This post will share with you how our DIY fodder system generates 250lbs of livestock feed for only $12!
We are always looking for ways to save money around our homestead, especially on feed costs. We did pretty well at reducing our hay costs by 50%, but the long Canadian winter months rack up the feed mill bill rather quickly. It’s also really frustrating to see how much grain is WASTED by all the animals as it fall onto the ground, money down the drain!
There has to be a better way right? Right!
DIY Fodder System for Livestock
Enter the DIY fodder system! Fodder is simply food for livestock and generally refers to hay, however in this case it refers to barley. We grow barley hydroponically (without soil, in water only) and in about 8 days we have nutritious, lush, green livestock feed!
I LOVE our DIY fodder system because it’s extremely cost effective, one 50lb bag of barley seed costs about $12 and generates up to 5 times the amount of feed – 250lbs! Because the grain is sprouted it has more nutritional value which is especially important for our pygmy goats as feeding them grain can lead to urinary issues. There is hardly any waste since everything is edible from the root mat to the sprouts. And everyone can eat it, we feed it to the chickens and other poultry, goats, cows, donkey, and pigs! You can feed up to 2% of your animals weight in fodder a day, so for a 500lb animal it’s up to 10lbs. Oh, and did I mention it takes about two minutes in the morning and another two in the evening?!
Fodder is truly a homesteaders dream, you can grow exactly how much you need with almost no waste for pennies! So how do you grow it? Below is my step by step instructions to creating a DIY fodder system for your livestock.
- Barley seeds – you can use pretty much any seed and we have tried wheat and scratch grain but had the best success with barley.
- Racking – your racking will hold your fodder as it grows, it needs to have holes in the shelves to allow for the water to drain.
- Seed trays 11″ x 22″ – each tray will generate about 5lbs of fodder, so determine how much fodder you need each day for your livestock, multiply by 9 and that’s how many trays you need. For example we need 15lbs per day = 3 trays a day = 27 trays.
- Apple Cider vinegar
- Red solo cup – my very precise measuring tool haha!
Start by drilling holes into the bottom of 8 days worth of seed trays (in the example about that’s 24 trays, 3 leftover), the holes should be just slightly smaller than your seeds to prevent them from falling through. They should be evenly distributed across the entire bottom of the tray. Drainage is extremely important, if your seeds sit in water they will mould and will need to be discarded.
Take your seed trays without holes and place a tray with holes inside, when your seeds are done soaking you will simply life the inner tray out and it will act as a strainer. Fill each tray with 3 red solo cups of barley. I have found 3 cups is the right amount to get the best germination with the least waste, however you may need to adjust the measurements.
You want to cover your seeds with a mix of water and a splash of apple cider vinegar. The vinegar will help inhibit mould growth in your fodder. The water should be ½ in above the seeds, no need to get too precise just make sure your seeds are fully covered. Then mix them up to get them fully submerged. Your seeds are now going to soak for 12-24 hours. I honestly haven’t found a difference in time, I usually soak for 12 hours.
Now that your seeds are done soaking lift the inner tray out and place on your racking. You are going to rinse the fodder twice a day (morning and evening) for the next 8 days or so. Our setup is in the bathtub which make this whole process very easy. We use cold water and start from the bottom up, just a quick rinse making sure everything looks wet. As I mentioned your fodder should never be sitting in water, if it is you need to drill bigger holes. Below is the barley see about day 2 just starting to bud.
After about 8 days you should have a lush green mat which can now be fed to your animals! Simply flip out the fodder mat and cut into smaller chunks with a sharp knife. For the birds you do not have to wait the full 8 days, there is plenty of nutritional benefit in the sprouted seeds around day 4.
Each day start a new set of trays, eventually you will get into the rhythm and have ready to eat fodder everyday for your livestock!
I’m sure you’re wondering about two key components that are usually very important for growing plants – light and temperature. For light, it’s not really needed until you start to see green in your trays, we have a large window behind our racking and each day I move the trays up so they get more light as they grow. We did get some awesome lights for Christmas that we plan to use and I’ll make follow up post. In terms of temperature you actually want a cooler environment to prevent mould growth, about 20 degrees Celsius seems to be working for us.
I hope you enjoyed this tutorial and comment below if you have any question!
I’ve had a number of questions regarding availability of the barley seed. When you are looking for barley you want feed grade barley not seed grade, seed grade will be much more expensive. We live in Southern Ontario where barley is a readily available commodity so we are able to purchase it from our local feed mill. If your local mill does not have barley, ask what they carry and give it a try! I’ve seen others have great success with oats, wheat, sunflower, and peas!