I was walking through my local pet store recently and noticed they were selling a small pot of grass for cats at what can only be described as an outrageous price. Is growing grass for pets making someone- or lots of someones- rich? This got me thinking about a hydroponic technique that is gaining traction worldwide: hydroponic fodder production of livestock feed. If hydroponically growing crops is such an efficient method of producing food for humans, then is it also viable for growing food for our pets and livestock?
Growing fodder is the practice of sprouting cereal grains and then feeding the sprouted grains to animals. The process is fast, only taking about 7-8 days, and has demonstrated impressive results such as a 41% increase in beef cattle weight compared to those fed traditional food stocks. Fodder can be used to feed horses, deer, cattle, pigs, poultry, alpaca, sheep and goats, as well as dogs and cats to a lesser degree. Fodder has been shown to have 23 times more vitamin A than carrots, 22 times more vitamin B than lettuce, and 14 times more vitamin C than citrus fruits according to Howard Campion, a fodder system manufacturer.
Sprouting grains for human consumption dates back centuries in Asian countries. Fodder production for animals has been in practice as early as the 1860s when European dairy farmers began sprouting cereal grasses to feed dairy cows in the winter. Currently there are countless farmers worldwide supplementing their livestock feed with fresh grown fodder. Fodder has the benefit of sprouting with very little water consumption, making it dependable in times when drought would normally reduce hay and feed production. A 10 meter by 13 meter building outfitted with fodder growing systems can produce as much food for livestock as 298 acres of grassland.
Fodder production is a simple process as long as you provide the correct environmental conditions as well as a sanitary growing environment. The ambient air temperature needs to be maintained between 63-75 degrees Fahrenheit; the ideal humidity range is from 40 -80%; the water temperature must be kept between 53 -75 degrees Fahrenheit; and the pH of the water should be between 6.2 and 6.4. The general procedure for growing fodder is to take a high quality cereal grain (alfalfa, barley, millet, oat, red wheat, ryegrass, or sorghum) and soak them in a solution of water and a sterilizing agent like the food grade hydrogen peroxide ViaOxy for 24-48 hours. The soaked grains are then laid evenly in flat bottomed growing troughs or channels that allow for complete drainage and irrigated for roughly 2 minutes every four hours. Within 7 days the fodder is mature and ready to be fed to your animals.
The growth rate is pretty amazing, as seen in these pictures.