Fodder – how does it work? And does it work….really?

By Deanne Converse                                       This article may not be transferred or copied in any way in whole or in part without the permission of the author.

What is fodder: Fodder is seed that is grown past the sprout stage to usually about 4 – 6Fodder our warmer weather set up inches tall.  It is commonly grown with water only, and no fertilizing assistance. The most common types of fodder grown in the USA are wheat, barley, rye, black oil sunflower seeds.  We also grow pea fodder. The entire plant including the seed mat is usable for  highly digestible and nutritious feed.

Why: Before I lose many potential readers, here is the short story of ‘why’ fodder:

50 pounds of grain grows into 300 pounds of fodder.

This means that a sack of $12.00 50 pounds of feed that normally would be fed out would cost  24 cents a pound. That is $480 to produce one ton of food.

That same sack of grain at $12.00 grown out to 300 pounds would cost 4 cents a pound.  That is $80 to produce one ton of food.


Here is the longer detailed version:

Living in the PNW, and in a place where natural predators abound, we have adopted a $$ saving strategy to feed livestock a nutritious diet, year-round, even when free-range is not practical.  We used to raise goats years ago, but gave it up due to the strain on our budget, needing to buy hay each year amid rising costs.  Had we known then, what we know now, we would probably still have goats.  Maybe again in the future.

wheat fodder growing in a seedling tray in the kitchen window.

The fact that I could grow 6 times the food volume while maintaining nutrient production needed from a 50 pound sack of grain, was an huge incentive to seriously look into growing fodder in the first place.  But where is the savings when fodder production units cost thousands of $$?  I knew I had time and ‘elbow grease’ I was willing to invest, but was very delighted to find that the DIY fodder approach could easily be accomplished on a tight $$ budget.  It could also be time intensive or not, depending on the set-up I was willing to use.  Since I had not discovered how  create a 27 hour day, the less time intensive approach sounded good to me!

There’s only so much DIY time on the clock per day….Unless you are Martha Stewart….. I might make my own laundry soap, cook from scratch, make my own “dirt” recipe for planting, homeschool the kiddos, but there are still only 24 hours in the day. I did not need growing fodder to be ‘just one more thing’ to cram into the time between my feet hitting the floor in the morning until I fell back in bed, exhausted at the end of the day.  It needed to be a true benefit to the whole farming/living process.

Fodder is not all about the money savings, even though it was a huge incentive for us to dive in to begin with.  Fodder grown has an added advantage of transforming theAmerican Guinea 'Hog-lets' chowing down! nutrients contained in the seeds to digestible and bio-available forms that livestock can assimilate. Going from 30% digestible and bio-available (in commercial feeds and straight seeds) to 80% with fodder, meant that our livestock would also be getting better benefits from what we were feeding them:  Less feed needed, healthier animals, better output for us in terms of eggs and meat ( and poo for our worms to eat).

Wow!  I am so happy to say, ‘IT IS A SUCCESS!’

We will be offering workshops to help others discover how they too can realize the benefits for their farm, or backyard animal buddies by growing fodder, and of course all our other ‘alternative’ and sustainable feed sources we grow.

For now we will share a glimpse of one of the ways we grow fodder on our farm.  Low cost and low time investment…..

The good news is that if you have access to water, and ANY container that you can put seeds in, and some seeds, you can grow fodder. Everything else are just details to adjust fodder output that fits your home/farm situation, space and time available and

Wheat seeds soaking in a salad container. Peas growing in a plastic candy box from Christmas. Wheat fodder staring in a plastic pie shell from a store.

Wheat seeds soaking in a salad container. Peas growing in a plastic candy box from Christmas. Wheat fodder staring in a plastic pie shell from a store.

budget. Actually you CAN do this with the ONLY investment being switching your feed buying habits to purchasing a sack of whole feed seed which will produce more feed for your $$ than if you were just buying commercial feed, and scooping it out to your critters.  REALLY! “Official” Fodder trays ARE nice, but there is a ‘free option”. Collect those plastic containers cakes come from stores in, or those fruit/veggie trays from the store from neighbors the next BBQ you attend.  This is a smart way to re-use an item that would otherwise end up in the trash. Other options are to  go to the $$ and buy a plastic tray, or ask your neighbor who gardens if they have those seedling trays left over from their purchases from last year’s gardening purchases. Of course, this is as good excuse as any to go ‘saling’ (Garage-saling), and you may find just what you might need.

Wheat and pea fodder growing.

Some of our wheat and pea fodder growing in our greenhouse in the warmer season.


What do I grow as fodder?  Wheat, peas, barley, black oil sunflower seeds, and lentils.  Usually straight, but I do grow them mixed together too.



Here is the quick version of “how to grow fodder”:

Please join us for one of our workshops for more detail on how to grow your own fodder.

+ measure out how much grain you want to grow.  You will aim for growing the grain in a 1/2 inch thick mat.  Measure the grain out to about at 1/2 the amount to fill an area/container you have to grow it in.

+ Rinse the seed you wish to sprout and grow, with clean water.

+ Let the seed soak for  8 – 12 hours covered in water.  Be sure there is enough room for the size of the seed to double in the container as it soaks…..

+ After soaking, drain.  Rinse and drain again.

+ Spread the soaked grain out in clean tray/container.

+ Every 4 hours ( or 3-4 times a day) rinse the grain, and drain.  This can be done manually or by a timed set-up, a water pump, and containers with drain holes.

********At 2 – 4 days the grain is at the sprout stage and early fodder stage. At this stage it is well suited for feeding to farm fowl, through this phase.  As the fodder matures, it may be necessary to tear it apart and even cut it short to be suitable for farm fowl feed.

*******Fodder is usually ready to be fed to livestock at its most mature-and-still-nutritious stage at 6 – 8 days old.

***Because fodder is fed out each day, a new batch needs to be started each day for a continued supply.

In winter we grow fodder in our house.  The rest of the year we grow it outdoors and in our greenhouse, which is not heated.

Growing fodder in my kitchen


Here is one of our winter indoor set-ups.  It is on a shelf in my kitchen.  Very low tech.  Top shelf is Wheat fodder almost at peak growth.  Second shelf is also wheat a day behind the top shelf.  Third shelf has barley seeds soaking (on right), and wheat seeds sprouting (on left).  Bottom shelf has peas beginning to shoot.  To the left in front, is a bucket with amaranth seeds awaiting inclusion in the rotation.



Rinsing fodder manuallyIndoors in winter in the kitchen is low tech., so it is all rinsed and drained manually, several times a day.




hen eating wheat fodder and sprouts


Here is one hen ready to dig in.  We feed chickens fodder up to about 1″ grass growth, after that, we cut and feed out.  We also concentrate on feeding farm fowl our fodder at the sprout, and just past sprout stage.





American Guinea Hogs eatng wheat fodderSome of the time, pig manners dictate tossing fodder out of the food crib, and eating what is strewn around.