After running our successful fodder system for six months we decided to make some much needed improvements. We have found that the plastic trays crack pretty easy when the trays are holding fully grown fodder. Replacing the trays on a monthly basis was getting costly and we looked for a more permanent solution. We also were hand watering all the trays and it was adding to our daily chore time. Also, when it came to drainage the trays were not as exact as I wanted and we ended up with a slightly muddy floor on occasion.
After doing some research on various fodder systems we decided to use rain gutters for the hardware store. We found that two 20 foot rain gutters was a little more than the 6 trays of fodder we were producing. We used a wood frame to support the gutters and made sure that they were set at an angle of 1.5” drop every 10 feet. So, for our 20 foot span the height difference between the two ends is three inches.
On the higher end of the gutters we have an automated watering system. We are using a a sprinkler timer set to go off every 6 hours for 12 minutes. Pretty much we run enough water through the system so we have clear water coming out the other end. It will all depend on your gutter or tray size, your angle and your drainage. So make sure that the entire length of the fodder is getting a good rinsing.
Using PVC plumbing we have the water flow into an Orbit Adjustable Flow 8-Port Drip Irrigation Manifold for 1/4″ Tube.
The manifold allows us to direct the water into the gutters using 1/4” drip line. The manifold shown in the photo below is not one I would suggest due to it leaking.
The manifold allows us to direct the water into the gutters using 1/4” drip line. We also placed an in-line control valve on the 1/4” drip line so we can stop the flow of water the night before we harvest the fodder so it is not dripping wet. We have them attached with fancy binder clips. I have seen people drill holes in the end caps to put the drip line through but we wanted to be sure everything can be adjusted if needed.
The gutters are attached together using the coordinating parts from the home improvement store. Since we did a 20 foot span we had to put one connection and two end caps per gutter. This does get pricey BUT the cost of trays every month were getting to be a lot more. You can see the gutters we used here, and the coordinating joiner and end caps. Total we spend $25 on each gutter. We had been replacing approximately 30 trays a month at $2 each…so $60 a month in disposable trays over six months of growing fodder so far. We were basically throwing money away.
Here is a view down the fodder channel. We try to pour the seeds as even as possible to get a nice even mat at the end of the growth cycle.
At the end of the gutter, we have placed a bulkhead screen and washer to let the water drain out properly. You can find them at FarmTek or your local nursery. They are screwed into a PVC threaded-T and allows for the water to drain out via a PVC system. We have ours going out to the garden so we can recycle the water. I do NOT suggest recycling your water back into your fodder system as there is a lot of starch that comes of the seeds as they sprout. It will cause mold and slime issues.
We have found that some water pools at the end of the fodder tray and so we keep the seed back a bit from the drain to prevent mold or fermentation. It has worked so far and allows the fodder to stay fresh. At harvest, after 8 days, we roll the mat up and then cut it every few feet. It is then taken out to the animals to eat.
After we harvest the fodder, I turn the in-line valves back on and let the water flow a bit while I take a scrub brush with a bit of dawn soap and clean the gutter. At the end I use a bucket vacuum to suck anything that is left to make sure the trays are clean and sanitized. If you are having a problem with slime or mold it is a good idea to sanitize your trays or gutters with hydrogen peroxide or vinegar.
If you have not seen our fodder routine you can read our blog post. The only thing we do differently now is put the seeds into the gutters instead of trays. I think in total it takes about 30 minutes out of my day to feed twice it twice a day. Most of the time is spent on cleaning the gutters to prevent mold.
Here is one of our many mischievous Muscovy ducks that likes to sneak into the fodder room and eat their way to fatness!