Have you ever tried to grow your own livestock feed? Growing fodder is very easy to do with our step-by-step instructions.
High in nutrition, fodder can be grown just about anywhere which makes it the perfect livestock supplement.
Why You Should Be Growing Fodder For Livestock
We are striving to live a self-sufficient life by growing and raising much of our own food.
Where I have felt the gap in our sustainability is in growing and producing our own livestock feed. We live in a very mountainous area and have little pasture to offer.
During the recent food shortage and focusing on rationing food so we don’t run out, I realized we could store very limited amounts of livestock feed.
It was then I looked into growing fodder. Fortunately, a friend in my Homesteading Group, Steve D shared pictures of the fodder he grows for his rabbits and chickens and told me how easy it was to grow.
Desperate times call for desperate measures, and these are desperate times. We need to become as self-sufficient as possible, and that means growing our own livestock food.
Growing Fodder For Livestock- Easy DIY Instructions
In addition to growing fodder, we also raise live Mealworms for our poultry.
Mealworms are another animal feed source you can raise no matter how much space you have and they provide a great source of nutrition and protein.
Yes, humans can eat them too! Fortunately, fodder is more palatable for us two-legged kind and just as easy, if not more so, to produce.
Growing fodder is cheaper than commercial feed and helps cut down on feed cost. Obviously, we all love saving money, am I right?
Besides saving money from going to the feed store, sprouting grains for fodder is healthy for your livestock.
Sprouted fodder is more easily digestible for your livestock and contains essential nutrients and vitamins.
What Animals Eat Fodder?
Wanting to know what animals will enjoy homegrown fodder?
Any animals that eat hay or grain will enjoy eating fodder. Depending on what type of fodder you are growing, fodder can make a healthy treat for humans as well.
For years I have ordered a wheatgrass smoothie from health food stores, little did I know, growing my own fodder would be so easy!
Livestock that will love fresh fodder, but is not limited to
To demonstrate the savings of growing your own fodder, a 50 lb bag of chicken feed from the feed store cost me around $14.00.
Sixty pounds of seed cost me $9.00 and can yield up to 600 lbs. of fodder!
The math alone was enough to convince me to start growing my own. We feed our ducks, chickens, rabbits, and our goats’ fodder.
How Long Does It Take To Grow Fodder?
From seed to feed is generally a total of seven days.
A couple of variables will play a role in your fodder development such as your pre-soak, the type of seed you use, how often you water it, and even the temperature.
As we mention under ‘tips’, try to start a new batch of seeds every three days so you always have a fresh supply for your critters.
How Do You Build A Fodder System?
It really isn’t complicated, just grow it in a tray with holes in the bottom. Rinse it twice a day and put it in a window for the sun. From start to finish, you’ll usually have the above tray in 7 days.
People have used plastic storage bins, colanders, gutters, and more for fodder sprouting.
When I make my fodder I use a fodder tray I bought online that already had holes in it, a bottom tray for drainage and a lid. It isn’t as cost-effective as the one my friend Steve built here.
What Do You Need To Grow Fodder?
You really don’t need any special equipment or supplies, which makes growing fodder even more attractive!
- Container with holes
Fodder DIY Instructions
- The simple one we use is a 13×13 three drawer storage bin I bought from a store for around $12.00.
- Drill or burn holes in the bottom of the plastic bin no bigger than the seeds you are using, otherwise, the seeds will fall through. I used a nail to burn holes into the plastic tray for drainage.
- The number of holes drilled will depend on the size of your container. Think of making your container look like a sand sifter when you are finished.
- Wash your bins with soap and water before you add your fodder seeds
What Seed Is Best For Fodder?
I used a bunch of different kinds when I first started, such as sunflower seeds, different bird seeds, etc. The best luck I had was with wheatgrass seed, the second best was barley seeds.
Often I mix them together for a nice combination.
Wheat grows a great root mat (the white root system at the bottom).
Barley roots aren’t as big but the blade of the grass is bigger than the wheat. The critters like them both.
You can play around with different combinations to find what works best for you and your livestock.
Seeds for Fodder
- Field Peas
- Sunflower Seeds also called BOSS (Blacked Oiled Sunflower Seeds)
- and more
If I could only choose one it would be wheat. It’s easy to grow and buy where I live. You can check your local grain mill to see if they carry fodder seeds. You will save money by purchasing from a grain mill vs buying online.
How to Grow Hydroponic Fodder At Home
Hydroponic means to grow plants without soil. Since we all have access to water, growing your own hydroponic fodder is the easiest way to provide pasture for your livestock without land.
You can also grow fodder all year long so your livestock can have access to fresh fodder no matter what the weather is like.
In addition to growing sprouted seeds for fodder with hydroponics, you can also grow food without soil with Aquaponics.
I interviewed a friend who developed the barrel aquaponics system and they are able to produce a ton of food without soil.
- To start, fill a wide mouth quart mason jar half full of dry seed.
- Add water until it’s an inch or so above the seeds and stir It around.
- Place a screen lid on top of the mason jar and let it soak for 24 hours.
- After 24 hours, drain the water
- Rinse and drain the seeds.
- Turn the jar upside down and pound on the side a couple of times.
- The air pockets stop the bottom from getting compacted. It helps the seed sprout evenly. Otherwise, you’d have lots of sprouts in the top half and little in the bottom.
- Fill the jar with water and try to gently work the sprouted seeds out.
- Pour the seeds in your fodder tray
- Add water in the tray and smooth the seeds out so they cover the bottom of the tray evenly.
- Do this over a sink so the water can drain
- Let them sit for a bit and then tip them so the water drains out the back corner.
- Place the trays in the plastic drawer that they came with and sit it in a window.
- If your plastic trays did not come in a bin, cover with plastic wrap and place in a window.
How often should I water fodder?
After your initial soak for your seeds and they are in the sprouting tray, you will want to water your fodder twice a day.
Rinse and drain them twice a day, once in the morning and later at night time. At night they can sit in the kitchen sink and drain and be ready for their morning soak.
Preventing Mold In Fodder
The most common complaint when growing fodder is mold issues. Mold can occur due to a variety of reasons such as bad or moldy seed, it was kept too wet, or too much seed added to the fodder tray.
Here are some tried and true tips to prevent mold issues when growing fodder.
- Rinse the fodder real good with the kitchen sink sprayer and blast any mold away. In 7 days you can have wonderful fodder that your critters will love.
- Add apple cider vinegar to the water when soaking your grains.
- Mix 1 tablespoon of baking soda per gallon of water and spray on the plants daily.
- On the initial soak to your seeds, add a splash of hydrogen peroxide. Let it soak in the peroxide water for about 6-8 hours, then rinse.
- Keep good circulation around your fodder.
- Only spread a single layer of seeds in your fodder tray. Overcrowding promotes mold.
- If you get mold on your fodder after your grains have sprouted, add peroxide to your water and let it soak in your tray before draining.
Growing Fodder-Troubleshooting Tips
- When soaking your fodder seeds, you’ll see stuff floating on top, pour this off. The less gunk in the seed, I believe, gives you less trouble with mold.
- If you dump the seeds in the tray too early it slows the process down by a day or two. If you dump them too late they are a bear to get out of the jar.
- Screen mason Jar tops make draining the seeds easy during the soaking process.
- I like to give my fodder seeds a head start by keeping them in a mason jar until they get a decent start on roots. Usually for about 2 days.
- Sometimes if I wait too long (a couple of days) to add my fodder seeds to the tray, I have to use a spoon to get them out.
- Try not to let older fodder drain into new fodder.
- Start a new batch every couple of days so you’re in constant supply and never run out.
How Much Fodder To Feed To Your Animals?
You can grow fodder as a snack or as a regular staple to your animals’ diet. I feed three rabbits and 8 chickens, one batch is a 3 day supply, I use it as a supplement, not all their feed. When feeding fodder, our rabbits get about a 3×3 square and the chickens share a 3x 6 square.
One recommendation is to give an animal 1/100th of its body weight in fodder.
Other recommendations I’ve seen are 2% of the animal’s body weight in fodder per day.
I honestly don’t believe your animals will overeat on fodder, especially if they have a well-rounded diet. Everything in moderation.
Can Chickens Live On Fodder?
Chickens need a balanced diet of protein and calcium, along with other nutrients.
It is possible to feed chickens a diet of fodder if you mix the grains enough to provide the nutrients they require.
As an example, chickens need roughly 16% protein and 4% calcium. If they don’t have enough nutrients, they won’t be able to produce eggs. Or their eggs could be soft and break easily.
When you sprout grains (growing fodder), you unlock the nutrients inside the grains making them more bio-available for the chickens.
Not to mention fodder is easier to digest for your chickens.
What Seeds Do You Grow?
Do you have an amazing combination of seeds that you grow for fodder? We would love to try your recipe for our livestock.
Much like fodder, microgreens are easy to grow and livestock love them. Similarly to fodder though, you can grow them hydroponically. However, I grow mine in soil.
I feel all of our livestock, our leftover microgreens and they love them!
Do you have some space outside that you would like to use for growing food for livestock?
Special Thanks to Steve Detmer for sharing his knowledge and pictures!