Sprouting fodder for your animals can be a great way to get them superior nutrition while saving you money. If your needs are large enough, you may choose to purchase a commercial system. But if you're wanting to try sprouting feed for your animals without a big up-front investment, you might wish to create a small DIY system to start with. You can, of course, even DIY larger-scale systems, but the trial and error is all on you, while with a commercial system, you're starting with a proven entity.
Still, for the average small-scale farmer or homesteader, a DIY fodder system may be plenty to meet your needs and fit your budget. Here are some ideas and links to further resources as you devise your own system, one that will meet your needs and work with space and materials you already have or have access to cheaply.
We've already discussed the benefits of sprouting fodder and some of the considerations: a light source, a controlled temperature, water, and a well-ventilated and low-moisture environment to prevent mold. Let's get started!
How to Sprout Fodder
1. Acquire grain. Barley is very commonly used for sprouting, but you can use any number of grains: oats, milo, sunflower seeds, and more.
2. Soak grain. Place the grain in a five-gallon bucket about halfway full with a bit of sea salt and cover with water until the water is a couple of inches above the grain. Let this soak for six to twelve hours. You may want to first wash the grains with a one percent bleach solution or hydrogen peroxide to cleanse the grain for best results.
3. Drain and let sprout. Pour the soaked grain into another bucket with slits in the bottom (you can use a saw to make these; you want them to allow water to drain but the grain to remain in the bucket).
At this point, poultry enjoys the barely-sprouted seed, so you can feed it to them now, or transfer daily to additional buckets with slits, "turning" the grain to prevent mold. Or, you can continue to grow the grain until day six or seven, when it will form a mat of grass that can be fed to cows, pigs, and other animals.
To do that, you will want to create some kind of hydroponic system for the sprouted grain. Many farmers use roofing metal—long strips of metal that are tray-like—to sprout the grain.
4. Rinse and drain. Every day, you need to rinse the sprouts two to three times and allow the water to drain from the trays; you don't want standing water. Keep everything moist but drained. Your controlled temperature should be between 60 and 75 degrees F. 70 percent humidity is ideal.
5. Harvest and feed! By day six or seven, you will have a beautiful green mat of sprouted grain that looks like wheatgrass (it may even be wheatgrass if that's what you're sprouting). You can feed this mat to the animals whole, using a knife to slice it into portions.
Rotate growth so that you have some trays on day one and some on day seven all the time; this way you will always have fresh fodder for your animals.
Create Your Own System
The components of a DIY fodder system will include:
- A temperature- and humidity-controlled space
- Trays on which to sprout the grains
- Buckets to soak the grain
- Buckets with slits to drain water if you use this system
- Enough light for the sprouts to green up
- A water source and way for the sprouts to be moistened and drained three times per day