Barley Fodder

Our shelving unit(s)

Fodder Costs: start up for us, nutritional value, pound to pound ratio, how much to feed and additional links.

Fodder’s permanent home in the basement

And do the animals eat it? 

Miscellaneous fodder photos: what does a mat of fodder look like fully grown? 

Pigs and fodder: a cost analysis

We started experimenting with fodder in December of 2012 to feed mainly to our dairy goats. It turned in to a feeding routine that works really well for the chickens and pigs too. We bought 2 Sterilite storage totes (size given in one of the links above). We used the lids that came with them as catch basins for the drainage water to start and started these bins in our kitchen where it was easy for me to move the bins to the sink to water. Over the course of 7 days we tried a bin of oats that did not work and a bin of barley that came out great and from there our fodder system evolved. The photos below show start to finish what the grains will look like.

Once we decided to get fully on board with fodder, we originally thought we could use a room at the back of our basement for an 8 tub supply a day which would feed all of the animals (with left overs) twice a day. However, after modifying the goats’ diet over the summer, we’ve decided only the chickens and pigs will be continuing on the fodder and we’ll remain at the same 4 tray a day system (and probably be able to feed the bucks too). The summer of 2011 and 2012 left hay scarce and at a premium price. Barley fodder was a great option for cutting costs and having feed available at all times, or as long as barley was available.

The summer of 2013 brought more rain and hay was more abundant but after analyzing feed, we bit the bullet in July when the alfalfa was nearing the 3rd cut (and normally the cut we buy), and went with alfalfa pellets (that we buy in bulk) instead. We thought we’d try them for a month and see how they went. For years I agonized over the higher cost per ton of the pellets but after feeding pellets for the entire month of July, we were more than pleasantly surprised. We will no longer be continuing fodder for the goats. The pigs and chickens will receive barley fodder full time eliminating the need for pre-mixed rations and giving them a more natural pasture based diet like they get in the summer

Day 1-7 growing fodder

12/14/12 Day 1: Soaking – First you must soak your barley in a vessel (we use a 5 gallon bucket now with the daily allotment of barley). Soaking times vary but we soak ours for 24 hours. Within 24 hours generally you will already see the small follicle beginning to emerge!


12/15/12 Day 2: Post-soak

I added just a little bit of vinegar to the barley soak. I added nothing to the oat soak. Vinegar & bleach are used by some to kill any bacteria living on the grains. This is said to help prevent mold growth later on. Mold growth can be attributed to too high a temperature during growth as well. I am doing just a crude “control” here with it in the barley. I no longer soak in vinegar, I have not noticed it to make a bit of difference and have not had mold growth with or without it, temperture made the biggest difference. We do not use bleach during the soak.

Post soak- barley expanded in size about 30%

Post soak- barley expanded in size about 30%

Barley soak water

Barley soak water

Barley tote with holes drilled in the valley for drainage. Click on photo to enlarge.

Barley tray spread about 1/2" thick

Barley tray spread about 1/2″ thick

12/16/12 Day 3: (Growth day 2) We have roots!


12/17/12 Day 4: (Growth day 3- Morning)  Puttin’ down roots! At this point, you do not want to disturb the grains with too heavy of a water spray. Once they start growing, they form a mat, disturbing the roots creates areas of delayed or no-growth. 


Barley fodder. The germination rate is impressive!!!

(Below) Oat fodder experiment. Growth-wise it is about 24 hours behind the barley, even though it was only 12 hours behind the barley in terms of when it was first started to soak. I’ve read it takes a bit longer to grow oats, about 10 days instead of the 7-8 for barley.

Wheat: Day 3.5

Oat: Day 3.5 – White root starting to emerge at the bottom of the grain.

12/17/12 Day 4: (Growth day 3- Evening)  Blades from the barley!


12/18/12 Day 5: (Growth day 4) –  Wake up your sleepy heads!

barley fodder 016

12/19/12 Day 6: (Growth day 5) – And the green grass grows all around all around!


I am giving up on the oat fodder. Most of the grains are barely rooting and I am noticing some mold now so the good grain will go to the chickens or pigs today. The conditions were the same as the barley.

12/19/12 Day 7: (Growth day 6) – Let there be Fodder!

barley fodder 006

Good reading resources to tell you what fodder is all about!

You tube video:

There are many many more videos and information out there on barley fodder and hydroponically grown fodder of all kinds. Use your favorite search engine and type in “barley fodder” and see what you come up with.

Oat Fodder: Oats are cheaper than barley for us but the nutrition isn’t as high as the barley fodder and after experimenting, the growth is much slower and it molded before a good root system was ever developed. After some more reading, I don’t think that we’ll be able to mimic an ideal growing condition so we will not be continuing with oat fodder.

Wheat Fodder: We grew wheat fodder but given that goats can bloat easily on it, not to mention research has suggested that wheat is so void of nutrition anymore, GMO-free or not, I’d just assume grow what will be best for them for the effort I put in.

Field Peas, other legumes, turnip, BOSS (black oil sunflower seeds), & corn fodder grown with the barley: love it. Didn’t do more than experiment with it but I was happy with the growth results and the animals LOVED it. Adding legumes may be a potential supplement for calcium for those species (mainly lactating and dairy animals) who require more.

What we’ve learned over a year of growing barley fodder: 

  •  temperature is extremely important. Too hot and our fodder molded, too cold and growth was delayed or halted. We do not grow barley in the summer. Our basement is not entirely below grade and we do not keep our house below 70 degrees in the summer (the thermostat is usually set at 72+). Our ideal growing temp. has been about 60-65 degrees which is what our basement maintains from about Oct.-May. It would not be cost effective for us to run the A/C to keep the house at a lower temp just to grow the fodder so for those months. Additionally, the pastures are usually in full swing at that point and so much of the animals’ feed comes from the pastures at that time anyway.
  •  a light source is important! When we first started growing barley fodder, we were doing it in our kitchen next to a northern exposure window. We found when the trays were not rotated, the grass closer to the window grew better. That seems logical, right? When we moved our fodder to the basement, we started with an overhead single light. A shop light with regular florescent bulbs work best for us with an additional lamp and 60 watt bulb placed mid-height for the rest of the fodder worked well. The first few days (when the trays are on the bottom of the shelves) they do not need light, but each day as the trays on top are rotated out (to be fed out) and the trays below move up, the light becomes more necessary for them. I’ve seen systems in dark locations where grow lights attached to a back or side location works great to get light to the middle or lower trays if your set up will consisted of tall shelves like ours. If your system will be in a location flooded with light (natural or otherwise) more’s the better!.
  • catching the drainage water and re-using it to water the fodder was gross. Some people use a lower catch tub and use something like an aquarium pump to water the trays above thus recirculating the water. The starch that comes off of the trays makes the water begin to smell awful within a couple of days. I get that it saves water but we tried it and the effort it took to drain and wash the storage tub (every 2 days before it started to STINK) was more trouble than it was worth. It really does not take too much extra water to use fresh clean water everyday. One of the arguments for recirculating water is that it provides the growing fodder with “washed away” nutrition. It is my understanding that each grain has all of the nutritional requirements it needs for the first 7-10 days of sprouting. The fodder is fed out at day 7, additional nutrition isn’t necessary.
  •  drainage holes on one side of the tub is sufficient. Ours first tubs had drainage holes around the entire valley. We do not find all of the holes to be necessary so we drill holes only in the valley on one short side of the tubs we purchased after the initial first 2. We moved our shelving units off of the wall by about 3″ and stagger the tubs on each shelf so that the tub on top drains to the one below and so on and so forth which creates a fountain-like effect. Some will install gutters at the front of each shelf with a downspout along one side of the shelves so that each shelf of trays drains into one gutter and does not water the tub below. We have a single gutter along the floor which collects all of the tubs’ drainage and takes it to our sump.
  •  the trays MUST be cleaned well after every single use. Soap and hot water is sufficient, we have not found bleach to be necessary but a good scrubbing making sure to get all of the residual starch, especially in the corners of the tub.
  • a 24 hour soak is not necessary and it grows just as well with a 12 hour soak

How often do we water?

  • At least twice a day. We gently flood the tubs AM & PM, they drain to the tray below an then into the gutter into the sump.

What are some of the cons of fodder? 

  • Initial start up for some but it pays itself off pretty quickly and there are inexpensive or free ways of beginning.
  • Room for set up and consistently cooler temps
  • Time (in the long run growing fodder saves us a significant amount of time but this isn’t the case for everyone)
  • If you’ll be away and someone else will be feeding, it’s not always possible for someone else to run your system thus requiring another feed ration to be purchased. In terms of what some people are adamant about feeding (anything from non-GMO, organic or what have you), this may be an issue.

2 Comments to “Barley Fodder”

  1. Curious . . . why did you stop the fodder for the goats? Thanks for writing this post as it definitely helped this newbie with your tips. 🙂

    • There were a few reasons, the first being that with the number of goats we have, we’d have to increase our fodder growing by about 25% and with the confines of space, I didn’t want to give up more space to do that with. Two, the temperature at which we have to grow it at means that without running our a/c cooler than we normally would in the late spring, summer and early fall would not be cost effective to keep it from molding. Our basement where our set up is partially above grade and it does not hold a cooler consistent temp like basements that are all below grade and it does get fairly warm down there, enough so we’d have to run the a/c. Which, for us with so much pasture during those months, it again came down to it not being cost effective taking in to consideration my time too. The price of hay came down substantially after those two years of very bad drought so yet again another reason. In the grand scheme of things, to produce enough fodder for our goats for full time feed it was just more economical to produce it for the other animals. I hope that makes sense. =)

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