My project is a small scale alternative feed system, or growing Fodder. We first found the system we wanted to put together and then are producing feed for our cattle on an 8 day growing cycle. Once we get all the kinks out in the growing process we aim to compare two sets on black Angus cattle. one group of 4 being fed Fodder and a small amount of hay for roughage. the second group will be fed traditionally on hay and WBG (Wet Brewers Grain) We will monitor daily gains in weight, overall body condition and cost effectiveness of both feeding systems.
We did modify our plan from the original proposal. We intended to build our own system from the ground up, but upon intense research and investigation, met Russ Horton from Fodder Nation. He has been building and designing Fodder systems for the last few years and is light years ahead of all other systems currently on the market; buying the parts and system components from him ended up saving us $3000 dollars!
No need to reinvent the wheel right?
So we traveled to California and bought the exterior box, trays, racks, and control system from him. We then set up the majority of the system here at our ranch in Camp Verde. Trenched power and water to it and have just recently been able to start growing our own Fodder.
I decided to conduct more research into other systems, already designed and built. I compared two systems. The first being in Bicknell, Utah built by Glen and the second, in Ramona, California built by Russ Horton.
The unit in Utah was a well built system. The Owner, Glen, uses a consistent temperature of around 68 degrees and uses sprinkler heads to irrigate the trays. Soaks his barley seed for 24 hours prior to seeding the trays to help with germination. His system uses a lot of air flow to combat mold.
The Ramona California Unit was by far my favorite of all systems I have researched on the internet ans well as systems we have visited. This unit was so well built and insulated. The owner, Russ Horton of Fodder Nation, has a genius idea and invented sprouting/growth racks for the first 3 days of germination. There are 30 trays in the racks, which save about 20 square foot of space and these racks require no light.
We ended up purchasing most of our fodder materials from his company. We purchased the exterior box, growth trays, racks and power control panel; assembled everything back at our place in Camp Verde during the months of September, October, November of 2017. Initially we believed we could plug the unit into an outlet on the side of our house but kept flipping breakers. In the end, we ended up trenching from the north side of our home to the south side and designating the unit to its own breaker. We also ran the water line underground due to our winter temperatures dropping below freezing
We ran our first set of trays through the fodder system on an 8 day growing cycle; 5 trays total and they came out perfect. No mold and they were 9 inches tall with a 3 inch root mat and weighed 9-10 pounds each. It was so exciting! The cows went absolutely crazy over it and would almost tackle me to get at the fodder mats in our side by side!
The next two batches did not turn out as well. We grew a bit of mold and the stench of the moldy mats could knock you over. Despite the little bit of mold and stench, the cows still LOVE it.
I cleaned the system thoroughly and adjusted the temperature two degrees to 70 degrees F. No difference and mold still grew rampantly. I changed the temperature again to 68 degrees F and lessened the amount of irrigation in the trays and still no change; lots of mold. Frustrated, I called Russ Horton regarding the mold we are growing. There are usually 2 reasons mold will grow. The first being a dirty outer shell of the seed. Although I soaked the seed for forty minutes prior to seeding the trays, I had noticed a white residue remaining. Russ had mentioned that most seed mills clean their silos by running corn kernels through them. This can leave a residue which can stick to the outside shell on the Barley seed. This is partly why the seed needs to be soaked prior to seeding the trays, but also lowers the germination rate of the barley seed by contamination.
I am researching other seed distributors as I write this. I may have found a distributor in Casa Grande, Az. that will sell it to me at a much cheaper price bulk rate than purchasing it in the bags from Wheatland Mills in Utah. I plan to make the trip the first week in February and once I have the money to purchase the seed.
Educational & Outreach Activities
Our Little project has become the talk of the town!
I have given 7 demonstrations to fellow cattle ranchers and horses owners, describing the benefits of our system. How it puts us from feed consumers to producers and the cost savings of using a system like ours, daily. Explained the process of building the unit and its parts/components and why each part is needed and its uses; overall outcome.
Educated on the entire process of Fodder. starting from day 1 through day 8. Showed how easy it is to seed the trays, placement, rotation and the end result; How much the cows LOVE eating it!
Quite a few participants are interested in small units to produce fodder for their horses and cattle. I put them in touch with Russ Horton of Fodder Nation and they are possibly having systems built for themselves.
Learning alternative methods to feed production.
Small scale sustainability
Cost Effective alternative methods versus traditional feed.
It is too soon in my project to determine this.
Not applicable yet.