, chickens, and mini donkeys. As fun as all the new babies were, our trip wasn’t just about seeing the animals. It was equally about learning more about organic-farm nutrition.
On one stop of our tour, we were guided into their fodder room. A well insulated, larger room that had layers of shelves with a very thought-out irrigation system. I was taken back! I had never seen the process of sprouting barley before so I was instantly intrigued. Our host then explained to me the process, and more importantly, why they have decided to supplement fodder into their organic feed routine.
Well, our tour was wrapped up and it was time to say goodbye. Needless to say, our girls were ready to start their own zoo (as if they don’t have enough critters). I loved the ride home and listening to their favorite parts of the day. I was just as excited as they were, but for different reasons.
As soon as I got home, my research on sprouting organic barley began. WOW! I just loved the information I was finding. Just a few of the advantages I found were:
Feed Savings- by sprouting grain, your grain portion quadruples! That is a win-win for everyone. Fodder does not need any special lighting to sprout as it is very economical to grow. You just need some space and time. Check out this barley fact sheet for more nutritional value, cost breakdown, and nutrient comparison.
Nutritional Value- as soon as the grains sprout, the nutrient level grows extremely high. When the seed is spouted, it releases many vitamins and minerals that would have been lost if seed stayed intact. Over time, you should see an improvement in the condition of the hoof and coat in the animals. For dairy animals, it can show an improvement in milk production as well. Many studies have shown that barley grass improves the digestion and immunity of the animals which is so important when raising any herd.
Greens All Year- even in the dead of winter, your critters can enjoy the crunchy nibble of greens. And the best part, no need for any special soil conditions. If you’re in a drought or flooding season, you are in control of your crop.
Good For Us- sprouts, when given to farm animals, have shown an improvement in our overall health too. Especially in the increase of Omega-3 levels. When consuming the meats, eggs, or milk, that nutrition is carried right over to us.
Fodder is not just for chickens and goats. Horses, cattle, rabbits and sheep all benefit from those crunchy grains!! You will have to do your own figuring on the exact amount of grains you need to sprout for your critters depending on the size of your flock/herd.
With my mind made up that growing my own fodder was the way to go, it was now time to put my plan to action. I couldn’t wait until I could begin sprouting my own barley. Of course, I ran into a few hitches….First word of advise, do not buy hulled barley. Buy whole barley grains (husk intact). I tried to sprout hulled grains and….. nothing. Second, draining is critical. You do not want any mold to develop on you roots. Third, keep moist. You will need to find a balance in keeping your grains not too dry or not too wet.
What you need to grow your own fodder:
-Bucket or Large Bowl
-Organic Barley Seeds (husk intact)
–Growing Trays (with drain holes)
–Growing Trays (with NO drain holes)
-Temperature between 63*-75*
That’s it! How simple is that? Now, obviously there are full-growing systems available. But for starters, this is a great way to go.
Step 1- Pre-soak your seed. This is a very important step. Some people like to use a bucket for this but with smaller quantities, a large bowl will work just fine. Place your dry seed into a bowl/bucket and fill with water at least 2″ above seed line. Soak seeds between 12-24 hours. Some people like to add 1-2 drops of bleach into the bucket to discourage any bacterial growth.
Step 2- Drain the seeds and place them into the growing tray with drain holes. If your seeds are deeper than 1/2″ you have too many seeds for your tray. We do not want mold in the fodder.
Step 3- Place (3) straws into the tray that has no holes in it. This will act as a platform for the fodder tray to drain into. Place the fodder tray inside the solid tray.
Step 4- Mist several times a day. For the first 2 days, I cover the tray with a clear germination lid. This helps the moisture stay in better. If you are getting too much water into the drain tray, simply dump it out.
This is such a fun process and it is exciting to wake up every day to see how much your sprouts have grown. Around days 7-9 (when sprouts are about 6″ tall) you may start harvesting (remember, when first introducing any new feed to animals, start out slowly).
Now time to feed! Rip apart desired amount a give the entire mass (roots, seeds, and sprout) to your critters.