As y’all probably have gathered, I am on a quest to learn how to mix my own feed for my animals. Along with the mixing of the feed, however, there are supplements to give. For instance, goats are prone to copper deficiency, so their diet must be supplemented with goat minerals. Laying chickens need a little bit higher protein diet than most chickens that aren’t laying, and rabbits need hay to be the bulk of their diet, but they also have other nutritional needs depending on what type of hay you feed them. Sprouting fodder for extra nutrition is a great way to supplement protein for small livestock.
At Stone Family Farmstead, all of our livestock are small, which makes it pretty affordable to feed them commercial feed if we’d like to do that. We do that with some of our animals, but we are getting away from feeding everyone from different bags of feed. We have our reasons as to why we are moving in this new direction, and it’s not about money. However, we are looking at our costs and seeking out the most nutritious, least expensive non-GMO ingredients we can find for all of our animals. Pesticide-free is also a plus, but it’s not as readily available in our area, but we do try.
The end goal for our farmstead feeding strategies is to provide all of the nutritional needs of our animals using the same base feed. Beyond that, each animal will receive their species-specific supplements to meet the remainder of their nutritional needs. This will make it much easier to consolidate what I’m purchasing on the whole, and really hone in on the best diet for each species that we care for. In the end, I’d love to slowly switch them from commercial pellets to feed that we can mix here, grow on our farmstead, or purchase in a bale.
So far, we are mixing our chicken feed and we’ve recently begun sprouting organic hard red wheat as a supplement for the rabbits and chickens. It’s been going really well and all of the animals have finally adjusted to getting their own little patch of grass each evening. Sprouting isn’t hard, but it is a commitment at least twice per day (though it works out best if you can commit to giving it attention three times per day).
You can sprout other grains, bearing in mind what nutrients you are actually trying to supplement and add to your animals’ diet. For me, I was seeking ways to supplement protein, and hard red wheat is about 15% protein. Sprouted, that protein becomes more bio-available, increases many key nutrients in the grain such as vitamins B and C, folate, fiber, and essential amino acids (Whole Grains Counsel: Sprouting Whole Grains). Some grains, like barley, are difficult for chickens to absorb nutrients from, which makes sprouting a great option when feeding this grain to them (Feeding Barley to Poultry, Extension.org).
The System for Sprouting Fodder
The system that I use for sprouting isn’t new–if you’ve sprouted before, then you probably know how to do this already, so if you’d like, you can just look at my pretty pictures. For those of you who have never sprouted before, feel free to print this post (button at the bottom) so that you can see what you are going for when you do your own sprouting. From start to finish, each batch will take 7 days. I will take you through the process with one batch, but keep in mind that I stagger my batches, starting one (roughly) every day so that I have fodder to feed to the rabbits and chickens each evening.
What you will need
3 1-quart sized wide mouth mason jars (regular size wouldn’t work well for this)
4 2″x6″x9″ organizer trays
grain to sprout
1 plastic lid to fit one of your mason jars
2 rubber bands
water (I use our city water, which works just fine)
Fill one of your mason jars with 1/2 cup grain and add water about an inch or so above the grain. No need to be exact on how much water, it doesn’t really matter as long as all of the grain is submerged in water. Cover your jar with a tight-fitting lid until the next morning.
You may want to label your jars in the beginning the way I did below until you get a sense of what each day’s fodder will look like. Since I had so many jars going at the same time, it was helpful to know what I was supposed to be doing with it each day, however, once the grain was out of the jar and into the trays, it was easy to pick up on where in the 7 stages each tray was.
On day 2, remove the lid and cover with 2 layers of cheesecloth, securing the cloth with a rubber band. Pour off the water from the day before, then rinse your grain twice and allow to drain as completely as you can. You will repeat the rinsing at least once today, but preferably twice (once more at lunch, once before bed).
The grain should look softer with small sprouts, but if it doesn’t, don’t worry, go ahead and follow this step anyway.
On day 3, you will repeat the same rinsing process as day 2.
Your should be seeing that your grain has grown longer roots. (Sorry, I forgot to take a photo of this step for some reason.)
It’s time to move your sprouted grain out into one of your organizational trays (I’ll call them sprouting trays from now on, since that’s what we are using them for). You’ll want to rinse them twice before you spread them out in an even layer on the tray. Rinse them twice at lunch and twice before bed.
The grains should have nice visible roots now. The root mat will not have grown together just yet, so it will be easy to lose grains between the slats in the tray, so take care to keep them in the best you can. I tend to wet all the grain, then slowly and carefully tip the tray so that the water runs out of one of the corners and the grain stays in its place. You may lose a few grains this day. No worries, just put them back in the tray, making sure that the grains are as evenly spaced in the tray as you can get them.
In the morning, rinse your grain twice, taking care not to lose too much of the grain between the holes in the tray. Rinse twice at lunch, and twice before bed.
You should be able to see how the root mat is starting to grow together, making it easier to rinse each time. You will also see little blades of wheat grass (if you are using wheat) growing out of the seeds.
Same process for day 6: In the morning, rinse your grain twice. Rinse twice at lunch, and twice before bed. Try to make sure that you get as much of the grain wet as you can, so you don’t end up with dry grains between the grass.
Your grass should be considerably longer and looking more like the grass in your front yard.
Last day, and your grass should be looking awesome. On this day, I usually rinse twice in the morning, twice in the afternoon, then feed it to the rabbits and chickens in the evening (no rinsing needed).
If you’ve been rinsing 3 times per day, the mat should look lush and thick, like this one. If you’ve only rinsed twice, it will be thinner.
To use, turn your whole grass mat over and cut through the root mat into the number of portions that you need for that day.
You’re done! Your fodder is ready to feed to your small livestock–or any livestock, really–they all love it!