With the increasing price of feed we had to find a solution to our ever growing feed bill. We wanted to keep with feeding our animals what they are supposed to eat and stay away from commercial feeds as much as possible.
We are lucky that we raise hogs that thrive on grass. The reason we purchased them, besides their social behavior, was they are grass eating machines. Our chickens, ducks and geese also eat grass. So, does our horse….Do you see a trend here?
The next thing we had to research is goats. Can goats live off grass only? No. Can they get a lot of nutrients, calories and minerals from it? Yes. Can they eat the fresh grass and then be supplemented with dry roughage? YES!! So we are able to decrease the amount of alfalfa pellets we are feeding, the goat pellets we are feeding and the hay we are feeding when we give them barley fodder!
Fodder? What is Fodder you ask?
Well…for us it is sprouted barley seeds. In our system we have built it takes 8 days for barley to grow from seed to feed all hydroponically.
We start by soaking organic barley seed in a bucket of water for 12 hours. Then we lay those seeds out in a grow tray with holes punched in the bottom. We then water a few times a day to keep the seeds wet so they can germinate. We continue to water a few times a day until it is green and lush enough for our animals to eat.
A 10×20” tray feeds all of our chickens (30), geese (3) and muscovy ducks (6) and costs less than $2.00. If we were to weigh the barley fodder and feed according to weight, we would only feed a half a try to them a day. I tear little pieces of it off and throw it into their bowls.
This chicken was sneaking a treat while I was feeding everyone.
Since we started small (2 trays a day) we are only feeding our birds and the three American Guinea Hogs. The AGHs are thriving off of it! They eat it like it is candy. The horse took a little while to get used to it. She would eat the green part and leave the roots until one day the roots were gone. She now eats her entire biscuit.
We are slowly building a larger system to grow enough barley fodder for our entire ranch. I would like to be up to 8 trays a day so I have plenty of feed to add on more animals in the future.
One thing we are having some difficulty with is temperature regulation. The barley grows best at about 70 degree. If it is hotter it will mold quicker and not grow. If it is colder it will grow but take twice a long. We are insulating the area we are growing it in to keep the heat in. I am trying to figure out a way to heat it without spending a lot of money on a heater, wasting propane or using up our electricity.
As soon as we get the system fully running I will make a video to share with you all!