What the Fodder?

Have you seen the new biggest craze in livestock feed?

It takes just about a week to grow and increases your feed by up to 6x* by weight. It’s highly nutritious and provides 20% protein by dry weight. You can feed it to poultry, rabbits, ruminants, horses, just about any grass-loving livestock animal around.

When my friend, Brande, first told me about it I wasn’t so sure. I had heard great things about it but had only seen these huge, incredibly expensive setups for large livestock operations. I hadn’t even thought that it was possible to do fodder without one of these setups.

What in the hell was I thinking? Nowadays everything can be done DIY so why couldn’t making fodder? It would just require a bit more labor on my part.

There are really only about 3 things you absolutely have to have: seed, water and planting trays with drainage holes. There’s no need for soil or fertilizer. Because we have a mild climate I’m just growing mine outside on a table. The best seed to use is barley as it has the highest nutrition and protein of all the other grain seeds. I can get an 80lb bag of barley for just over $18. You can try to find hulled barley but I find that unhulled seems to work fine. When watering, I recapture the water that drains to reuse.

You only want to put about a 1/2″ of barley in your tray. It really does swell up and I found that with 3lbs of barley the tray was busting out at the walls. Before you start with making fodder you need to soak the barley for 6-8 hours in water. This degrades germination inhibitors in the seeds (this is why you should also soak peas and legumes before planting). You want to cover the barley with enough water so that when it expands it remains covered.

Once your soaking is over pour the seed and water into your tray and then rinse the seed. Cover your tray so that it remains dark to help encourage germination. Above is the day after soaking. Small root tips begin to show up at the ends of the seed.

Water your seed 2-3 times a day. You want to keep it from drying out too much. By the second day after soaking you’ll start to see more of the roots.

The following day small bits of green will poke their heads out of the layer of seeds and roots. It will soon be growing so fast you can almost watch it. By now you can take the cover off because you want the grass blades to develop chlorophyll and energy.

On the fourth day after soaking you’ll be seeing the beginning of a nice little green carpet. It’s not much yet but the following day you’ll be amazed.

Day 5 and it’s starting to look like turf. Keep watering at least twice a day.

By day 6 you’re almost ready to feed it. Supposedly this is when the nutrition of the grass begins to peak.

On day 7 it’s time to feed the fodder. You can see here the awesome layer of roots, seeds and grass. Poultry and ruminants will consume all these parts. Rabbits generally only like the greens. I started with 3lbs of seed and produced nearly 15lbs of fodder. It took my hens a couple of days to eat one tray’s worth of fodder. If you start a new tray ever day or every couple of days you’ll have a constant supply of fodder to feed.

*I’ve only seen about a 5x increase but I’ve heard that 6x is also possible.

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All About Poop – Using Manure in the Garden

This afternoon while I was prepping a new bed for garlic it dawned on me that I should probably pay attention to which manure and bedding I add to it. Being a root vegetable I didn’t want to add high nitrogen to the bed because that would stimulate too much top growth and the energy of the plant wouldn’t be used for making those big, juicy cloves on the bulb.What I would need is a manure that helps promote root growth. Ideally this would be a manure that was high in phosphorus but lower in nitrogen. Potassium is the third micronutrient and is used by the plant for overall vigor and disease resistance so it would be OK if this was high as well.

One of the benefits to keeping all of our animals in separate housing is that I can pick and choose who has the most appropriate manure for each bed. I can also choose when in the growing season I can apply each manure. In general chicken, turkey and goat are considered “hot” and need to be composted first. We usually put these down right after harvest and let them sit until we plant again. Rabbit, on the other hand, does not need to be composted first so we like to use this during the growing season. Additionally, the bedding that is mixed in with the manures really helps improve our heavy clay soil.

Here are the average numbers for common livestock manures that are readily accessible to us. The numbers correspond with N-P-K (Nitrogen – Phosphorus – Potassium) and are percent of dry weight.

Goat 1.5 – 1.5 – 3.0

*Horse 2.3 – 0.9 – 1.7

Poultry 3.2 – 5.2 – 1.8

Rabbit 2.4 – 1.4 – 0.6

Steer 1.7 – 1.2 – 3.0

If you want to get really technical determining how much of each type of manures you should add you can do some calculations. Since growing food isn’t a business for us it’s not really worth it to have all the manure sent out to have it tested and then weigh everything before applying the manure. For home garden it can be more of an approximation based on the needs of different crops and what the different manures contain.

What I chose to use for the garlic was the old bedding from the goat yard that also included chicken manure from when the chickens were housed with them. This will be what I use for root vegetables. Once it runs out then I’ll mix the poultry and goat manure together to reach the same numbers. For other crops here is what I’ll be using where. (Nutrient requirements based on info in The Vegetable Gardener’s Bible)

Nutrient Requirements” N=high; P=high; K=high

Combination of poultry and rabbit manure (or poultry and horse)

  • Artichokes
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower
  • Celery
  • Corn
  • Dill
  • Lettuce
  • Peppers
  • Potatoes
  • Tomatoes

Nutrient Requirements” N=high; P=moderate; K=moderate

Rabbit manure (or horse)

  • Asparagus
  • Mustard
  • Summer Squash
  • Winter Squash

Nutrient Requirements” N=high; P=low; K=low

Rabbit manure (or horse)

  • Carrots
  • Parnips

Nutrient Requirements” N=moderate; P=moderate; K=moderate

Combination of poultry and goat manure (or poultry and steer)

  • Garlic
  • Chives
  • Jerusalem Artichokes
  • Kale
  • Kohlrabi
  • Leeks
  • Okra
  • Onions
  • Parsley
  • Spinach
  • Strawberries

Nutrient Requirements” N=moderate; P=high; K=high

Goat manure (or steer)

  • Brussels Sprouts
  • Cucumber
  • Eggplant

Nutrient Requirements” N=moderate; P=low; K=low

Rabbit manure (or horse)

  • Fennel

Nutrient Requirements” N=low; P=high; K=high

Goat manure (or steer)

  • Melons
  • Watermelons

Nutrient Requirements” N=low; P=moderate; K=moderate

Goat manure (or steer)

  • Bush Beans
  • Pole Beans
  • Beets
  • Swiss Chard

Nutrient Requirements” N=low; P=low; K=low

Light on the goat manure (or steer)

  • Arugula
  • ┬áBasil
  • Cilantro
  • Horseradish
  • Marjoram
  • Oregano
  • Peas
  • Radishes
  • Rhubarb
  • Sage
  • Sunflowers
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Tarragon
  • Tomatillos
  • Turnips

Of course nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium are not the only nutrients plants need, nor are they only nutrients found in manure. Manure also contains calcium, magnesium, zinc, sulfur and various levels of other nutrients. Composted manure also contains a lot of beneficial microorganisms which help break down nutrients and make them available to plants. The addition of carbon (bedding) makes the perfect mix of nitrogen and carbon for composting. It wasn’t until we got chickens and started adding their bedding to our compost pile were we finally able to get it hot. Our livestock manure is actually mixed in with composted kitchen scraps and yard waste to add another level of nutrients.

It’s not just about nutrients when it comes to manure and compost. The addition of it greatly improves the soil structure such as loosening heavy clay soil or increasing water retention in sandy soils. In my opinion adding compost and/or manure is really the only way to go when trying to improve your soil. You just can’t have healthy, nutritious food without healthy soil.

*Horse manure is commonly available for free or very low cost at boarding stables. Be aware, however, that if the animals are pastured it could be high in weed seeds unless it is properly composted at a high enough temperature.

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