The practice of sprouting grain to feed farm animals is rapidly gaining followers. There are various reasons for this. Feeding fodder cuts down on the amount of hay consumed; I love having more barn space. Some feed hay free choice, but cut back on the amount of grain they feed. The yield on a pound of grain is 5-7# of fodder depending on your system & growing conditions. For me, it saves money. The best reason of all is that feeding freshly sprouted greens results in healthy animals.
Review of the Half Pint Homestead Fodder System
Last year, I was in my 2nd season of growing fodder for my sheep. I was hand watering about 28 trays per day and they had to be carried to the water source. This twice daily chore was beginning to wear. I didn’t have the need for a large automated system never mind the cash to pay for it. Then late in 2012 I noticed a small, homestead-size system being advertised that claimed a 15# fodder mat per tray. Since the lambs were due to be butchered, 15#/day would feed the ewes & rabbits. These are the pros & cons I experienced during two months of using the 6 tray Half Pint Homestead Fodder System in my home.
- Fast delivery. My 6 tray unit arrived within 5 days of ordering.
- Easily assembled. There was a lot of thought put into the design of the PVC stand & how to keep everything draining evenly. All the pieces were nicely cut & fit together well. The sump/reservoir that waters the trays fit perfectly under the stand.
- Few tools required. The only tools/accessories I needed were a rubber mallet to bang the pieces together & a blow dryer to heat the tubing so it fit snugly on the pump. The stand is not glued together so no fooling around with PVC cement.
- Compact design
- Responsive to questions. I always received a reply to questions within a few hours.
- Recycles water. The water from the reservoir is pumped up to the top trays, trickles through the trays and returns to the reservoir to be used again. The used water quickly becomes brown, foamy & smells bad. It is not an odor that is welcome in most homes. If mold develops in a tray, it is circulated throughout the system by the recycled water contaminating the pump, water supply line.
- The sump/reservoir needs to be emptied more frequently than advertised to prevent stench & to give fresh water to the trays. The reservoir must be pulled out from under the stand & bailed out by hand. It is slimy from the starches in the seed & needs to be wiped clean with a bleach solution. Then it needs to be refilled. Unless it is set up next to a water source & drain, each step necessitates several trips to a sink or tub.
- Trickle through trays lead to contamination. The top trays receive water & it drains through holes to the trays below. When one tray becomes contaminated with mold, it is carried throughout the system.
- The timer that came with my unit could not be adjusted for shorter than 15 minute increments. I think 3-5 minutes of watering would have been sufficient.
- I never got close to a 15# fodder mat. For one thing, loading a standard nursery tray with the recommended 2 1/2# of grain makes the layer to deep. A layer that deep can cause problems with mold & unsprouted grain. I have the best luck with about 1 1/2#.
I tried for two months to make this system work. Emptying the sump daily was not something I bargained for & was about as time consuming as watering by hand. I moved the unit into the bathtub & used that as the reservoir. It was easier to drain & replenish daily. That seemed like a good solution for a time. But there was still the mold problem & smell from reusing the same water 4 times a day. I decided to use a hand held shower head to manually water the trays with fresh water. This worked well, but I was back to watering by hand & tying up the tub. From being squeezed into the tub, the stand began to collapse from the weight of the trays.For me, the biggest drawback is that the combination of the trickle down watering method & the use of recycled water makes fighting mold & odors difficult. A fine looking mat of emerald green fodder can have a lot of mold growing at the base of the sprouts rendering it not edible.
I think this setup would be ideal with a fresh water feed to each tray (eliminating the need for it to trickle through) & a way to carry the waste water to a drain so it isn’t being reused. This would necessitate it being set up near a sink, laundry tub or bathtub, though.