I get a catalogue in the mail called "FarmTek". It has everything and anything a farmer might be interested in. While I drool over some of the things inside the pages I have never purchased anything from them because I just don't have the money.
One of the things in the catalogue piqued my interest though, and it had to do with "fodder feed systems". Basically it is a hydroponic system of sprouting wheat, barley, oats, or some other seed and feeding that to your stock. It's supposed to be much less expensive than feeding traditional hay or grain and that is what gained my interest. Another bonus is the sprouted grain has more health benefits like more vitamins and so on than feeding traditional feed.
Though the system for sale in the catalogue is slick and clean, it also involves quite the start up cost. When I started getting more serious about persuing this I looked on-line and found the information I needed from several different web sites. (Just Google "fodder feed" and you'll see all kinds of sites to look at.)
I followed one site's lead and bought my starting trays from the Dollar Store. They are simple foil baking trays with plastic covers. The soaking bucket was one I already had so that was no extra cost. The steps are so simple it's ridiculous.
First off figure out what kind of seeds you want to sprout. I chose barley because research indicated it to be the easiest grain to work with. It took a little bit of calculations but for my tray size two cups of whole untreated barley grain was the right amount to start. It goes in the soaking bucket anywhere from 8pm to 10pm.
The next morning the seed gets dumped into one of the trays, which has holes poked in the bottom to allow for drainage. Tray One goes into the bottom of the sink and onto a rack. In my case I have three days' worth of trays stacked on top of each other in the sink. I put one cover on the top tray.
This is Day Three.
Day Four. To help make room and allow for better growth I remove Day Four to the counter. I put a cover underneath for the drainage and a cover on top. (Refer to top photo.)
What a difference a day makes! This is Day Five.
Day Six and really starting to fill out.
Day Seven and ready to feed. Currently I'm dividing one tray between the four chicken pens.
I'm using a very simple seven day cycle. On Day Seven I feed the sprouted barley and move the trays one spot up. When I come back from the morning feeding I put the soaking barley into the now empty Day Seven tray and it becomes Day One and goes to the bottom of the sink.
So far I've only fed to the chickens and they gobble it up. I've been doing this for about three weeks now and I have noticed a dramatic drop in the store bought prepared lay crumbles I have to buy. Another bonus is the eggs have a deeper, darker, richer yolk. I don't think I've even used half the sack of barley yet either.
This summer I'm going to try and increase my production so each chicken pen gets a whole tray of sprouted seed. I would also like to try and start feeding the horses and bull and see if they take to it like the chickens do.
Anything to save feed costs is a good thing!