Abigail’s Fodder For Thought – Let’s Get Growing
So you want to grow fodder, do you? Great! It couldn’t be easier, so please don’t let the word ‘hydroponic’ scare you away. With all the great “how to” information available online these days, I figured, “why not fodder?” Here’s what you need to know to get started (after your Fodder-Pro 2.0 Feed System has been installed):
We recommend doing small seed trials (various types from different suppliers) before making a large investment in one type of seed. This will ensure you have a good quality seed and high germination rate. Be sure that seeds are as untreated as possible.
Prepare your seeds
Seeds should be sanitized and soaked in clean water prior to being spread in the channels. We recommend soaking them in a 10% or milder solution. You can use bleach or chlorine. If you’re looking for a more organic option, use hydrogen peroxide or vinegar. The seeds should only remain in the sanitizing solution for 10 to 15 minutes and then be soaked in clean water for 24 hours. This process cleans the seeds of any mold spores, dirt or bacteria. The clean water soak is meant to loosen the exterior hull of the seed so germination will begin within 12 to 24 hours of spreading them in channel.
Sanitize your channels
With the same sanitizing solution you use for the seeds, quickly clean the channels. A scrub brush or pad dipped into the solution and rubbed over the channels will work just fine. Use your best judgment to ensure the trays are clean of any previous fodder residue, dust or dirt. This promotes better fodder production in the next growth cycle.
Spread seeds into channels
Our Fodder Pro 2.0 Feed Systems come with 12′ long channels. Each channel will use just under nine pounds of dry seed per day. (After you soak the seed for 24 hours this weight will increase. Nine pounds is a dry starting weight.) Spread the soaked seed evenly throughout the twelve-foot channel using a Seed Spreader. Please note the ¼” and ½” marker lines inside the channels because the seed mat depth should not exceed the ½” mark. Be sure the seed is spread evenly since excessive peaks and valleys will alter germination and negatively affect the amount of fodder produced.
When spreading seed, anything that comes in contact with the seeds should be sanitized. Just a quick dip of the spreader and scoop into your sanitizing solution will do the trick. Latex or nitrile gloves are a great, disposable option to protect the cleansed seeds from your bare hands.
Let it grow
Once you have spread the seeds into the system, do not disturb them for the next seven days. Monitor flow rates and adjust 1/4″ valves where necessary. If you notice that the fodder is washing down to the end of the channel, dial back the water flow. There will be some trial and error for the first few weeks until you get the hang of it. Typically, the systems run for two minutes every two hours. Environmental parameters should remain between 60°F and 75°F with a relative humidity of 40 to 80%. Lighting should be available for at least four hours per day whether it is artificial or natural.
Circulating fans are a great accessory to reduce the opportunity for mold to grow. These keep the air mobile, so it can’t grab moisture. Without moisture in the air humidity can’t increase which prevents mold from thriving.
Once the fodder is lush and green, you’re ready to harvest. The fodder should be about 7″ to 8″ tall after seven days. Roll the fodder within the channel until you can’t roll it anymore and cut the root mat with a straight razor (be careful of your fingers!). Then you are ready to feed.
Incorporate fodder slowly into the normal diet of your animals. You can use the choice feeding method, feed bunks or a TMR mixer that throws it to a feed line. A consistent feeding process will instill trust in your animals that will encourage them to eat the fodder. Wean fodder into the diet of your livestock slowly, over a seven to ten day period. This will allow their bodies to acclimate to the new, highly digestible feed.
So that’s the skinny on fodder production. Pretty simple, huh? If you have concerns about jumping in with both feet, start with a small home setup. You can use our small 30″ GT80 channels or even basic 1020 flats. Again, don’t let that word ‘hydroponic’ stop you from trying out this innovative feed option. If you have more questions, let us know. I’m delighted to help with anything I can!
Have you tried feeding fodder to your livestock? What differences have you seen in them since making the change?