Last year I was at a point where I felt ready to start growing my own hydroponics fodder for the livestock. The thing was, being new to it, I didn’t know where to start and had many questions on everything from species of plants and what seeds I should get, to tips on how to grow them, different types of sprays or fertilizers and so on.
With time I realized that very information is scattered all over the Internet in blogs here and there so it’s hard to find. That’s why I’ve decided to share my knowledge and experience with growing fodder here.
Starting fodder is easy!
The great thing about growing hydroponics fodder for your livestock is that it works for any type of animal. From goats to chickens, pigs and cows, to rabbits, dogs and cats.
The key is that you are providing a food source that is rich in nutrients, vitamins and minerals.
With all the added bonus of knowing that the food you are feeding your animals is organic and free from chemicals and you know exactly where it came from.
There are so many options when it comes to growing fodder. You can grow it in a small space or as large as your acreage allows. You can use recycled trays, or create your own trays with untreated wood or even hay bales!
Things you need to start making fodder
You’ll need a small space to store your fodder. A garage, basement, barn or shed is ideal.
Fodder is a type of animal feed that is usually made from green plants. It can be composed of whole plants or can be processed into pellets.
There are two types of fodder – forage and concentrate.
Forage is green, leafy material that makes up most of the diet for ruminants (for example, cows, sheep).
Concentrate is usually grain or other seeds (such as soybeans) that provides more energy than forage.
The term fodder is used more generally to refer to any type of animal feed.
What You Need to Start Making Fodder
To make your own fodder at home, you need four things:
3) A container in which to sprout the seeds
4) A way to grow the fodder to maturity.
You’ll need a few buckets, some trays with holes in them (1’x2’x4″ deep) and some bags of sprouted fodder planter mix.
You will also need a way to soak your grains. Some people use 5-gallon buckets or pet water dispensers.
How much fodder should you make?
It really depends on how many animals you have. I make 10 pounds of fodder every day for my two rabbits, four chickens and two ducks. The whole process takes about an hour in the morning and evening.
If this is your first time growing fodder, I recommend starting with 1 pound of grain per day to see if it works for you and your animals before buying a ton of supplies and seeds.
Feeding your animals fodder
Hydroponically grown fodder is a high quality feed that is rich in nutrients. It can be a useful addition to the diet of your animals, particularly during times when pasture growth is limited by weather conditions or poor soil fertility.
Hydroponically grown fodder can be produced at any time of the year – regardless of weather conditions – and can provide an alternative source of nutrients if pasture growth has been restricted. The fodder must be fed as part of a total diet, not just as a supplement, or it will not meet the metabolic requirements of the animal.
In addition to being fed as a component of the diet, hydroponic fodder can also be used as bedding for small animals such as poultry and rabbits
It provides stock with more available energy than mature pasture, which means they will have more energy to put toward milk production and reproduction (or weight gain in meat animals).
The feed is high in protein, vitamins and minerals.
It helps fill nutritional gaps in forage diets based on pasture or hay. You only need to add energy (such as grain) to balance the ration.
Advantages of hydroponic fodder
Grass fodder is the most common for a reason. It’s easy to find the seeds and the seeds are reliable — if you follow directions, grass sprouts easily and reliably. Most of us have grown grass as kids; it’s no secret how to do it.
Hay is high in fiber, low in fat and starch, and is easy for sheep to digest. Measuring at 11-14% protein, it provides some of the best nutrition available for livestock. It tastes good, too!
Hydroponic hay grows without soil and without pesticides or toxic chemicals. Another environmental benefit of hydroponic hay systems is that they use less water than traditional farming methods.
Due to the controlled environment and high nutrient density of the fodder, animals have been shown to need 20-40% less feed when fed hydroponic fodder compared with dry feed.
Hydroponic fodder is about 40 times more nutrient dense than dry feed, so animals need less volume to get the same amount of nutrients. For example, you would need to buy 40 pounds of hay/alfalfa to equal 1 pound of hydroponic fodder. This greatly reduces transportation costs and storage space needs.
Hydroponic fodder has been shown to increase milk production by up to 25%. It is also easier for animals to digest so they tend to produce more solid manure that doesn’t smell as bad as it does when they are eating hay or other dry feeds.
Disadvantages of hydroponics fodder
The cost of setting up a hydroponic fodder system is fairly high, especially if you need to purchase all of the equipment. While you can make your own hydroponic system, you will still need to buy the other equipment that you need in order to grow fodder.
You will need a relatively large space in order to grow your fodder hydroponically. This can be an issue if you live in a small home or apartment and don’t have much room for the equipment or for storage of harvested fodder.
Growing your own fodder requires regular attention and maintenance of your system and plants (which may or may not be an advantage). If you wish to grow enough to feed multiple animals, you will need a larger system, which takes more time and effort to maintain than a smaller one does.
Fodder is a great way to feed your livestock in a small space.
Fodder is a great way to feed your livestock in a small space. It takes a little more work to grow than traditional feeds, but the yield is incredible and the cost savings are significant.
Fodder is sprouted grains that are harvested before they reach maturity, usually after about 7 days of growth. The seeds for fodder can be purchased online, or you can save your own from year to year (more on that later). The most popular grain for fodder is barley, although wheat and oats are also grown successfully.
Fodder is often used as an animal supplement because it has a higher protein content than hay and it’s easy for animals to digest.
Fodder is a great tool for people who want to feed their livestock but don’t want the hassle of having to prepare many small meals throughout the day. Fodder gives you the flexibility of choosing how much food you want to make at any given time; it is fairly easy to clean afterwards, and it can be stored for quite some time without spoiling.