When we decided we wanted to raise homegrown meat for our family, I wanted the animals to eat high quality food. After all, you are what your food eats! I did a lot of research & found a local milling company that mills only organic food.
So in addition to all the pasture they eat, I supplement them with a fixed amount of ‘hog grower’ feed everyday. Anything ‘organic’ generally carries a higher price tag, but to me the quality is important. I kept researching other ways to feed them high quality foods and I came across growing fodder.
Fodder is essentially just food grown to feed to livestock. I chose organic barley as the grain I was going to sprout and turn into food for the pigs & eventually the chickens. One pound of barley seed when sprouted will turn into 6 pounds of fodder! The reason for sprouting barley (or any other fodder) is that by allowing it to sprout, the vitamins, minerals, protein, fiber & the digestibility for the animals are all increased.
One other huge advantage? Sprouting barley has taken our feed costs from $0.60/lb (organic feed) to $0.10/lb (organic sprouted barley)! That’s a huge difference!
However, sprouting barley takes a lot more work than just dishing out pig feed from a bag.
Each day I feed the pigs their portion of barley & then start a new batch. Starting a new batch means soaking the barley in water for 12+ hours. Once it’s soaked overnight, I wash the barley again and spread the seeds evenly in sprouting trays I got from our local hydroponics store. Each tray must have perforations for drainage and be watered twice a day. Within 2-3 days you can see the tiny sprouts beginning to grow!
I have a garden shed that I have turned into a sprouting shed with racks to hold the trays, I currently have 12 trays sprouting each day. When it’s nice and warm out, I put the trays outside to get some sunshine. To sprout, light is not required but I think it helps move things along.The end product after 7-10 days (longer in the cooler weather) is a mat of sprouts similar to sod. The bottom has a thick root system while the top has green shoots similar to grass.
The pigs and our chicks love the barley sprouts. I’ve never tasted it sprouted, but it smells like cucumber when I take the mats out of the trays. Considering I’ve always had a black thumb…this barley project has been pretty fun for me!