Sprouting and growing grain for livestock fodder is a simple and efficient way to not only feed your animals a more natural and fresh diet, but is also a practically effortless way to save money. Imagine for a second that the 50 lb. bag of feed you just bought could grow into 300 lbs. of feed that is more nutrient dense in just nine days. Huh wha?! Isn’t just the mere idea of cutting your feed bill worth the try? I think you will be pleasantly surprised.
Sprouting fodder for livestock is similar to sprouting seeds for human consumption, but in an extreme degree. Think more along the lines of sprouting wheatgrass than the little bean sprouts you would put on a sandwich. By sprouting grain and harvesting it (feeding it to your animals) right before the sprouts get their second leaves at about 7-10 days, you do not need to use anything more than water to grow them –not even fertilizer. The action of sprouting amplifies the natural proteins, vitamins, mineral, enzymatic activity, omega 3’s, amino acids, natural hormones, and stimulates immune response. Of course the increase in these wonderful benefits varies grain to grain.
The sprouted fodder, no matter what seed or grain you choose to use, is fed whole; greens, seeds, and sprouts as a whole. Commonly used grains for fodder are barley, wheat, and whole oats. Barley, which is the easiest to grow, has a crude protein percentage of 12.7 percent and a crude fiber percentage of 5.4 percent as a seed. These percentages jump to a crude protein percentage of 15.5 percent and a crude fiber percentage of 14.1 percent after an average of seven days of sprouting. By sprouting, the digestibility of the grain increases from 40 percent to 80 percent so livestock will not need to consume as much fodder compared to commercial feed because they are obtaining more nutrition from a smaller volume of feed.*
As far as setting up your own fodder sprouting system, there are many options out there for purchase. The only problem you will run into is that there are no fodder sprouting systems for smaller operations, like say, a homestead where you only have one horse, or a few goats, or a small herd of rabbits, or a modestly sized flock of chickens. For us, you will be left to build your own. But no worries folks! A system can easily be set up using materials you already have laying around or using items from the local discount or dollar store. You’re in good hands here DIY’ers.
Before we start, you will need to figure out how much finished fodder your animals will be eating on a daily basis. I have included a rough estimate for the more common homestead animals, but please do your own research on feed amounts and if necessary, consult your veterinarian. As any responsible animal or livestock caretaker, you will not only need to transition your animals onto fresh fodder, you will need to monitor their growth and maintenance rates to keep them in a healthy condition while you get used to feeding fodder. Some animals will also require roughage or mineral supplements. Please only use these amounts as a guide