Because we’re more of a farmstead than a production operation, our feed requirements are not very high.
The pigs usually get 5-6 pounds per day apiece. The goats get hay and the occasional handful of grain. The chickens get a scoop of grain and then they forage. The cow grazes, and will eventually need a little grain to supplement our less-than-perfect grass, so she’ll produce more, better milk.
That said, we’re awful tired of feeding genetically modified (GMO) corn to our animals. We are huge opponents of GMO crops; we believe (and studies are beginning to reveal) they diminish food nutrients, pollute our water supply, infuse our foods with unhealthy pesticides, and are ultimately harmful to health. We also don’t like Monsanto – the biggest producer of GMO seed – for a myriad of reasons, and we don’t like the unsustainable system that GMO seed and monocultures have created (think: Dust Bowl, round 2).
So we have begun growing our own fodder from barley.
I constructed a system of pvc pipe, tileboard, and a few other elements and put it in the old shower in our guest bathroom (we typically told guests just to use our nicer shower anyways).
With this system, we take 2-3 pounds of barley seed – which is non-GMO, since there is no GMO barley – and within 7 days, it has turned to 8-10 pounds of barley grass fodder.
Barley is $16 for a 50 lb. bag. Cracked corn is $8 for 50 lbs. Because we approximately QUADRUPLE the weight of our barley feed, we end up cutting our feed costs IN HALF. Pretty great! Of course there are some minimal costs associated with watering and running a small space heater and grow light, but we’re still saving money, and just as (if not more) importantly, we’re feeding more nutrient-dense, non-GMO food to our animals!
We have not conducted our own nutrient tests, but from what we’ve seen/heard, these sprouts are very high in protein, among other important nutrients, and though we don’t do this, we’ve heard that some people will infuse minerals into their watering process to further improve the nutrient density.
This system is fairly simple, not too messy, and takes no more than 10 minutes per day to maintain.
So far, we only feed our pigs the fodder, as we don’t produce enough to give to any other animal (and the pigs are priority currently). Soon we’ll butcher one pig (after we get the old grain out of his system), and will have more fodder left to go around.
The chickens will eat it, though they go for the cracked corn first. The goats rather like it. And we haven’t given any to Gertie cow yet, but I’m quite sure it will become her new favorite treat!
The videos below discuss how I built the system, and what process I go through each day to water and sustain it.
-Water at least twice per day. Dried-out seeds will quit sprouting.
-Keep the room temperature at 65-70 degrees F.
-If you go a little longer than 7 days, you’ll obviously get much more weight out of your feed, but from what we hear, the protein content will significantly diminish.