Growing Green Fodder for Livestock

wheat fodder300.jpgFor some years I’ve been interested in growing fodder as a way to feed livestock cheaply & to save space. Hay takes up so much room. I’d see those ads where the farmer is pulling a grassy mat out of a tray & feeding it to cattle. Most of these ads were for the large systems that are housed in a building or trailer where the temperature is controlled & watering is automated. They came with a hefty price tag & made much more food than I needed.
I determined to try this myself. I will confess that my first attempt, while not a total failure, did not yield to my expectations for the work involved. Last year I became interested again in my quest for non GMO animal feed. This time there was much more helpful information available to make the effort a success.

About 7 years ago I bought about 30 cat litter trays for about $2/each. I punched drainage holes in the bottom of 15 of them, filled them with soil and used them to start seedlings. The other 15 pans served as trays to catch the drips. They held up well & last winter became my fodder trays. Some people use the seed flats with drainage holes. They are inexpensive & not as sturdy as litter trays. Others use boot trays. Go to your dollar store & look around, you might find even better options.

I had to get creative with the stacking arrangements to fit my fodder in one place rather than have it strung all over the house.

Fodder section fixed






What kind of grain
I wanted to buy non GMO grain. Currently, that’s all the grains I can think of besides corn & soy. I have successfully grown fodder from barley, oats, wheat & rye.

Source of grain for fodder
The next thing needed is a source of grain. Barley from the grocery store will not sprout. Neither will any grain that has been heat treated in any way. I’ve read that you can only use seed grain. All I’ve ever used is feed grain & it’s worked just fine. Grain from your local feed store is an option. Maybe you are feeding whole oats to your animals, try some of that & see how it does.
I already had feed delivered from a mill & just revised my order to include barley. That was the grain I learned on because that is the one that had the most information available. The fodder you see in ads for the larger fodder systems is usually barley grass.
I learned the hard way that barley is not always available & had to switch to oats. Once again I encountered problems because the mill sourced their grain on the open market & the germination rate varied wildly from order to order.

I then decided to forgo the convenience of delivery & drive to a farm in the next county that grows the grain the sell. I can always get oats & wheat. It’s clean & germination is consistent. Local Harvest is an excellent resource to find grain farmers.
If you are just running an experiment you can start with a cup of grain & a container with drainage holes. You can use a Gladware container or something from your recycle bin. If you are jumping right in & hope to feed your animals, you need to know how much hay you are feeding by weight & grow 1/2 that amount of fodder. My yield is about 1:5 ratio. If I feed 30# of feed/day, I will need to grow 15# of fodder a day. That means you will be starting 3# of grain each day.
Now for the how to…finally.

Items Needed

  • trays with drainage holes
  • trays with solid bottoms to catch the drips
  • bucket in which to soak grain
  • bucket with drainage holes to drain the grain
  • enough space to hold the number of trays you will have on day 7
  1. Pour the grain into the bucket & cover with water. You want the water level to be a couple of inches above grain. Soak for 12 hours. I do this when I do morning chores.
  2. Twelve hours later pour into the drain bucket. Rinse & leave until the next morning. You have leeway here. It doesn’t have to be exactly 12 hours.
  3. The following morning, rinse the grains & then spread in an even layer in your containers. I’ve read that 3/4″ is the proper thickness. I don’t spread mine nearly that thick, just enough to cover the bottom. Forget about it until evening
  4. In the evening I water each tray & then tip it on edge to drain it. I return it to the drip pan until the next morning when I repeat the process.
  5. Continue until your fodder is about 6-8″ high & then feed. This can take from 6-8 days after you first spread it in the tray.
  6. I put the fodder that is the most mature in the window the day before I feed. The extra light makes the grass a deeper green.
Ready to water300.jpg

Ready to water







Tipped to drain

Tipped to drain







If you grow fodder, I’d love to know about your system. If you’re just starting let us know how it goes…

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Growing Green Fodder for Livestock — 11 Comments

  1. Brenda at Granny’s Best is also doing this, and has recently featured a series of posts on her method… both of these are so informational. I only have chickens now, but am thinking of doing this so they have greens during the winter. Thanks for your information!

  2. I’ve been thinking of attempting this sometime soon. I would love to be able to offer my critters something nice, green, and delicious for the winter vs. just dried ole hay! Thanks for sharing!

  3. Welcome back! I have missed your posts. How is it that you always seem to post about exactly what I am researching at the time? I too have seen the big expensive fodder systems and wondered what I could do, only much cheaper 🙂 I found this article from another blogger, she even did videos of her simple set up

    Before I read anything about fodder systems, I attempted to grow some greens for my chickens in the late fall but failed miserably… so I gave up but now you’ve inspired me to try again. I’ll let you know how it goes.

    The comfrey start I got from you really took off last summer. I got several cuttings off it through the summer. Thanks for sharing!

    Tammy in MI

  4. Hi Tammy,
    Thanks for missing me. It is so good to be back! I let some things go that were stealing my time & energy to return to the stuff I’m more interested in. I’ve missed reading & keeping current on what everyone in the homesteading community has been up to.
    Thanks for posting that video. I’m going to add it to my post so people can see another way to do this.
    If you’re only wanting to sprout for your chickens you can do it in buckets with holes drilled in. I think Harvey Ussery has a good system. Just google him;)
    Good luck!
    I’m glad the comfrey is growing well. Will your chickens eat it?
    Thanks for posting my MI homesteading buddy;)

  5. I’m wanting to grow some fodder greens for the chickens in the winter to keep their yolks a nice (and yummy) dark orange 🙂 If I can get that down pat, I would feel better about trying to raise a beef cow. We certainly have enough room here for one, just haven’t taken that big step yet. Don’t think we could afford to buy tons of hay and this would help immensely, if I can get it to work.

    Yes, the chickens would eat the comfrey although they didn’t get much of it because I tried making a “tea” with it to add to my garden plants. I can’t say I really noticed a difference with it but then again it was such a strange growing season last summer… I am hoping for a much better year this coming summer! How was your growing season up there?

  6. Best of luck with the fodder, Tammy. Smart thinking on perfecting the growing operation before adding a cow. Buying lots of hay would sure have been a struggle this past hay season.
    Our garden was a bust this year. I think other people did okay though.

  7. Do you give the fodder to all animals? Does this supplement their grain and hay? I’m more interested in this for my horse and sheep. I’ve tried my first round and did okay. Some molded but I didn’t have enough holes.