From Seed to Feed in 8 days: Barley Fodder Sprouting Trials

02-20-12 Barley Fodder sprouting 004This Spring we are exploring an alternative to how we are feeding our herd (and chickens too!) The idea comes from the notion of fresh sprouts as a “superfood”;  if eating sprouts are super healthy for humans, then wouldn’t that also be true for animals?  As we are finding out, it sure is!

The conundrum… During the off-season for grazing our pastures, which in the Pacific Northwest can be over 6 months depending upon Mother Nature, traditional alpaca farmers will dry lot their animals on a diet that consists of dry orchard grass hay supplemented with a daily ration of dry, pelleted grain.  Think of it as putting yourself on a diet of freeze-dried food all winter long. Pelleted grain supplies additional vitamins and minerals that the hay cannot, but some say pelleted grains can have a tendency to coarsen alpaca fiber over time, something we really don’t want. There’s also the issue of “choke”, which is just what it implies, a danger where an alpaca eats the grain too fast they ending up choking. This usually happens when alpacas are also jostling for prime position at the grain feeders with other animals. But still, we are talking dry, dry, and more dry diet. In fact these pre-mixed, pelleted grains are not very cheap either and hay prices are going up as well. So exploring alternatives to feeding our herd that saves money and is healthier gets my attention.

03-24-12 Barley Grass Results 002There are so many benefits I’m discovering the more I work through these trials of producing barley fodder mats for my fiber boys. As a matter of fact, I just came back from my Seedman with 1150 pounds of barley seed that I bought for $200. Figure a rate of 10 lbs of seed used per day for what I need to produce in terms of fodder mats (based on 2% body weights for the herd) this should give me about 100 days supply to continue playing. (I weigh that against the cost of pelleted grain and it’s cheaper than the grain product)

My nutritional analysis just came back from the vet and it’s what we suspected about fresh sprouts…they are a superfood! 🙂 Good stuff!

It takes 8 days to go from seed to feed. You give the entire fodder mat to the animals and they’ll eat the whole thing: roots, barley seed, and the 4-6″ of green grassy growth.

I also am finding that the amount of hay eaten changes too. They eat less hay, because they only need it for roughage rather than straight forward nutrition. I’m considering buying local western-Washington hay, which is cheaper and of lower quality vs. the Eastern-WA orchard grass which seems to be increasing in price each year.

My trials are being done in the garden trays (propagations trays) used for starting seedlings, so they don’t drain. I’m just watering them. However, I’ll be converting over to a flood-and-drain (or Ebb-and-Flow) approach. The idea is to keep the seeds wet, but not in water. Sitting in water they ferment and are prone to molds vs. growing into barley grass.

In my water I’m adding a Vitamin B-1 solution (1tbsp per gallon) and that’s it. However, for the first 24 hours, I soak my seed in a bleach water solution to kill any mold spores. (I’m using field run barley).

The next day I pull the seed out of the water and spread in the trays, about 2lbs per 11″x22″ tray. Then I water with the B-1 solution periodically. 03-24-12 Barley Grass Results 004

The first few days, lighting is not important. During days 4-8/9 a couple of CFL daylight rated lights green up the grass just fine (no fancy growlights needed).

What you end up with is a 3-4x increase in weight; that is, 2 pounds of seed turns into 6-8 pounds of edible fodder!

Overall, I’m finding my tasks take about 10-20minutes to do each day. I’ve got 10 shelves, each with 4 trays on it currently. Each day the trays move up a shelf towards more lighting. The upper trays have drip irrigation lines (but that’ll change once I go flood-n-drain). I use a sump pump in a rubbermaid tote on a automated timer to water twice a day right now.

So, not only are my animals getting a healthy diet, I eliminate the issue of grain tending to coarsen their fiber and am also reducing hay usage. So far this trial has a green light all around right now. 🙂

In my research, I’ve even seen some farmers mixing up their seed. Instead of all barley, they add some field peas, sunflower seeds, or other grain seeds to germinate as a mix of sprouts thus rounding out other nutrients in the fodder for their animals.  Dairy farmers using a fodder approach see a big increase in milk production. Rabbit farmers see a huge gain in weight and increase in litter sizes.

If you Google “Barley fodder sprouts” and “Peter Doyle” you’ll read some of the Australian based studies and get a good overview as to why someone would choose a fodder production approach. Here are some key links (including a discussion on Alpaca Nation forum):

In the “Picture is worth a Thousand Words” category, here is a set of them that shows the progression over the course of 8 days:

02-20-12 Barley Fodder sprouting 009

02-20-12 Barley Fodder sprouting 010

02-20-12 Barley Fodder sprouting 003

02-20-12 Barley Fodder sprouting 011

02-20-12 Barley Fodder sprouting 012

02-20-12 Barley Fodder sprouting 008

Note: Most of the commonly asked questions can be found in the comments section to this article. But, I’ll also encourage you to check out our other articles about Barley Fodder on this blog as well for even more details:

After reading the articles and comments, further phone/email consultation, support, and system troubleshooting is available for a fee (MC/VISA via phone). Visit our website ( for contact information.

UPDATE! We now offer our grow trays for sale! See this posting:

About David

Making manifest the change I want to see in the world through the hospitality of a humble little homestead campground with yurts and alpacas.
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269 Responses to From Seed to Feed in 8 days: Barley Fodder Sprouting Trials

  1. kenny says:

    Where do I buy fodder seeds the barley type. I live in central california by sacramento. Thank you for any information.

    • David says:

      Hi Kenny,
      Look for farms in your area that grow grain crops.
      Contact your local Seedman from a Farmer’s Supply in Central California. While I’m using barley, you can sprout virtually any kind of grain/seed.

    • Taffy Curtaz says:

      Try Modesto mills!

      • Ronald McDonald says:

        I’m searching for company offering Barley unwashed/undried or wheat in Northwest Alabama

      • David says:

        Try contacting your local university extension agent for information on grain growers in your regional area.

    • Ally says:

      i use wheat, oat, and barley mix, Farm supply company has it for .39 cents a pound.

      • Larry Bailey says:

        I think you may want to shop around–farm supply is marking it up more than 100% (maybe the convenience is worth it for some). You should be able to get non-GMO barley for under 165 cents per pound at a sustainable small grain farm. You have to buy in 100+ pound quantities but you may want to shop around.

      • I buy from a local mill who grows their own grains. $4 for 50 lbs of oats.
        Great investment. I cordon part of my 50’x50 chicken run 10’x50′ and plant the oats. Once or twice a week I let the ducks chickens go in and play they love it.

    • Karolin says:

      Hi there,
      I live in Auburn area, I placed an order with Azure Standard – Organic Barley with Hulls – Animal Feed/grade. When you call them ask for a co-op already doing a drop ship in your area. I know they drop in Roseville. The cost was under $20 for a 45# sack.

      • David says:

        Thanks for sharing Karolin!

      • Kathy says:

        Hi Karolin,
        We live in the Auburn area as well, and I would be very interested in discussing what you are doing “fodder-wise”.

      • David says:

        We’re not too far a drive from Auburn, and offer “Fodder Primers” here at Paca Pride if you are interested. Just drop an email request to to schedule a visit.

      • Kathy says:

        what is a fodder primer? We are in Auburn CA

      • David says:

        LOL, I stand corrected! You are not nearby as I had thought…there’s an Auburn in Washington.

        A ‘Fodder Primer’ is a 2 hour tutorial in our fodder room reviewing the techicalities of system design balanced with the nuances of sprouting a grain in an intensive grow (densely planted), and short period grow cycle. It’s geared towards those considering DIY options for implementing their own fodder growing solution.

      • Larry says:

        OUCH–44 cents a pound is quite high–the middlemen are making out very well for this price. I pay $0.30 per lb for certified organic triticale (14.5% crude protein dry) in 1 ton quanities and even less for organic barley. I pay about 15 cents per lb for conventional (non GMO) barley or wheat seed for sprouting. If you are doing this for more than a hobby it would be tough to make a profit if you are paying these high prices for fodder seed.

      • Karolin says:

        Well then, where do you order from? Even as a hobby I can’t see paying more for something if I can get it for less. Where is your source? I’ll give them a try. Thank you!

      • Karolin says:

        Hi Kathy,

        I just became a drop manager for Azure Standard in Newcastle. I’ll be placing an order next Wednesday if you’d like to hop on. I’ll be happy to share with you what I know about fodder, our friend here at Paca Pride has a big operation. Mine is a bit smaller as I only have a few mouths to feed. I am venturing into the automatic setup eventually and like his model the best here at Paca Pride. I’m just waiting for my herd to grow enough to justify the expense. I’ll give you the rundown and show you my little corner of the fodder world. 🙂

      • Laurie says:

        Hi Karolin, this post was from a year ago. Just wondering if you are still growing fodder and if you are still using Azure Standard as your provider. I live near Lake Tahoe, and I’m looking for a source of Barley.

        thanks much,


      • Luc says:

        I live in Monroe wa and I just go to feed store and get whole barley for $12.00 ,50# bag any co-op should have it

      • mayinotclang says:

        Karoline, thank you. I have been researching as to using this method for my chickens. Now because of this excellent article, I am now considering it for my two sheep. I live in the Georgetown area (about 40 minutes from you)- supply of seed was the next thing to tackle – so thank you 🙂

    • Garrett says:

      I live down here in Clovis. And I go to a place called Clovis feed. They sell 50lb sacks of barley and wheats I pay $13 for a sack. They are usually used as a cover crop to prevent erosion and to also to use as pasture sprouts. I mix the 2 in trays for fodder during the winter months for my chickens, since I coup them up dinner the winter.

  2. You have mentioned very interesting details! ps nice internet site.

  3. Matt V says:

    David, Thanks for you blog. You are well into a lot of the subjects we are just beginning to explore. I appreciate the information quality and data you put into your posts! It’s just what I’m hungry for. Why did you pick barley? Would you be willing to share the nutritional analysis from the lab? Any suggestions for where to start in formulating a ration based on alternative feeds like this. I have a couple dairy cows and a few goats in California.

    • Matt V says:

      David, I also for got to ask: what is the function of the vitamin B-1 solution?

    • David says:

      Barley is a most complete grain and superfood. Most of the fodder based systems use barley as the main component of the fodder mat.
      For dairy cows, barley seemed the most popular route without the need for other seeds in the mix. But, a vet may be more helpful to determine a better mix. I read reports of others (in the blog links) that were adding field peas, black oil sunflower seeds, and other seed to the mix for germinating, but they were also caring for thoroughbred horses. Most cow operations I read about just used barley. You can also use wheat or even triticale. But, while it may be higher in protein, some of these grains, like the triticale I tried, just didn’t seem to thrive in a fodder sprouting application. My vet also advised me not to do oats as they are nitrate accumulator plants which aren’t good for a main diet. I’m sure you could even try growing your own grains like kamut, or other “ancient grains” and using them for fodder mat production.

      Essentially, what you get in terms of a fodder mat is a low dry matter, high protein, high calorie, wet feed. Depending upon the different varieties of seed, there may be some variation in nutritional analysis, but basically, in my trials using field run, untreated barley, it tested to be low in calcium, ok in phosphorus, ok in magnesium, low in potassium, moderate in zinc, low in copper, and very low in nitrates (which is really good!) Some fodder mat solutions top-dress with a powered vitamin and mineral supplement when they spread the seeds in trays after soaking. The power gets incorporated into the fodder mat as the roots grow. When the animals eat it, they get their supplements too.

      Throughout the growing cycle I use chlorine bleach (because its cheap!) in the 24 hour initial soak (2 tbsp per 2 gal water) to kill off any mold spores and such. Once spread into the trays, my water reservoir contains a Vitamin B1 solution which boosts plant growth and root mat establishment along with maximizing germination. I also add some hydrogen peroxide to the water to cut back on algae and to sanitize the water. (You could also use more expensive hydroponic solutions like sanident or oxident for this too.) While I do add to my water, you can also choose not to add anything at all; Barley really only needs water.

      My biggest challenge is that I’m still doing these trials in non-draining propagation trays. I’ve had some batches getting too much water and developing molds, having to toss them out (which consequently the chickens seem to raid and don’t mind). I am looking forward to switching to my new approach with different trays that allow the flood-and-drain to occur. Keeping seeds wet, but not soaking, moist, but well drained is the key to this operation. Standing water in trays is a bad thing.

      • Matt V says:

        Thank you for the detailed reply. It’s a big help. My neighbor grows wheat so I was able to pick up a couple tons from him for cheap. Looks like I’ll start with that. Maybe I can get him to grow me some barley too.

        Is 8 days typically the best time for lignen/nutrition rations in most sprouts? It seems like if i wasn’t too worried about high protein I could let it go a couple more days…

        I priced nutritional analysis at a local university. It is within reason, but I can’t afford more than a couple tests. The testing options are many, what do I test for? Is there any information sources you know of that have researched and documented information like this already?

        Thanks again, You really jump started my knowledge in this!

      • David says:

        Sounds like you are already picking up the details, Matt! Indeed protein content will tend to change a bit with further days.

        I did my nutritional analysis through my vet who used Custom Dairy Services in Lyndon, WA (360) 354-4344. You can try them to see what the cost would be to do a test.

        They tested for about 25+ items: Dry matter, Moisture, crude protein, acid detergent fiber, ash, net energy, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium, sodium, copper, iron, zinc, maganes, quantitative nitrates, and relative feed value. Those are the key ones.

        I’ve seen little out there on fodder analysis for different grains, just a general one for barley.

        Good luck!

      • Peg says:

        Can you make slits on the bottom of the trays with a utility knife so the water drains off?

      • David says:

        There are so many variations on the design theme that one could take to make a fodder system, Peg. You could take virtually any tray and figure out a way to have it flood and then drain. I’ve seen some approaches where they use trays with drain slits that have the tray fit into a larger tub that holds multiple trays. The tub floods, fills the trays, then drains, and the trays drain.
        You could design a system to do this in rain gutters affixed to a wall depending upon how much you want to produce.
        Whatever design you manifest, consider the flood and drain principles that would allow the functionality I’ve described in my posts.

      • says:

        I have found the Sprout Pod system based out of colorado, to work great! It is a self contained unit, with a heater and AC to keep the temp just right.

      • David says:

        I love the turnkey systems that are on the market. There are a number of them. One thing you’ll notice is that most of them try to sell their systems contained within the grow environment. It’s very hard to find one of these manufacturers that would sell just the growing system to install in a building of your choice. Thus the starting costs on these systems tend to be quite an initial investment, usually in the five figure range because of the infrastructure to house the growing system.

        The important lesson here is how crucial it is to control the growing environment, both in terms of temp and humidity, but also in terms of containment with regarding to a clean sprouting environment. DIY systems are very approachable from the cost perspective, as is evident from the interest here on this blog. But, DIY systems are only going to perform as good as the environment that contain them. I cannot emphasize this point enough. Don’t mix this application within a greenhouse, use a dedicated and controlled space. Even doing this inside your house has some disadvantages. Take a note from fodder system manufacturers out there and be sure you plan your dedicated fodder space carefully.

      • Larry Bailey says:

        Hi Javlan – Sprout Pod sounds great but it lists for $11,729 on ebay.
        I built a fodder sprouting unit that has a similar production capacity–including the temperature, humidity and cooling controls for under $2,000. I get mold free results with barley, wheat etc. My question is why does it cost $9,720 to get the same results? Is the Sprout POD that much better?

      • David says:

        The quick answer to that is in the selling of the grow environment along with the grow system. The Sprout POD is fully contained. It is that much more “controllable”, and in buying the environment along with the system, that is what drives the costs up. Most DIY operations occur in buildings you already have or rooms already built. These turnkey systems are essentially selling you the room and the system along with it. See my previous comment about why this is generally the case.

      • Lance says:

        I have a commercial farm-tech system and have still been struggling with mold issues, mostly from humidity and temp I hope as I can continue to fix those problems. I was wondering if you or anyone on this blog has used or has information on using ozonated water to contol mold. Any feedback on this would be great.

      • David says:

        I have not used ozonized water to control mold. I water my grow trays with fresh water and rely on an established flood zone in the tray as one of my controls for mold. With a Farmtech system, you are using a “fixed tray” and a “Waterfall/cascade” method of watering. In my experience this style of watering can be difficult to fine tune in operation. I would not recycle water in such a system either.

        That said, your primary control of mold will be sanitizing the seed before placement in the grow trays, control of temperature, and control of humidity.
        I sanitize my grain seed by using a dilution of bleach during the pre-soak procedure. My temps in my grow room are kept within 60-65F degrees for our local conditions. I strive for the lowest humidity I can manage, mostly through venting. Your litmus test for humidity levels (because there is no given ideal percentage, and that varies based on your weather conditions) should be feeling the tops of more mature sprouts: if you see or feel water droplets at the tops of those sprouts, your humidity level is too high in your grow room.

      • peggy says:

        A person could punch some holes in the trays for drainage.

        What about adding some timothy to the barley seed for fodder? Would that work, or would the timothy germinate fast enough? Reason I ask is because of talking to a goat farm. they fed alfalfa hay or pellets with barley fodder. They said the fodder and straight alfalfa hay is too hot. Thus scours. So they now use an alfalfa/timothy or alfalfa/oat hay with the barley sprouts. They report 40% increase in butterfat.

      • David says:

        There are stark disadvantages to a “punched hole” style of drainage.
        I do NOT recommend it.
        The punched hole style is done one of two ways: either at the end of a tray that is then tilted, or, across the bottom of tray. Either way, holes are made small enough for water to pass, but not grain seed.
        This leads to the problem of starchy solute buildup, drain hole blockages, and inconsistent results over time.

        Irrigation styles also have to change to this approach. One cannot “flood” a tray with a punched hole approach. In the tilted tray option, watering done from one end, travels to the holes on the other end. This “Cascade/waterfall” irrigation style results in inconsistent growth patterns in mats, and more effort is required getting grain in the correct spread pattern in the tray. In the flat tray with holes across the bottom, “misting/spraying” becomes the irrigation. This leads to increases in mold outbreaks, and problems managing the grow environment. Watering in this manner, ‘from above’, means that water will travel down through the seed bed to the roots, encouraging an accelerated decay rate in the discarded seed hulls, where molds first form.

        Contrasted to our approach, our grow trays, sit flat and level, have drain channels, surrounding the bottom sections, that lead to one large drain fitting with a drain-cap, preventing grain from falling through. Unlike punched holes, this gives a much stronger “flow rate” and starchy solutes can easily flow out of the tray. (Removing excess starches is key to preventing fermentation.) The seed, backing up against the drain cap, allows the water to backup within the tray, creating a ‘flood zone’ equally across the entirety of the tray. This gives further leverage on mold control, since the seed bed is pushed up. and out, of the flood zone by the roots, slowing the decay rate of the discarded hulls, no longer getting directly wetted. Also, the seed spreading task is mere seconds since the flood zone also self-levels the seed, minimal touch points. Since our irrigation is just a tube descending into the tray from above, touching the inside bottom of the tray, water floods from the bottom, upwards.

        There are many ways to “skin the fodder cat” out there.
        Anyone can create an approach to sprout grains.
        But usually I find most system designs to be too user dependent where the owner is compensating for the grow systems shortcomings, and leading to more effort required. Our approach looked closely at the labor component to not only be hands off, and very quick to execute the daily chore set, but also not user dependent. I can walk away, hand my room over to another, and come back not noticing anything out of whack. Whichever approach you settle upon, be sure to take a close eye towards the human component to operate it.

  4. Bob P says:

    You mention above that rabbit breeders experience faster weight gain and bigger litters. Where did you find that info? I am looking into growing fodder like this for our rabbits and would like data on the benefits. I am starting to experiment growing on a small scale first. Like the idea! I also like your site. Nicely done.

    • David says:

      Check the links in the blog article for the one entitled: Issue 114: Rabbits, Rabbits, Everywhere Rabbits

    • Karolin says:

      I am currently running this experiment with my rabbits, though it is my first time raising rabbits so I don’t have a comparison. My first litter is almost 2 months old and I’ll be weighing them this week, they are far from ready. From what I understand, they grow a bit slower, though I don’t have a comparison, this is just what I’ve been told by one of the master rabbit growers on Rabbit Talk. This litter is also mixed, Dad – Californian, Mom FGxNZB. Stay tuned!

      The average age of my herd is 5 months. I can tell you, they are healthy looking. They eat a good amount, some of the younger ones eat 2x per day. My cost can’t really be evaluated yet, as I have been raising young rabbits who eat more than adults. The numbers a setup for adults primarily, err on the side of using more grain.

  5. Taffy Curtaz says:

    Hello, we are just starting this same process here at Haven Ridge Alpacas. I was curious, how many alpacas do you have? We are trying to figure out how many trays we will need but it’s not a 1:1 ratio of course. I would love some feed back from another alpaca owner. Thank you and thank you for posting this! It’s so encouraging.

    • David says:

      Hi Taffy,

      In working with my Vet on feeding rates, the general rule has been a goal of 2% fodder mat per herd weight, and 1% hay per herd weight.

      As an example, I’ve got 14 alpacas and 2 llamas, the total approximate herd weight is 1500lbs, 2% of 1500 is 30. That’s 30 pounds of fodder needed per day. My eventual goal is 50 pounds per day. Along with the fodder, they need roughage in the form of dry hay. The good news there, they only need it for roughage, not for nutrition (if fed hay only over the winter, they derive their nutrition from that and thus we want great quality, more expensive hays). So, at 1% that’s 15 pounds of lower quality, cheaper, hay along with the fodder per day. (On a hay only diet, most alpaca owners add a pelleted grain ration as well…we eliminate that using fodder, so no more grain either)

      These calculations are my winter dry lot calculations. Meaning, during the pasture grazing season, they actually don’t even need the fodder, and will barely go through the hay, because they get everything from the pastures they rotate through.

  6. Charlie Cox says:

    Hi David, Thanks for the great video! I have been looking at several of the commercial systems, but they are pricey. Please tell me if you have problems with mold. One of the systems recommended adding hydrogen peroxide to the water, but this would mean using a reservoir. Do you think switching to the flood and drain system would cut back on mold?

    Thanks for your help! Charlie

    • David says:

      Hi Charlie,
      I have not had mold problems in my trials when using the flood and drain trays. What I am learning is that mold, and for that matter yeast/fermentation, is really a function of the environment that you are growing your fodder within. Summer heat is the worst time to be producing fodder mats without using a AC climate controlled environment and a dehumidifier. Control the environmental grow conditions and that’s half your battle.
      If you are growing fodder within trays that do not drain, that is, ones which you just add some water to, you also increase the likelihood of molds and fermentation. It is imperative to be able to wet the grain and then allow it to have access to air. The ideal is keeping the grain moist and not letting it dry out. It’s a balance that is best achieved in a flood and drain approach.
      I write this in the heat of our August, and my trials are doing poorly: the root mass is small, more grain is fermenting rather than germinating, and growth is slower. Barely is truely a cold weather crop.
      With all that said, if you are trying to achieve growth of mats in conditions that aren’t ideal, a few adjustments can be made. You mention one of them, adding H2O2 to a water reservoir. I also find that the pre-soak of the seed benefits from a fairly strong bleach soak (3tbsp per gallon, soaking for 4 hours, is what I’m playing with currently). The bleach water pre-soak will kill anything on the grain coating prior to introducing it to the trays.
      If your grain sits in water in the trays, and your grow environment is above 60 degrees(ish), you have a recipe for making beer (i.e. fermenting the grain rather than germinating it) and it’s ideal for molds to take hold as well. Be sure you clean your trays well.
      If you use a flood-and-drain approach, and do not have climate controls for the grow environment, I have found that reducing my water schedule (right now it’s 3x a day for 5 minutes) helps as well. This allows the trays to dry out a bit more without drying out the root hairs, but the lack of water also slows growth.
      Barley fodder mats can be grown with a supply of good water and no additives or supplements in a flood and drain-to-waste approach, without a reservoir. The reservoir approach does allow one to experiment with nutrients and such, but I’m quickly finding that during the warmer months, this will mean changing your water supply at least every other day, if not once a day. I’m also finding that the addition of nutrients (I’m currently only using a Vitamin B1 solution which promotes root growth on plant cuttings and helps germination) is perhaps unnecessary. Amazingly, sometimes the simplest approaches is what works. Currently, I’m considering a flood-and-drain-to-waste approach which would eliminate the reservoir completely.
      While I am continuing my trails throughout the summer months here in the PacNorWest, my real intention is using fodder mats as a main winter diet source. Thus these trials are letting me explore the parameters and limits of growing under different conditions; and right now the conditions are poor in this summer heat. This is something that will change during the winter, I may even have to add supplemental heat to the space in the barn I’m considering for the scaled up production system.

      • Mark Biaggi says:


        Thanks for sharing all this excellent information. I live on the north coast of Calif in the fog belt. We grew a lot of barley for dairy feed when i was a kid; it was mostly winter or fall planted on dryland. Since our tempatures are mild day 50-70F, low 40-50F what do you think would happen if we sprout the barley outside on a rack? I think it has to be in the shade to keep the sun from drying it out, and bird netted but otherwise it should grow. Flood and drain would have to be as mold is very common here. Your thoughts?

      • David says:

        Hi Mark,
        You’d be a bit challenged with growth and performance during summertime temps above the 65 degree mark, IMHO, but you could probably set up a system outside just fine. At a minimum, I’d still seek to contain it in a greenhouse or shed, even if not climate controlled. Lighting also is not a hefty requirement for sprouting, so your ambient day light should be enough. Keep in mind that most barley fodder operations like to try to keep the grow environment pretty well controlled: heated in the winter, cooled in the summer, so an outdoor system may have a broader range of performance issues than one which is contained, but can be done.

        In fact, check out this You Tube video from back in 2001 where a cattle farmer in Canada combines the heat and CO2 from the cows to grow sprouts in the same space:

  7. kim says:

    Thank you so much for your post! It is very helpful and informative and it answered a lot of questions I had! Thanks again, Kim

  8. Guillaume says:

    So you are just using water and occasionally B1 and no other nutrients added to the water?

    • David says:

      That is correct. No other nutrients. I also have used Hydrogen Peroxide for the water reservoir as a sanitizer. If you’ve a great source or water, I am finding nutrients unnecessary. I’ll probably try the production run without B1.

  9. Nikhil Narayana says:

    First of all, its nice to see you building the system in your home on your own.
    We are from India and trying to implement the same system here. Commercial systems are too costly. We have a dairy farm with 30 cows.

    My first query is about the quality of water.
    Is there any requirement for Ph and EC/TDS to be within certain range for the sprouting and growth to happen properly?
    Our groundwater has a ph of 7.5 and TDS of 650ppm.
    Please let me know.


    • David says:

      Thanks for your comment Nikhil. I’m no water expert and have not been measuring PH for my water, nor TDS. I do know my water is from our well which offers great quality water. If you’ve a good source of water, then growing barley fodder should work fine.

  10. Larry Bailey says:

    Hi David: Maybe I missed it but would you be willing to share your barley sprout analysis? Thanks

    Orting WA

    • David says:

      Sure. Our Barley Fodder mat was taken to our vet to sample and have tested by Custom Dairy Services in Lynden, WA.( Here’s what the certificate of analysis listed:
      Dry Matter 20.17% on receipt (i.e. fresh sprouts 3/4th water)
      Moisture 79.83% on receipt

      Dry Basis Results:
      Crude Protein 18.59%
      ash 3.24%
      Calcium .08% – low
      Phosphorus .46% -mod high
      Magnesium .18% low
      Potassium .50% – low
      Sodium .01% – low
      Copper 4.46 PPM low
      Iron 106.66 PPM- good low
      Zinc 46.90 PPM -moderate
      Quantitative Nitrate .01% – very low – good

      Relative feed value – 245.69

      • Justin says:

        These numbers look great but don’t save you any money. Please correct me if I’m wrong as I would love to be proved wrong on this topic. From the information I have gathered and the following assumption (derived from University studies in Australia) I would like to hear you rebuttal.
        Dry matter is 20%, ok that is understandable in fresh feed however that is not a good percentage when you look at your analysis. The analysis was conducted on a dry matter basis so your talking 18.5% of 20%.
        The average price for whole grain if found in SW Washington is $15 for a 50lb bag. That comes out to $.30 per pound grain. Average yield of fodder is 5lbs per pound of grain (Some companies report higher but I feel this is a safe number) so that comes to $.06 per pound of fodder. That is great till you price it according to the analysis.
        Lets say your animals need 1.5lbs of protein to meet their needs (this is based on a goat, I have big ones). So now we take a pound of fodder and multiply it by .20 which yields .2 pounds of dry matter. Next we take that .2 pounds and multiply is by .185 to get .037 pounds protein. To meet that 1.5lbs needed we divide 1.5 by .037 which tells us you need 40.5 pounds of fodder to meet the protein requirement. Next take $.06 per pound fodder and multiply by 40.5lbs fodder which equals $2.43 (if this makes any sense you are actually short changing your alpacas on nutrients and we haven’t even added the cost of the system or the daily labor). That is more than the grain that you started with. On average I can by good quality orchard and alfalfa for about $340 a ton give or take which comes out to $.17 per pound. The dry matter of the hay averages 85% and the alfalfa about 16% protein. Applying the same equation 1*.85*.16=.136 pounds protein. 1.5/.136 =11 pounds of hay * $.17 which equals $1.87. A little cheaper to feed hay even at these high prices.
        Now I’ve read alot on the pros and cons of fodder and I personally lick to feed my animals based on condition rather than calculations. However to know if something is worth doing I do need to know the financial side of it. The above illustration is the reason I have not sprouted barley to feed my animals. If you can prove me wrong please do but I don’t see how is saves. These assumptions also hold true for haylage and other fermented feeds with high moisture contents.

      • David says:

        Phew! That’s a lot of calculation to take in before my morning coffee, Justin! Lol
        I can see you are taking a very serious look at the economics of this approach for consideration, and trust me when I say this, having a business partner who is also a CPA with a bent towards the ultimate in fiduciary responsibility, I am right there with you. So, I appreciate the comment.

        First off, one of the main presumptions we need to examine is how to compare apples to oranges in terms of dry feed vs. wet feed. It is a conundrum that to analyze a fresh sprouts product via my vet, the lab actually dried the sample and did a “dry feed analysis” (which was rated at a “relative feed value” of 245.69 under that approach, along with 20.17% “dry matter %” and 18.59% “protein”). Yes, it is safe to assume that 5lbs of fodder, when dried, is about 1lb of dry feed. So, performing calculations based on a conversion to dry feed could lead down the path that you are presenting.

        However, is it an equivalent comparison? What do we lose when looking at fodder in its dry vs. wet state? What gains does fresh micro-greens have over a dry hay? There are benefits with the wet feed over the dry (higher digestibility, vitamin and mineral bio-availability, phytate reductions, increase enzymes, and increase nutritional value, omega 3s, amino acids, hormones, etc.). But while all good, these intrinsic values aren’t the basis for an economic comparison, so let me share my economic calculations with you.

        Before fodder, my requirements for feed were in the form of both hay and a pelleted grain ration. With the pelted ration (used to round out the nutritional value of the hay), if using the recommended serving, my cost would be approaching $200 a month for 1500lbs of livestock being served. (As it were, what I was serving, in terms of a reduced ration, was costing me about $80 a month). So even if I took a low average of $100 for pellets monthly, that’s $1200 a year (and still not the recommended dosage). This year, 7 tons of orchard grass hay was a great deal for us $2100, about $14 a bale, a great price considering the averages I’m seeing are around $18 a bale. So a cost of $3300 for a year’s feed (hay and pellets) for 1500lbs of livestock (approximated)

        From my vet, if feeding a fodder/hay vs. a hay/pellet diet, I needed to hit the mark of 2% wet fodder, 1% hay for my herd daily. That’s 30lbs of fodder daily for them (one tray produces 25-30lbs in my new setup). Now, we’re still making assumptions in our comparison here: primarily the assumption that 5lbs of wet fodder is the equivalent of 1lb of dry feed (this comes from the dry feed analysis). So if we took this to the natural conclusion of supplying 5x that 30lb mark, that’s 150lbs daily. I guarantee you, if I placed that amount in front of my animals on a daily basis, there’d be at least half of it wasted and not eaten from full bellies. As it is, 2 trays of fodder should suffice, but I can produce 3 trays daily (75lbs). In fact, yesterday I put out 4 trays of fodder in front of the herd to see what would happen, and I had some waste after a few hours and they were done. So, putting a rate of 150lbs daily, using that dry feed analysis multiplier, is a bit nonsensical, and not very equivalent, because quite simply it’s a wet feed with differing nutritional values when wet. Ergo, for calculations let’s assume I will be producing a 50lb amount of fodder daily.

        The cost of 50lbs of fodder…
        My grain cost ranges from as low as $0.14 (direct from farmer) to more realistically, $0.20 a pound. For 2 trays to produce an average of 50lbs, I am using 12lbs of grain, that comes to $2.40 daily. Thus a 30 day supply of fodder is $72.00. At my reduced ration of pelleted grain supplement, my monthly cost was $80 (or $200 monthly at recommended dosage). With fodder, I’ve eliminated the pellet grain ration from the diet. So right there I’m saving money.

        With hay, the recommended daily dosage as the main source of diet is around 3-4% total weight daily, that’s 75-100 lbs of hay daily, or about 1 hay bale, which is what they go through. Given my deal this year, a 30 day supply of hay at $14 a bale is $420. Adding fodder to the diet changes the dynamic for hay being used as nutrition vs. hay being used as fiber or roughage. My requirement becomes 1% total weight daily for hay along with the 2% fodder. I should see a decline in hay consumed so that my feeding drops to 1/3rd a hay bale daily or even less; let’s say it cuts usage by half a bale a day to be conservative. Thus my monthly hay cost is $210. Again, that’s a savings for me and it at least doubled the amount of time my hay covers my herd.

        Back to our assumptions: wet vs. dry comparisons.
        When we look at these lab analyses to try to gain a comparison via nutritional value we lose a lot of what fodder represents as a feed type. So, even assuming that the fodder is for some reason not nutritionally complete enough (and barley is considered pretty complete) and I’d have to top dress the fodder with a powdered supplement of some sort to further complete what was missing, I could purchase something like a 50lb bag of Stillwater Minerals for $110. It would be served up as a ration of 5oz total daily for the herd (sprinkled right on the fodder). 50lbs is 800oz, thus a 160 day supply, or very roughly $22 additionally a month. Even adding that amount to my monthly fodder cost of $72, still brings my monthly costs well below the recommended ration of pellets($200), and I still have the impact on hay consumption.

        It is difficult to do these calculations strictly on a dry nutritional analysis basis because we aren’t really comparing the same thing once the fodder is dry.

        Again, the disclaimer, I’m no expert here. But, the fodder approach still looks very enticing.

      • Paul Johnson says:

        I would like to get in on the financial calculations of feeding fodder. I feed horses, and fodder is usually around 90% digestible, and commercial feed mixes, and most grains and hays are only around 20% digestible. When Justin figured his goats needed 1.5 pounds of protein per day, I bet that was based on percentages of traditional feeds that (at least for horses) waste 4 times as much protein as the horse can put to use. If goats have similar digestibility rates, when comparing fodder to other traditional feeds, if the goats needed 1.5 pounds protein in their diet, they were only able to digest and make use of about 20% of those 1.5 pounds, or they were only making use of 0.3 pounds of protein when you fed them 1.5 pounds of protein. If they only need to make use of 0.3 pounds of protein and they can digest and make use of 90% of the protein in fodder, then you are getting the nutritional requirements for your animals much cheaper than using traditional feeds.

        In addition, an acidic diet causes many problems in horses. Virtually all grains and most hays are acidic. It’s my understanding that the sprouting process changes a seed from being acidic to being alkaline. When feeding fodder (and probably fresh grass) a horse’s diet remains completely alkaline and avoids all the digestive issues associated with an acidic diet.

        In short, it is my humble opinion, that the nutritional analyses that are based on dry matter, as well as the published nutritional requirements that are also based on dry matter, do not transfer over to be relevant to trying to figure out the nutrition that animals are getting from a diet of fodder.

      • David says:

        Thank you for the comments. Indeed, if you look over some of the other comments on this article and my other articles, you’ll find mention of similar points as well.

      • Matt says:

        I would like to jump in and comment on the cost/value of fodder as well. At our farm we have been sprouting for a short period of time (2 months). We started feeding to our chickens and are now expanding our home-built system to feed our cattle as well. We provide our chickens with as much fodder (20 # to 25 # of barley sprouted 7 days and 6 # of oats sprouted 4 days) as they will eat per day and we still allow them free choice all the grain ration they want. Unexpected to us, grain consumption did not decrease, but stayed flat. However, we went from slightly under 2 dozen eggs per day to 5 dozen a day. Given my sprouting rates and local grain prices, adds an additional $2.00/day in feed cost. At $4.00/ dozen locally (gmo free pastured product) I’m netting an addition $10.00 per day not counting labor. There is also value (health, competitive edge, etc) to supplying green stuff to animals over winter. Well worth the effort in my opinion.

        For our cattle I expect to save in feed cost. I can grow fodder for approx. $160/ton no labor; quality hay is approaching $300/ton locally not counting delivery costs (Michigan).

      • susan says:

        I don’t see much about sprouting temperatures. I just started this week. I soak the seeds about 12 hours in the house, so 65 to 70. Then I rinse them really well and put them outside in my DIY thing. Outside temp here on the Oregon coast ranges from 40 to 55 day and night this time of year. Seems like it took three days to see the shoot. Should I keep them inside for the first day in the warmer environment to encourage sprouting? Also it is so humid here I water once a day and it is still damp the next day. Summer will be different when it is really dry. So I am spraying a water bleach mixture, one cap full of bleach in a spray bottle, over the top tray when I flood it. I have holes in the sprout pans and the water is running from one tray into the tray below it through the levels. So I am hoping the bleach spay in the top tray will trickle down through all the levels each day discouraging mold. Has anyone else seen temp affect growth rates??

      • David says:

        Hi Susan,

        Be sure to peruse the comments to this blog article as well as read the other fodder articles on our blog. Your questions are all addressed within them.

        Beyond that, if you require assistance in troubleshooting your operation, we do provide phone/email support for a fee via MC/VISA. Just send us an email request via the contact information on our website at

      • Larry Bailey says:

        Hi Matt: How many laying hens are you running per 5 dozen eggs?–what breed (s)? do you provide supplemental lighting in dark/short day season?. From what I can tell right now –based on our sprouted mat fodder lab analysis–the sprouted barley mats alone are only 12+% crude protein (CP) which seems to be a key component in why our hens are still eating just a little less 18-18% CP layer feed. We theorize that our layers are still eating the same amount of dry layer ration since they are not getting enough CP from the sprouted barley fodder mats. We are going to boost CP to 18% in our fodder mats. You will need to use the Pearson square to get the right CP proportion for your own seed (get a third party lab analysis of your own sprouted mats don’t rely on any generic tests you have seen others get–every person’s seed/sprouting system is different (not cheap–$55/ per sample–but worth it to know the truth). Our clalculations indicate that sprouting the following seed mix will give us 18% CP in the finished sprout mat. (per 100 lbs) 42.4 lb naked [hullless/naked oats with 17% CP] 42.5% hard red spring wheat 915% CP), 15 lb field peas (25% CP). You avoid any ‘off flavored eggs” when you keep field peas less than 25% by weight in layer feed. Barley seed is cheap here but it just does not have enough CP for our purposes. Feel free to email me at riskman1 at gmail dot com if you want to discuss this further. Thanks for posting.

  11. This is very interesting. Where did you buy your fodder system, or did you build it?

    • David says:

      It is a DIY system; the initial trials were done using seedling propagation trays available at any nursery supply (as shown in this blog entry). The 2nd stage trials were done using flood-and-drain trays with a water reservoir. Once our construction efforts are complete in the barn, we’ll have a dedicated “fodder room” to scale up production using these same grow trays, but in a slightly improved configuration and plumbing and no water reservoir (flood-to-waste).

      • Matt V says:

        What’s your thinking on flood to waste? Is this for cleanliness purposes? Are you reusing the water in a garden or something? will you still treat your water with hydrogen peroxide and Vitaming B-1? I would assume the waste water is high in starch and probably a bunch of other things…would this be beneficial reused to grow other plants or detrimental to them? Thanks for your site!

      • David says:

        Hi Matt,
        All good questions. During my trials, I was experimenting with approaches I’ve read about and researched, or even heard as advice from a neighbor. What I’ve come to find with the flood-to-drain approach, using a reservoir and recirculating the water, is that the runoff water does become laden with “stuff”: starches, enzymes, proteins, sugars, yeast, etc from the process of germinating the barley. If you are reusing your water, it will become a smelly, soupy mix rather quickly. This leads very quickly to fermentation versus growth encouragement. Reusing this water, I have found, decreases the amount of seed that sprouts versus the amount of seed that proceeds to ferment. It affects the quality of your root mass and the quantity of sprouts. Thus, the requirement with a reservoir approach becomes changing the water on a very regular basis; at least once every other day is the current schedule with my 14 gal reservoir serving 9 active trays (in hotter weather more often than reasonable).
        So, the lesson learned: use the freshest water to flood your trays.

        Now, the caveat to this is that you can impact growth vs. fermentation by additives to the water. I’ve experimented with adding Vitamin B-1 solution to the water for the purposes of improving the growth and sprouting. (Vitamin B-1 solution is used for plant cuttings to promote root growth) Result: with or without the Vitamin B-1 my sprouting is virtually the same; same timeframe, same growth rate, same height of the sprouts.
        I’ve added Hydrogen peroxide as a sanitizer. This is slightly effective at keeping the fermentation at bay, but not effective enough to warrant less water changes from the accumulation in the runoff from the trays.
        I’ve tried white vinegar as a sanitizer. Very poor results. Growth and sprouting severely affected.
        I’ve tried a bit of bleach in the water. Again, effective at keeping the fermentation at bay, but does impact growth and you are introducing a chemical to the sprouts to uptake. (I’ll keep using it in my pre-soak of the seeds)

        I do have similar questions about what the runoff from the trays, using only fresh water, contains and whether it can be used for other purposes; either feeding other plants, or even as a soup for the chickens and animals to drink (heck, it is barley water, right?) However, I’ve yet to find information about this runoff and what it actually can contain along with its proposed usefulness post-tray watering. (if you find something let me know!) I cannot think of why this runoff, at a minimum, would not be useful for watering your garden, unless there is a build-up of something that would negate it. I can imagine that if you were to direct run-off to a catch barrel for future use, you’d end up having a fermenting vat if storing it for more than a few days.
        So, my conclusions thus far are to use fresh water, and allow the trays to drain to waste. My overall water usage for this process is still relatively low, and thus the intention of trying to save water by recycling it is really working against me with the impacts I described above. At the moment, I still have our trials going and haven’t moved to full-scale production (which happens at the completion of our barley fodder grow room in the barn loft…in progress, follow this blog for future postings). When I go into production mode, I’ll eliminate the reservoir and change around how I’ve plumbed the drains and configured the trays on the shelves to make it even easier to harvest, maintain, and clean. No reservoir also means no water pump. I’ll change that out for a simple valve timer like used in garden drip irrigation systems to simply turn the water on and off.

        If anyone has found information about what the runoff water contains, please share a source in the comments. 🙂

      • Matt V says:

        David, I would like to give you a big thank you for putting up with all of our scattered questions and patiently answering with informative answers. I wait eagerly for the updates to these threads and read them as soon as they hit my inbox. I’m looking forward to details on your loft system!
        Keep it up! My wife and I are on a similar journey with dairy animals, just a few steps behind you. Your blog is an encouragement and has been a help to us. Maybe we can reserve a night in the yurt next time we are passing through 🙂

      • David says:

        You are most welcome Matt V! 🙂
        Thanks for following along too!

  12. Debi says:

    Where is a good place to buy the barley seeds, especially in the off season, (we are in CO)? What specific type of barley have you found to work best? What timing, for water on and off, works best on the flood and drain systems? Should you start flood and drain right after you soak the seeds?

    • David says:

      Hi Debi,
      Let me start off by stating, that I only speak from my own experiences with producing barley fodder, I am by no means an expert on the topic, but given our blog and our articles about the topic, I can see how I’m quickly becoming a default goto-guru of sorts. So, disclaimer, everyone should do their own research from multiple sources to evaluate what strategic and tactical approaches will work best for producing barley fodder mats for your given situation and needs.

      Regardless of your location, you should contact your local Extension Agent about seed sources. In our local, Pacific Northwest Regional area, we have a Farmer’s Supply that is my main seed source. Throughout my trials and networking, I’ve also found actual farmers who sell by the ton directly to the public as well. So, try to locate both seedmen and farmers in your area, with the goal of local sourcing. Depending upon your location, prices may vary as low as $0.12 per pound to up to $.22 per pound. Buying by the ton is a necessity. For us, I’ve calculated about 2-4 tons for a year supply (that is a broad range due to whether or not I grow year round our only for the winter diet).

      As far as type of barley to purchase, or specific variety, there is none. You do want untreated seed (not treated with a fungicide), and the cheapest seed is typically what is called “Field Run” and contains chafe, dirt, and even dead bugs. It’s used for planting rather than cleaned for food-grade purposes, and it’s ideally suited for fodder use. You will have to rinse your seed before you sprout it. Also remember, while Barley is the most common grain to be used in this approach, you can try other grains like wheat, triticale, and others depending upon your nutritional goals, grow environment, and what’s available locally.

      As far as timing for water, no straight answer for you. This varies right now in my trials due to fluctuations in my growing environment’s temperature and humidity levels. In the summer, be careful of actually over watering too much; summer heat encourages quick fermentation. The goal with watering is keeping the seeds from drying out while sprouting, during the first few days, and delivering water to the roots for growth during the latter grow days. Barley needs a balance of both air and water to sprout. My watering cycles last only as long as it takes for the pump to move water to the grow trays enough to cover the grain, then turns off (currently that is only 5 minutes long). I water 3 times per day between 9am and 9pm. I find I am still making adjustments: too much water = less germination, more fermentation; too little water = dried out seed, no germination. Watch for dry spots in your trays it may mean you aren’t flooding long enough to cover the seed. Watch for sticky, soupy thick seed, that could mean watering too often and not allowing the wet seed to air out enough before the next watering cycle.

      I am testing out the pre-soaking of my seed currently. The best I’ve seen in research I’ve read shows germination of up to 88% at the 4 hour soak mark, then drops off upon longer soaks. At the start of my trials I was soaking overnight and then spreading in the trays in the morning, it seemed to work fine. I’m trying to now keep my pre-soak less than 4 hours. I am also trying some relatively short soaks: 30 minutes, 1 hour. Regardless of how long you pre-soak your seed, (and I’ve even seen approaches that don’t pre-soak the seed, only rinse it and then place in the grow trays) once you add the seed to the trays, the flood and drain cycles take over. I encourage others to experiment with this. Again remember, what may work for you may need to be adjusted for other’s grow locations or grow operation, but share your results here as comments so we can all learn.

      • Debi says:

        Thank you so much for your response. We are in the process of starting the “experiment” We stared a tray of barley on Mon. and a tray of wheat on Tue. It’s now Sat. and we have some sprout growth, but it’s a much slower grow than what you and others we’ve seen are getting. I still don’t have any green showing. The first couple of days were in our basement, under newspaper, then moved to a bit more light still in the basement, now I’ve moved them upstairs for more light. Our basement this time of year is around 65 degrees, Upstairs is a about 68. I’m thinking the inconsistency of water may be part of the problem. Do you have any thoughts?

      • David says:

        Sorry, no real thoughts to add there; too little information about your experiment to actually get a handle on what is happening there. The “under newspaper” part makes me think you approached this like you would germinating garden seeds. The light is of very little consequence, a small amount of ambient lighting from the room is enough for sprouting. If you have non-draining trays and manually watering, you can expect much poorer performance. Don’t allow water to sit in the tray, don’t allow seeds to dry out, don’t keep seeds covered (with newspaper).

  13. Nikhil Narayana says:

    We did our first trial last week with Maize or corn as the seed.
    I thought I should post this here for other users to read and for David to comment as well.

    Few points
    1. Germination time for maize is longer than barley. It takes about 4 days for shoots to appear. But after that it grows pretty fast.
    2. We noticed that the weight of the grass increases dramatically in the last day from 7th day to 8th day and from 8th day to 9th day. About 30% increase in 1 day that is on the 8th day. Don’t know what impact it has on the quality of grass. Please comment if you have more information.
    3. We were able to achieve 1:6 yield for maize grass.
    4. Some of the seeds were spoilt and didn’t germinate. They contributed to fungal growth. So I believe important point is to have good quality seeds. Fungal or mold formation happened inspite of treatment with bleach. So if seeds dont germinate or already damaged then big problem.
    5. Temperature was varying from 23 to 29. That doesnt seem to have any impact.
    6. We used ambient light and observed that growth of the tray that was further away from the light source was less compared to nearer to light source. So I guess light plays some role in speedy or better growth.
    7. We did not add any nutrient solution, not sure whether this helps in growth. But for sure it will enhance the quality of the grass. So better fodder for the cows.
    8. Watering was done manually 4 times a day between 6 am to 9 pm.
    9. Soaking seeds for 4 hrs or 24 hrs had not major advantage.
    10. We were collecting excess water from the trays and recycling the same for the whole trial.
    11. We had used other seeds like wheat, sorghum and horsegram. Every tray had the mold due to recycling of the water. So the mold from maize trays spread to all the other trays. So its better to avoid recycling.

    Starting another trial this week with only maize as seed. Lets see how this goes.


    • David says:

      Thank you Nikhil for sharing your experience! 🙂
      Your point about recycling water also spreading the mold is well taken. It’s one of the reasons I am going to be switching to a flood-to-waste approach, without a reservoir when we finish construction of our new barley grow loft in the barn (almost completed!) Another reason is simply because the recycled water encourages fermentation vs. germination because it contains naturally occurring yeast.
      One thing I’ve learned in researching what seed to use is that it is important to match what is grown to the dietary needs of the livestock you are feeding. Be sure protein levels are where you would like them to be, and invest in getting nutritional analyis done as well. In some applications, I’ve read of fodder production using a variety of seed: barley as a base, plus a legume like field peas, and sunflower seed. The choice of what you produce fodder with is vast and varied and you have to balance both the nutrition you are going to get from the final product with how adaptable that seed (or seed mix) is going to be to a short hydroponic growing cycle. For example, I’ve also tried triticale during my trials and have found that it performed poorly compared to the barley.

      Good Luck and thank you, again, for sharing!

  14. kim says:

    Hi, David. Our system will hopefully be up and running in a couple of weeks. I was wondering what temperatures you have found to be best. We will be using a fully enclosed room and would like to know what a good temperature would be. Thanks for all the information you post here. It has been very helpful! Kim

    • David says:

      From my experience the ideal temp is between 60-65 degrees F. As low as 50-60 works too, but expect longer time to harvest. Higher than 65 degrees and you run some risks of molds depending upon humidity levels, and poorer root mats. Higher than 70 degrees and performance will decline.

      • kim says:

        David, thanks so much! We are in Nevada. Not much humidity here. Our room is up and now the shelving will be built. I would like to send pctures to you when it is done if that is ok. Thank you for sharing all your research and what you have found in your trials. Kim

    • cowgirliz says:

      Kim, I’m curious what your results have been. Also what part of the state you are in? Considering giving this a go in the northern part of NV and hoping it will cut our grain and hay costs for the the horses…

  15. gabe says:

    David Ive grown wheat grass and barley. Mine keep growing mold after about 7 days. Do you experience mold issues or the bleach at the beginning working fantastic.

    • David says:

      Hi Gabe,
      I have yet to experience mold in my grow trays on our newly up-and-running production system, but I did not experience mold for the better part of my trials either when things were operating smoothly. There’s the rub: operating smoothly. My Phase 2 trials were in my house on a smaller scale using the same trays that are being used in the production system. My phase 1 trials used seedling propagation trays which didn’t drain.

      During, my Phase 1 trails, you can say that mold and I became quite good friends and I ended up feeding my compost heap more than my animals. This was the greenish/bluish molds, similar to what you’d see on old bread, the bad stuff. The reason it was so prevalent had to do with the set up of the system that allowed water to sit in the trays rather than drain. The grain fermented and molds set in. So that’s one key to remember: water AND air are important; never let trays sit in water.

      During my Phase 2 trials, I had mold as well, but my set up used flood and drain trays, the same as in production. Two things were the root cause here. The first was really obvious: heat. If we had warm weather that raised my grow room area above 70 degrees, molds were apt to set in. In fact performance of the grain dropped as well. The second reason had to do with recirculating water via a reservoir. The older the water, the more likely yeasts would start populating it making the water foamy and smelly and fermenty. The water got shared amongst all trays, so the moment an older tray had a problem, it got shared with all the other trays. Using a 14 gallon reservoir for 9 13″x40″ trays meant it was necessary to change that water daily; not much of a water savings there. I’d have mold because of the heat and then it would spread among the trays and take up residence in my drain lines back to the reservoir and head back out to the trays when the pump turned on. A complete system flush is the only way to gain the upper hand and that means stopping all trays, cleaning them and then flushing the drainage pipes as well with strong bleach solution.

      In my phase 2 trials, as long as I kept my water fresh (daily) and the heat below 70 degrees, I had no mold problems. If I got my temps down even more to 60-65, I had better performance and growth in the trays.

      In my new production system, we’ve yet to experience a mold issue. I do believe the key for me has been the rinse and pre-soak process and soak times. I want as much chaff, dirt, and debris removed from the grain before adding to the trays and I want my seed coating to be a bit sanitized as well as soaked enough to soften it for germination. Most molds are present on the seed coatings, so the rinse and pre-soak helps. If, however, you still experience moldy trays, I’d look at grow temps next, then at how clean the growing environment is. I have a dedicated “fodder room” closed off from the rest of the barn and it operates as a clean room too. Also, we don’t use a reservoir; trays get fresh water each cycle, then drain to waste.

  16. Leslie says:

    Thank you so much for all the work on this! There are answers to many of the questions I’ve come up with as I’ve started experimenting with growing fodder as winter pasture for my chickens. I’ll be looking for any chicken-specific information in your blog … though everything you write is extremely useful. You’re right about you being the default guru on the subject of DIY fodder for small but serious farmers. It is awesome you’re willing to share this information.

    I’m working with sprouting straight-from-the-combine rye (the grain, not the grass, obviously) which I got for free as winter pasture for my 130 or so backyard chickens (it is what we use for cover crop on our nursery, and one of our business associates grows it for us on his land). You can bet that as soon as anyone is planting any grains on this farm again, I’ll be asking them to plant something for me. Is barley your best recommendation of what I might sprout for chickens? I could possibly ask for more than one type of grain.

    Thanks again. This has been so useful!

    • David says:

      Barley is at the top of the list when it comes to looking for a well suited grain for this type of operation that packs nutrition. Barley simply is a super food.
      Wheat is secondmost popular for sprouting. I’ll be trying several types here soon to see how they do.
      I don’t know much about Rye, but a cannot see why you couldn’t sprout it too. There may be variances in the nutritional panel of differing grains, so be sure you get them tested to know what you are feeding your animals.
      I did try triticale (wheat rye cross) and it was a bit of a bust in terms of performance.
      My vet specifically called out oats to avoid for alpacas, possibly due to nitrate accumulation.

      For chickens, I do make the distinction that a full 7-10 days of growth is really a waste of time. They are better suited when sprouts are at the 2-3 day mark instead: a lot less waste, a lot more suited for the chicken’s needs. If you want to think even broader about what to sprout, check out the sprouts available at your local grocery store, buy some “samples” and feed your flock to see what they like. We’ve heard the healthy benefits of things like brocolli sprouts, alfalfa sprouts, clover sprouts, bean sprouts, etc. I’m sure much of this would apply to animals as well as humans.

  17. Mark says:


    How is it that you install your trays to work with this system? Does the drain allow for the seeds to soak? How is the drain removed when the trays are removed for cleaning?

    • David says:

      In our new production system using the flood and drain trays, we simply sit the tray on a shelf and an irrigation tube is above each individual tray. The drain fittings on the tray hang off the end of the shelf over a gutter. The trays are where we spread the seed after it has soaked in a bucket of water with a bit of chlorine bleach for 24 hours. As far as cleaning goes, once the foder mat is removed from the tray, the drain fittings both have removable plastic covers in the tray (they prevent the grain being washed down the drain) making it easy to remove any roots. We aren’t soaking seed in these trays, we are flooding seed in these trays and watering the more mature trays. The rate of water flow is enough that within 4 minutes the trays are flooded.

      Important to note that the trays shown in this blog article are from early in our trials. Refer to later articles for pictures of the flood and drain trays.

      • Mark says:

        The drain has what looks like a 1/16 of an inch lip which means there will be that much water left in the tray when done flooding, right? Is not that bad.
        Also, the flow of the water is adjusted to be more that the drain can handle and timed to shut off when seeds covered?

      • David says:

        It’s hard to discern such tray details just from the pictures, but suffice it to say, the water drains out of the tray and doesn’t stay behind, the drain lip really doesn’t impact, given the shape of the tray bottom itself: much of it is raised sections with lower channels guiding the water to the drain, the raised sections are higher than that drain lip you noticed. When loaded with seed, the draining slows down enough to cover the seed with water; or another way to put it, an empty tray never floods, no seed is blocking the water’s path. Yes, watering cycles are adjusted to a duration that gets the seeds covered. In fact, the seed bed actually will rise during the duration of the grow as the root hairs push it upwards, so by day 4 you aren’t techincally flooding the seed any longer as much as flooding the root mat.

      • Mark says:

        Thanks, makes sense, just had to hear it…

  18. Deb says:

    Hi there we live just west of Tulsa, Ok. and our 2nd year of drought. We have Dexter, Miniature Herefords and Nigerian Dwarf goats, 28 laying chickens. I just started my own Barley Sprouts this week. I am using free plant trays from local nursery more like a basket so I line with heavy plastic, I am having trouble finding solid propagation trays. I am using my Dairy room it has windows & sink, I can add a heater if we get freezing weather. I plan on Misting the plants with a spray bottle instead usual watering. It is all a test right now before I invest in a fodder system. I also read for the chickens just give them the 2 day old sprouts, not the 7 day fodder. It is very interesting and a way to save money on hay, and have better nutrition for our animals. Nice site & pics. Deb,

  19. Deb says:

    Sorry I forgot one question, how thick do you lay the seeds when spreading after soaking, I have like 3/4 in I wasn’t sure if it should be a single layer or what. Deb

    • David says:

      Between 1/4″-1/2″ depth in my trays.

      • Deb says:

        Hey David Deb again, okay Thanks for the depth of seeds I do think I have it too thick. But now let me ask you why my timeline is a lot longer. Day eight was 3 days ago Tuesday, my sprouts were slow and grass is slow not long enough to feed yet maybe Sunday which would be two weeks! I also am not sure how much water I should give. We are still committed but I wanted to run these test trials so I was sure it worked. No artificial light needed right? Just natural light (it was overcast several days) Thanks

      • David says:

        I can relate, as I too am seeing, within my production space, a range of performance from 9 days up to 13 days. In fact, the 2 trays I pulled today from the bottom shelf looked less grassy and more like they were ready to have that burst in growth; definitely the slowest trays in the system at the 12 day mark. I am finding that those trays lower in the system, and thus closer to the floor are experiencing some temperature lows that are 10 degrees less than the upper portion of the room. The temps for them are ranging from lows of 40F to highs of 55F. They took longer to grow out, up to 14 days.

        My upper trays, at the level that my temp gauge was measuring, are great! They are getting the benefit of heat rising and thus the temps up here were ranging from low of 50F to highs of 64F degrees. Their performance has been closer to the 10 day mark, with some ready in 9 days.

        My trials were in a household environment where the average was 65F most of the time, or higher; I got to see good performance within 8 days (thus the blog article title). The lesson here seems to be one of climate control, the more steady the room temp, throughout the room, the more consistent the grow days.
        Two corrections I’ll be trying next are a circulating fan to move air, and a higher setting on the heater. I may get another temp gauge for lower in the room. I’m not measuring water temp, but given this time of year, the water is fresh, but cold too. I’ll be recording how performance ranges with the change of seasons in this barn loft space.

        I do supplement with CFL bulbs 23-26W, rated daylight, on a timer 15hr on, 9hr off. Ambient light works, but again, will vary throughout the year and affect total days. Light supplementation does make a difference. Simulating a day and night, stimulates the roots and shoots. It could be if the natural light is both overcast and during winter, you’ll be seeing slower performance, but good root mats.

      • deb says:

        Feeding Barley Fodder, okay the big day my first day to feed the fodder it was clean, good mat and grass, no mold and I took it out the the dairy goats The wouldn’t touch it!! okay then I took it out to some heifers They wouldn’t eat it, they all sniffed it and walked away! one heifer nibbled at it but no one is eating the fodder!!! what’s up is there a adjustment period I thought they would jump on fresh green grass!! Deb

      • The first time I fed fodder to my cattle, they wouldn’t touch it for the first 24 hours. Mine was a little moldy and a little fermented, but once they realized it was something they could eat, they devoured it. I was definitely disappointed at first, but I had read several articles where they stated that the animals would have to learn this is a new food and that the phase in period can take up to two weeks. It only took 24 hours for our cows. Now when I take fodder to them, they don’t hesitate to start eating it.

        Below is my youtube video where the cows simply look at the fodder and walk away. If you look at my Fodder 8 video you will see the cows eating the fodder only 24 hours later.

      • deb says:

        Thanks Russell, I also think our cows/goats are very spoiled!!! If it is the only thing they get to eat I am sure they would eat it, they had hay and just turned and went back to the hay. But later I noticed someone had eaten all the grass off, left the mat. Deb

  20. Hi David,
    I have been following this blog for a while and I wanted to thank you for your in depth and detailed answers. I have a ranch in Texas and have been working on my own fodder experiment with the intent of providing an affordable feed for beef cattle. My goal is effective weight gain and be able to still make a profit. I have attached a web link to my youtube video to show how easy this can be in anyones garage. I did run into mold issues in the summer, but I will be modifying the garage with an a/c and fans for next summer. Feel free to look at my other videos on youtube which actually show the cows eating the fodder like crazy. Thanks again for your excellent answers, people do read them and appreciate them.
    Russell Adkins, CPA
    Surfing Cow Cattle Company

    • David says:

      Thanks Russell for your comments!

      • Syed Irfan says:

        My self Syed Irfan from India Bangalore I hav a dairy farm of 30 cows I was looking for more information on barley sprouts as I want to implement this in my farm asap.and as u hav beautifuly explained the details of growing barley sprout I will surely start this process in my farm and test it.
        All I want to say is thank you David for very patiently answering every onces questions.
        It would be helpful of u if u email me the pictures of DIY trays etc so tat I use correct pump and drain system at the time of building it .
        My Email I’d :
        Syed Irfan

  21. Beverly McCoy says:

    My husband and I have started a system in our home for two beef calves. Here is what we learned so far. We use a mixture of barley, wheat and corn which we soak for 12 hours. At first we had a problem sprouting then I found out that barley needs water that is from 68 to 72 degrees; what a difference! Like you I use gardening trays with one difference we put the seed in trays with slots and then put those trays in ones without slots so the water drains through. (We use plastic rulers to keep the trays from fitting into each other’s grooves. ) Our fodder room is being built to that we can eliminate the bottom tray and have the water run off into a gutter. We found that recycling the water isn’t good because a scientist friend told me there are emzymes on the seeds that help protect them in nature and it slowes the germination down. In nature this is washed away by rain. When I stopped reusing water I had a higher germination rate. I’m now trying to find out just how much water I need. I keep thinking of the third grade experiment where you used mom’s beans, a pie pan, a paper towel and plastic wrap. We just wet the towel to damp. I’m thinking this is what I need to do so as I spray (at this time it is in my kitchen until the room is finished) I am just damping the seed and young sprouts. I need to say here that because it is in my house and the humidity is lower than needed I have plastic domes on the trays for the first five days then the plants are too large to use the domes. We also have added grow lights and at the seventh day we have blades from 6 to 7 inches tall. From the four cups of seed used we average from 5.5 to 7 lbs per tray. We live in southern Ohio so ground water for us is 58 degrees too cold for good germination so we bring the water temp up to 70.

  22. Rebecca says:

    I would love to build this system any ideas how i would go about doing that what is needed.. an where do you get your trays?

    • David says:

      We now sell them. You can send an email request for a quote to info @

      • Hello, great website and thank you for sharing your progress! I built my system using “dough trays” from a restaurant supply. They are 16 x 24 and 3″ deep. I drilled holes for flood and drain, then using Hydroponic supplies and PCV pipe, and a used pump with a reducer (reduces the electrical juice going to the pump) and a recharging battery backup plug in timer. I have a very good working system. The New dough trays are $11 each, I bought mine off of Craigslist for less than $5 a piece. I did not have a big budget for my project, just tons of motivation. I need the barley juice for my health, and two horses, chickens, tortoise all need this grass. My feed bill went from $350 a month down to $50 a month total. I can do the “Happy Horse” dance now and own them guilt free. After all they are no where close to making money, purely for my own enjoyment. But, such an expensive hobby and the horses are family members. What’s a Cowgirl to do ?, but grow Fodder!

      • David says:

        Thanks for sharing Annie! I too remain truely impressed as I go through the winter serving the herd fresh barley sprouts. Outside today, the temp was below freezing, snow on the ground, and poopsicles to scrape up rather than rake. When I bring out the fodder mats from the warm grow room, you’d think they were about ready to tuck into a steamy bowl of oatmeal! Yum!

      • Matt V says:

        Annie, could you post a link to the new $11 dough trays? I have found some abs concrete mixing trays at home depot about the same size but a little more expensive. Thanks!

      • Larry Bailey says:


        I have seen experiments from other sheep producers using dough trays and they worked fine for a while but since they did not have the side and trough grooves to hold a bit of water the sprout/fodder output was not optimal. They seem to work better with an overhead spray system–as far as controlling mold. They also required regular bleaching with 1:10 solution of bleach between seedings.

        I am curious what your operating parameters are vs daily fodder yield. (degrees Fminimum and maximum? What sort of a mechanism do youse to control the swings in temperature in the sprouting environment? How do you control humigity to keep it below 70% RH?? Do you have any mold in your trays at any time?, How much fodder do you harvest each day and how many days does it take to produce a mature tray of fodder (what type seeds Barley only? Wheat/field peas mixed??) trays also I have copied David’s flood and drain system inside a grow tent to contain heat in our 20 deg F lows in Pierce County WA–and it works fine. Thanks for sharing this idea. I am curious how you are having success while others have failed. Please do share details if you can/ Thanks

      • Deb says:

        I have been running test trays in a dairy room, with a heater and windows. But still find my timeline is double for growth and there is mold so end up giving it to the chickens. So not sure what I need a grow light maybe? I would also like to set up a small hydroponics just for a couple tomatoes through the winter any suggestions. Thanks Deb

      • David says:

        From the brief tidbit you gave in your comment, Deb, my first question would be more about what the temperature (highs and lows) are for the room that you are growing in. If you are measuring temperature, be sure that you are measuring from a low spot in the room (there can be 10 degree differentials high in the room, and low in the room). If your lows are dropping down at night, this can slow growth.

        Ideally, try to keep the room at a steady 65 degrees. Too much heat above that will show as poor root mats but quicker grassy sprouts, and more mold prevalence. Too little heat below that and you’ll see more root mat development, but slow growing grassy sprouts.

        Control your humidity too. If you were to see water droplets at the top of the sprouts on more mature trays, it’s too humid in the room. (35%-50% humidity seems ideal, but this can vary per growing space and outside conditions)

        No special grow lights are needed for sprouting applications like this. Avoid the temptation to purchase specialized HID grow lights, you will be wasting money. If you want to add lighting, try “daylight rated” (as opposed to “soft white”) CFL lights. You can buy cheap screw-in light fixtures and wire them in tandem to create a light-strip that can provide light to your trays.

        Also, remember that what you are doing is a “sprouting application” NOT a “Greenhouse application”. Sprouting is a delicate balance between getting good performance while also minimizing the natural entrophy of the seed hulls (which starts the moment of germination and is where molding and natural breakdown occurs: the seed hulls). To combine sprouting with other growing plants is to invite more problems to your sprouting trays.

        Climate control, and room cleanliness are paramount in a sprouting application to create fodder mats.

  23. Susan says:

    So excited to find this conversation. So I found a free metal bread rack like people use in the grocery store when stocking, with plastic shelves made like milk carts, with triangular wholes. I put a coiled drip hose on the top rack with 7 racks underneath. I am planning on using plastic sprouting trays with holes and letting the water drip down through the levels. I have the rack on the back porch, local annual climate here on the Southern Oregon coast is 45-75 degrees year round, yup. I plan to wrap the unit with plastic to keep out flying debre and the chickens that fly over the chicken wire onto the porch, uhg.
    I have three horses to feed. I have been reading everything I can find but am still confused. So horses eat about 2% of their body weight a day. My 1,200 lb horses need about 1,600 calories a day and about 24lbs a day. What I don’t find anywhere is what the calories are in the fodder??? What is the calorie content of #10lbs of fodder?? If I give them #10lbs of fodder a day and it supplies all the calories they need. I can give them cheap coast hay to chew on at $4/60lb bale as much as they want. They are stabled and don’t have access to pasture. I also currently give them grain. My high maintenance Warmblood gets 6-8 lbs of grain a day. The other two easy keepers get 2lbs a day more as a treat than anything. They get good grass hay at $20/bale. I am going through 15 bales a month and 5 bags of grain at $23/bag. Most of these discussions are about cows and alpacas it seems. I need to find information about calories not just nutrients. So if this replaces the grain and half the hay cost I will do the Happy horse dance too Annie lol. I have only found Barley at $18.75/45lb bags. If I can get 10# of fodder from 1.25lbs of grain, and 30#s of fodder a day for 3 horses I figure $47.38 for 900#s of fodder a month. Am I way off?? Can’t wait to try this. Thanks so much for all the helpful information.

    • David says:

      And in return, let me say, it’s always exciting to see someone discover this approach and the potentials contained within!

      The calorie question is a good one, which I don’t have an answer for, but I would highly recommend with any diet changes that you work closely with your vet to determine the needs. That said, do keep in mind the dilemma of comparing nutritional analysis that is the typical “Dry feed basis”. Fodder mats are a wet feed, a live food with a digestibility and availability of nutrients that is completely different from dried hay (which is what you’d have if you dried the sprouts). In a dry feed analysis, my lab results returned a “relative feed value” of 245.

      When doing your calculations, it is generally safe to use a five-fold increase, that is, 5lbs of grain will produce 25 lbs worth of a fodder mat (1lb of grain = 5lbs of fodder). 5lbs are what I am currently loading the grow trays I use in this system. I load 2 trays per day and get over 50lbs of fodder harvested daily.

      I’m not a horse person, but from what I understand, you’ll see a decrease in the threat of colic, a decrease in the amount of water they drink, and a decrease in the amount of manure they produce as well. You’ll also see an increase in health. If you feed fodder and hay for roughage, your needs for a pelleted grain ration should be eliminated or dramatically reduced. Again, work closely with your vet.

      In terms of designing your system, just keep in mind that the critical components for a sprouting application are cleanliness and temp/humidity control. I have seen DIY systems that use a water-from-the-top approach that cascades between trays. While they do present some design advantages, you have to be cautious about accumulation of starches and other runoff on the lower trays as well as the possibility of spreading problems among trays. Mold spores can be tricky this way; You can have a system that runs smoothly at the start, but slowly accummulates problems over time leading to a degradation in production. My preference is for trays to operate in isolation from one another. This way if I see a mature tray that is starting to show the beginning signs of mold, it doesn’t get passed on to another immature tray that is just starting the grow process giving that mold an advantageous start.

      • Susan says:

        Thanks. I was planning to put the newest trays on top and move everything down one shelf each day so the oldest was on the bottom. Take the bottom shelf out, move everything down one shelf, add the new shelf on top. 🙂 wash trays in bleach water between sprouts. Use very mild bleach solution for sprouting soak, 4 hours, Maybe run bleach solution through the soaker hose once in a while too. If this works I will build a little sprouting shed and expand to help out friends… If anyone finds out about calories please post. Horses need the energy. If I give the horses grain with molasses they are more energetic. The sugars make a dif. So low calorie food would not replace the grains well unless I poured molasses on it lol. The 17h Holsteiner also gets supplements (trifecta) and high fat feed (strategy 8% fat) for weight gain. So I still will give him those two things regardless. Here is another nutrition analysis I found. Says 4.3% fat. Protein is great. Other trace minerals may be missing ?? Selinium for example.

        Nutritional Breakdown

        Nutrient Unit Results
        Crude Protein % 20.2
        Fat % 4.3
        Crude Fibre % 11.3
        Starch % 15.4
        Metabolizable Energy
        (Ruminants) MJ/kg 12.1
        Calcium % 0.15
        Potassium % 0.7
        Magnesium % 0.24
        Phosphorus % 0.46
        Sulphur % 0.28
        Boron mg/kg 22
        Copper mg/kg 11
        Iron mg/kg 160

      • David says:

        WIth regard to calories, while I’m not sure of exact counts, I’ve only every seen references to fodder being on the high side vs. low side, good for energy, but the nutritional analysis you’ve shown seems a bit embellished towards the higher side. Depending upon harvest, your protein content will be more along the lines of 16-18%. (the longer the days fodder grows will see a point of diminishing returns in terms of protein content).

        Also, consider your workflows when designing your system that will involve trays that get heavier as time goes by. If you can eliminate the need for having to shuffle trays around, you will save work. In our system, we only touch the trays twice, once to load a 5lb+ tray and once to harvest a 25lb+ tray. We try to limit the human element as much as possible, so that it is only a 20 minute visit, once a day to harvest, spread prepared seed, and pre-soak the next batch. Our clean-up chore after harvest for a tray consists of a quick rinse out in the sink with just water and then a spray bottle that sprays either a bleach solution or a solution of “Simple Green” (Costco non-toxic cleaning solution). We don’t rinse this off, instead we just put the sprayed tray back in it’s spot on the shelf and let the next water cycle rinse it. Every tray goes through a “rest period” of at least 1 day before it gets re-loaded with soaked grain. The trays tend to get rinsed by the watering cycle, but with no grain, they also tend to dry out well. Very simple and quick-to-manage chore set. As you proof your concepts out, be sure that you are looking closely at workflows as well as actually getting the fodder to grow, because this becomes a daily chore that must integrate well with the farm operation.
        (My background as a systems analyst always has strong feelings about optimizing workflows 🙂 )

    • Larry Bailey says:

      Hi Susan:

      Just a thought…don’t be a victim…you can do something about these middle men taking 100% markup on simple field barley seed…41 cents per lb is more than double retail cost (you are making your feed supplier rich and they are smiling everytine they see you–someone else takes all the risk and they are guaranteed a 100% markup–very cool for them, not so cool for you…. Look around your area within a few hundred miles for a sustainable small grains farmer who rotates crops and includes a legume and pasture in the rotation. Yes you will have to buy in 1200+ lb totes at a time but you should be paying no more than 16 cents per lb for barley and 18 cents per lb for wheat. Field peas will run you 25 cents plus. per lb. I partner with neighbors and we buy two tons at a time and share the gas expense to buy and haul the grain in a larger farm truck. Good luck and don’t be a victim : )

      • David says:

        Good catch there too, Larry. Indeed, while the commodity price of barley, and all grains, seems to be tied to the price of corn at the time, and given that you are generally purchasing by the several tons at a time, you should never be paying more than $0.30 per pound max. My recent purchase, packaged for me in 50lb bags, cost me a bit on the higher side at $0.25 per pound. If you buy direct from a farmer in pallet-sized totes (1200- 1800lbs) you can get that price as low as $0.14 per pound (but you need the equipment to manage those pallet bags). If you go that route, then you should also be considering a 4-6 ton silo for storage. There are durable plastic ones that load on top and feed into buckets at the bottom on the market.

        If you work with your local University Extension Agent, they should be able to point you to a Farmer Supply source in your area as if you were a farmer wanting to plant barley. Ask for pricing on “Field Run” Barley.

  24. Abraham says:

    This mail is from Ethiopia. I came acroos this site by chance. It is a great one. I am a small dairy man. Feed is so expensive that many of us try to mix our own feed manully here in Ethiopia. You may think natural forage is in abundant here, it is not. This information is probabaly more important to farmers dairy farmers here in Ethiopia. I am going to improvise this and try to set up a sprouting system and feed may animals. I will need all the technical assistance I can get and if there is any additional info to help me set up a sprouting system I will be greatful to receive. There is no power where my farm is so everything I do is going to be manual. I THANK YOU for the GREAT information.
    God bless you

    • David says:

      Thanks for the comment Abraham! Be sure to pay close attention to controlling your grow environment temperature and humidity. I’d also recommend reading through the comments to this blog article as well as checking out the couple of follow-up articles I’ve written for further information. You are always welcome to leave a comment or question here, which I’ll try to answer. Beyond that, I do charge a fee for consultations or phone/email support.

      Good luck with your system!

  25. David says:

    Hello David. I have been following the blog since October. I have a homemade fodder system as well. I have different trays than the one’s your using. Although I have recently ordered a couple of the amhydro trays from the link you have posted here and I’m looking to build a rack using these trays. I think these trays would help me optimize my space along with my current system much better. I was wondering, what the pitch of your trays were for draining. (if you put a 48 inch level on your trays from one end to the other… how high would you have to lift the level on one end in order to have your bubble level. quarter inch.. half inch… 2 inches.. etc)

    My 2nd question would be… Do you have a meter of somekind either volume or pressure meter that would give an indication of how many gallons per water cycle you are flooding your trays with. Thanks for any help you can give.. David from Oklahoma

    • David says:

      Hi David,
      With the grow trays I’m using, no tilting or pitch is necessary. Place them on level shelves and they will drain and operate properly.

      I have not metered nor measured the amount of water I’m using. Instead of gallons per water cycle, my litmus test was the time it takes for a tray filled with pre-soaked grain seed to flood enough to completely cover the grain.I find this time can vary based upon local conditions. Currently, it is set at 6 minutes. In the past I’ve had it set at 4 minutes. I now find that some trays with high spots, in which I don’t evenly distribute the seeds, gets fully watered. The thing to avoid is having a timed water cycle be too long. This will impact a more mature tray, which will definitely drain out the overflow drain, but may back up enough to flood over the tray sides. This has happened to me at the 8 minute mark.

      WE sell the grow trays we use with the drain fitting kits. You’ll install these once you drill the holes into the grow trays.

  26. Michael says:

    David –
    As others have conveyed your generosity, willingness to share and methodical approach are a breath of fresh air in today’s world for us DIYers. For that I commend you. Currently our situation does not allow for us to get into a construction phase as I am working in Oman and won’t be truely home for probably another year. But I will travel home (Tenino Wa.) sometime this spring for a couple of weeks on R/R. So… Are you open to visitors to your ranch and if so is generally a couple of days lead time for a visit sufficient based upon your work schedule ??
    We’re the horse type (6) total, we initially heard and considered fodder several years ago but all product lines and available information seemed to originate out of Australia making it difficult to lay on or have much of a technical discussion.
    In reading numerous posts of yours and noting that temp/humidity play a major role did you ever consider a wet/dry bulb set-up for your growing environment or would that be overkill ? Additionally would a heat pump make sense to control temp as they are quite efficient and living not to far down the road experience the same climate.
    I built a wood dry kiln many years ago from a single car garage and it worked extremely well but had to control the temp/humidity environment which is critical to that process yet it solved all problems.
    Again thanks for your time and willingness to share and look forward to meeting you at some point in the future.


    • David says:

      Hi Michael,

      Thanks for the commendation. My definition of success is to position others to become successful. With that basis, I find generosity returns in the form of supporting donations, future customers, and good publicity.

      We do allow visitors and guests as we run our business as a homestead campground featuring yurts for rustic, upscale camping. Check out the link to our website at So, visitors and guests are always welcome. Farm tours with the animals are always free to the public. However, we do charge a fee for Fodder Primers (about 2 hours long) or phone/email support (up to 2 hours of support).

      My background as a systems analyst, combined with the approaches of permaculture here at the ranch, gives a mindset that leans towards designing systems that are not only optimized, but also easily maintainable and simple in design approach. Given our budget, salvaging and repurposing also figures in there too.

      When it comes to our fodder room, it was important that we assure it be an insulated space, allowing for the most optimum in controlled environments. Thus, quite simply, a small forced air space heater (as used under a desk) does the job quite well at heating the room without the need for a heat pump. I’ve yet to have issues with humidity in the room, so adding a de-humidifier unit has been unnecessary over the winter time as well. Come summertime, if I choose to continue sprouting during the pasture grazing season (remember that for us, fodder mats are primarily a winter diet strategy), I may have to add a small A/C unit to cool down the room a bit and control humidity. (Some fodder growers will also heat their incoming water depending on their location, I find it unnecessary for my setup)

      I’m not quite sure of your reference to a wet/dry bulb setup. If that’s referring to lighting, then again, the simplest approach has worked well with the use of compact CFL daylight rated lightbulbs on a timer. As a sprouting operation, fodder can technically be done in the dark, or even with ambient light through a window; it’s certainly not a greenhouse application requiring HID grow lights. The additional lighting works to green up the sprouts a bit and helps the sprouts to stretch, but it’s really the temperature element that is key to controlling growth of the root mat and the sprouts, and keeping mold at bay as the seed hulls decay.

      BONUS! If you happen to be in the area around March 16th, you might consider signing up for a 4 hour seminar that I’m presenting to AROW (Alpaca Ranchers of the Northwest , see their facebook page for event listing) down in the Spanaway area, not too far from Tenino. I’ll be presenting a talk on all of our permaculture concepts, use of the chicken tractor, tilth building, fodder production, and other best practices. (We’ll also be offering this seminar and others here at Paca Pride Guest Ranch this year as well).

  27. Michael says:

    Dave –
    Wet/dry bulb is a temp – differential two thermometers, one is a dry thermometer, the other is the same thermometer with a wet cotton/muslin “boot” over the bulb. The difference in reading between the thermometers is used to calculate humidity. The calculations are quite simple these days with calculators readily available on the Internet and very accurate if need be. We used to use an old paper chart to calculate.

    • David says:

      Thanks Michael for the clarification. The digital temperature gauge I have has a humidity sensor, so I see a number, in percentage, from it. There are plenty of cheap digital thermometers that add functions, like humidity, that can be purchased, which is what I use. I am thinking of adding an additional one placed higher in the room (vs. the low spot in the room I’ve placed the current one) so that I can watch the differences in temp and humidity in both the high and low spots of the room.

      • Jan Cox says:

        Hi David,

        Thanks for your blog – it has really helped! You have probably answered this before – I’m sorry for the repeat: how many times per day are you watering, and for how long? The trays need to fill and soak the seeds for how long before they drain off again? (I have a friend who uses the drain water for her livestock – I thought this was a great use!). Thanks! Jan

      • David says:

        Hi Jan,
        Watering occurs 4 times per day, during the simulated “Daylight hours” (not at night): 8am, noon, 4pm, 8pm.
        Each cycle lasts as long as it takes a tray of freshly spread, pre-soaked seed, to be covered by water. (for my trays its 4-6 minutes).
        (Also keep in mind, that as a tray matures, it takes longer to drain off due to roots.)
        All trays are draining at the same time they are filling. Once the watering cycle stops, the tray drains off, thus there is no length of time that the seed remains covered and soaking once in the trays. The goal here is keeping the seed moist, preventing it from drying out, not soaking in water. Initially, the grain seed is soaked in a bucket of bleach water solution for 24 hours to trigger germination. That’s the only time seeds soak in water.

        With regard to the re-use of drain water, the caution becomes the build-up that will happen over time of yeasts and fermentation, this then can lead to other baddies in the water. It is imperative that regular cleaning occurs of the stock tank that gets that drain water or there will be the creation of a disease vector. Otherwise a bit o’ barley soup water, with its starchy runoff seems like good stuff, it’s the disease vector potential that halts me from doing so.

  28. Jim says:

    lots of info here! I have done a couple trials and I am now building a bigger system. My first couple rounds was with Oats and I have now converted to a flood and drain system although I have some concerns since the growth does not get water just the roots. I do have 100 pounds of barley on order seems hard to find here and runs .35 a pound. What are your thoughts or experiance with the growth part not getting wet?

    • David says:

      For me, it’s about control of mold among the discarded seed hulls. The wetter they are, the quicker they break down. The more prone to mold.
      As the new trays grow, the focus is on the root mass; under the seed hulls. The seed bed, or hulls, gets pushed upward. With a flood and drain approach, the water stays lower in the more mature trays, at the root level. The roots wick enough water upwards that any straggling germinators are still able to get wet enough, not dry out, and continue growing. The sprouts above seed hull level get plenty of water pushed up from the roots and stay drier, by respirating outward, rather than soaking, inward, water coming from above. Thus, the water tends to move in one direction, pushing the growth of the sprouting green part upwards. A good litmus test on humidity levels in the room are to examine the tips of the sprouts for droplets of water hanging on them. That means humidity is too high and the sprouts are respirating at a rate faster than can evaporate into the room.

      When I watered with some misters during trials, not only was the water spraying beyond the trays and harder to control, my seed hulls were darker colored and became mushy faster in spots. Molds were taking hold at household temps above 70F using a reservoir, recycling water, that was changed once a day. I had to completely stop and flush the system at one point, thus encountering some of the limits of a sprouting application. Proof of Concept trials are so important to try and learn. 🙂

      • Susanna says:

        Hi David,
        I am using the flood and drain method and watering between 8 am and 10 pm. I have noticed a lot of grain is drying out during the night and floating on top of the water during the first watering in the morning. Have you noticed this? I wonder if it is slowing down my germination time. I would be interested to know if the commercial systems water during the night.

      • David says:

        My flood and drain trays immediately start draining as soon as the water starts flooding them. So, there is never enough water in mine that would allow seeds to “float”, only enough to completely cover grains in the most immature, freshly seeded trays. If your watering cycles are really long and it takes a while for the water to drain, then the length of time the seeds soak in water could be affecting germination rates. Also, be sure to allow your grain seed to pre-soak, up to 24 hours, to allow those hulls to soften enough on all the grains to encourage germination. There are a variety of thought on how long to pre-soak: from 10minutes up to 24hours, or even multiples soaks. I prefer a 24 hour soak in water with some bleach. After that, once spread in trays, my water cycles for 4-6 minutes, 4 times a day. No watering at night, and no notice of any dry spots in the trays after a night either.

      • susan says:

        Humidity must be a factor. Once my seeds sprout, they don’t dry out. I fill and drain once a day in the morning with mild bleach solution in established trays once a day. I flood the top trays once a day in the eve with mild bleach water and let the water trickle down through the layered trays with holes. I put a tray on top of the sprout trays that have not sprouted to prevent evaporation. So top shelf has a tray inside the sprout trays. Second and third shelf get flooded with fresh water in the eve and it drips down into all the trays. Shelves 3 , 4 , 5 get bleach water soak and drain and then they sit and drip. All trays have holes. I am in a damp climate on the coast. My horses are loving this. I am only getting 2 flats a day at the moment and have three horses. I need 6 flats a day. But my little DIY system is funky. It was a test to see how this works. I’m using a rolling bread shelving unit with 10 shelves. Bottom shelves catches the drip water which I dump outside in a trash can for watering the garden. As we speak I have 10 trays sprouting and one ready for the evening treat. They are in the house next to the sliding glass door for now. My family is tolerant lol

      • David says:

        Wow, I agree that does sound like a funky DIY system you’ve got there. I can see a bunch of nuances within the design that would faciliate molds, especially over the long term, across a few grow cycles, eventually causing you to fully stop and start over. One rule of thumb that I discovered through my trials is the importance of isolating trays from one another. Problems can accumulate and be passed on through trays that share the watering. Also, I’m not a fan of watering from above vs. a true flood-n-drain from below. What it sounds like you’ve got is a trickle-down-from-above and drain system. This could be a source for dry spots that you experience. A true flood and drain approach will flood and cover young seed beds completely, but then, as the root mat develops, the seed bed pushes upward. Future watering cycles land at the root level to be wicked upward. The discarded seed hulls decay quicker when watering from above; first becoming mushy, then molding.

        A litmus test about humidity: if you see droplets forming at the top of more mature sprouts, then the grow environment is too humid. If not, then the water, respirated through the sprout, is evaporating quick enough.

        I only use bleach when pre-soaking my seed for 24 hours, and not during the watering. Bleach can inhibit growth.

        Finally the type and style of trays, and their ability to drain effectively can also contribute to problems. If I had to invest in anything within a DIY system, it would be in purchasing good hydroponic grow trays.

        There is only so much I can assess via your blog comment. But hope it gives you some ideas. I do offer phone/email support and troubleshooting for a fee if that is of interest to you. You can send a contact email via our website at

  29. Hello,
    Please let me know your requirements and any questions, concerns you have. We are winner of Development Marketplace 2009 of the World Bank award. Our technology is well proven and are in business since 1989.

    • David says:

      It’s always nice to learn about turnkey fodder solutions on the marketplace. My main concern about such systems is the level of start-up investment it takes for smaller farms, with small to mid-sized herds, to purchase such an approach, even ones sized for that application are quite pricey. Your system looks awesome, I would love to have it. If you are looking for a demo location, consider us. However, my focus in the meantime is how the average small rancher can approach fodder from a DIY standpoint.

  30. Katharine says:

    I have 4-H calves. Because of the drought, they are lighter then normal… I am trying to find a feed that will make the calves gain quickly!! Could you possibly give me an average rate of gain using the fodder for steers who are around 500 to 600 pounds? Do you have any suggestions for rations? Thank you sooo much!! 😀 Katharine

    • David says:

      Sorry I cannot. I raise alpacas and not cattle. Check with your vet for recommended diet rations.

    • Larry Bailey says:

      Hi Katherine:

      You could use the RFV and compare with your current hay and supplement regimin in consultation with a local cattle expert. e.g. primo alfalfa hay (<200 RFV) vs my sprouted barley mats which have a tested RFV of 282, my hard red spring wheat sprouted mats have a RFV of 554 and my field pea sprouted mats have a RFV of 434. There are no generalizations you can apply you must grow the sprouted fodder mat under your conditions and send it to get tested by a third party feed testing lab (it will cost ~ $54.50 for a fairly comprehensive test that will generate a RFV number and help you make decisions. Please do not generalize my results to your situation as every batch of seed to be sprouted is different.

  31. Sheryl says:

    You have a very long but great blog. I didn’t read it all so maybe my answer was overlooked. My question would be for organic farms using organic seed for fodder. Do you, or anyone else, know if bleach or hydrogen peroxide can be used, and still be able to have the animals eating that fodder be certified organic? Everything else the animals eat is certified organic. Thanks for any and all replies.

    • David says:

      Sorry Sheryl, I don’t know what the requirements are for organic certification. But what I do know is we only use bleach during the soaking process prior to the grain seed being spread into the trays. Once in the trays they are grown using fresh water. Use of a mild bleach water solution in this manner shouldn’t hinder organic concerns, but again, I don’t know what the criteria is for certification. I personally am not concerned with carrying forward anything from the mild bleach water soak. Most of the germinating and sprouting activity takes place in the grow trays, and by the time the soaked seed hits the tray, the bleach has had time to break down.

    • Larry Bailey says:

      Sheryl: We are pursuing organic certification (for pasture and organic egg layers and meat birds) through WSDA here in Washington State. Yes a mild sodium hypochlorite solution (we use 1 part “bleach”:128 parts water) for soaking seeds to be used for fodder is allowed (double check your own state rules but it should be allowed). You just have to use certified organic seeds (and keep receipts and records) and document your process for whomever your certifying agency is. Also, any pre mix mineral pack you sprinkle on the sprouted fodder befor feeding also has to be certified organic or OMRI listed. All the best, Larry Orting WA

      • David says:

        Thanks for chiming in Larry! I thought you’d have the answer. 🙂 I’ll keep this in mind too. (I try to answer all questions from my realm of experience, but there’s a fine line between experience and expertise, lol.)

      • Sheryl says:

        It appears I will have to leave a much appreciated thank you to both David and Larry Bailey as both of your reply links lead to Larry. So, thank you Larry and David for your answers. I will check with MO state for their organic rules, though I thought organic was a universal thing through all the sates. So much for thinking…:) I do wonder however, if you must use organic seeds for certification. I thought as long as they were heirloom and not GMO, that would suffice. I get all my heirloom seed in Mansfield, MO as I live close to Bakercreek seed company that only sells heirloom see from around the world. I have never heard them say their seed was also organic. If organic seed is necessary, can you collect your own seed from the original seeded plants, if all else is organic? **Sigh** so many things to think about. No wonder I still haven’t tried after almost 4 years. Thanks once again! Sheryl

      • Larry Bailey says:

        Sheryl: I never got an email from you on the fodder questions. My email is still riskman1 at gmail dot com.

        On the organic seed source for planting — > National Organic Standards Section 205.204 – is a federal standard followed by all organic certifiers. Here is a WA version–but all the states I have seen follow it

        For fodder sprouting the rules are in the livestock feed section: from the NOP a quote:”Organic livestock production requires that animals be fed 100% organic feed, have access to pasture for ruminants and access to the outdoors for non ruminants, and prohibits the use of antibiotics and hormones. All producers must complete an Organic System Plan relevant to their type of operation and maintain detailed records of their production …” Thus you must use certified organic seed for sprouting. For planting for crops for resale or for livestock use you must use Certified organic seed unless it is not commercially available – see the link above for details. Be careful.

      • Sheryl says:

        Larry, I also have free range chickens that I have picked up here and there because they looked cool. They lay brown eggs and blue eggs. I know I have some Americanas or Arricanas and Phoenix. Not sure if the Phoenix lay blue eggs as I also have some other black and buffs chickens that I know lay brown eggs. I was wondering if you use Heritage chickens for meat and if so, what breed? Thanks in advance for any answer you may give! Sheryl

  32. I was just wondering what other type of trays you could use instead of buying the trays from the manufacture??? I seen someone use standing seam metal roofing. I just started a few trays for the first time and a, using slotted green house trays. So far Day 2 NO GERMINATION- 40 Hours so far. I am using seed from the feed mill which I noticed was stored outside in freezing temps. Is there a preference from one seed brand/name from another? Does one brand germinate faster than others?

    • David says:

      A note about Grow Trays: DIY Fodder Systems come in all shapes and sizes; might as well group livestock owners with tinkerers, because they’ll certainly be creative when coming up with solutions, especially regarding trays. Many systems I’ve seen are built around seedling propagation trays you can get at your garden supply store. still, others are growing fodder using cafeteria serving trays to rubbermaid totes.

      My requirements for grow trays are: Suitability for a hydroponic flood and drain approach – must have channels and drains that allow proper flow of water at the bottom of the tray. Maintainability – Must be easy to clean, doesn’t accumulate the runoff starches which can glob on to multi-drilled holes in some trays. Durability – Must be durable for the long haul in a well designed fodder operation. Inert – Not made of a material that can leach any residues or breakdown over time. Size Appropriate – Must be sized towards the application and scalability of the system (feeding a mid-sized herd of cows using 11×22″ seedling propagation trays takes a lot of trays and translates into a lot of extra effort; too large of a tray translates into too difficult to manage and move unless designed to be loded/unloaded/cleaned while stationary. IMHO, the trays I use produce fodder mats between 25-45lbs depending upon my seed rates. This keeps them managable to harvest and pickup and clean.)

      Greenhouse trays – seedling propagation trays, are great for proof of concepts, but not the best trays for an operational system. Overall, they are too weak, need to at least be doubled up, and don’t last very long, they’re disposable by design. They also tend to accumulate the starches and runoff easily because most of the slots or holes that get drilled are pretty small. This translates into trays that will ferment quicker and cause problems.

      We sell the grow trays we use in our system. If you are interested you can send a request for more information via an email from our website at

      Seeds – Grain seeds from feed mills can be questionable. If the seeds were “hulled” or “pearled” then they are no longer viable and will not sprout. The grain seeds must have their hulls intact and must be viable seed. Feed mill sources tend to also be marked up to double what you could pay for a source of grain seed. Contact your local University Extension Agent for farmer’s seed sources in your area. No particular variety required. I usually ask for “field run”; but be sure any seed you locate is “untreated”, no fungicides!

      • susan says:

        Hi David, about seed. I feel like I am wasting sooo much water trying to wash out the hulls and debris. How do you do that? If I let the sees soak about an hour, the debris is still floating and the seeds have all sunk, mostly. Then I have to drain and rinse 4 times to get them clean. Wasteful. I give the stuff I drain off to the chickens. Thanks PS My horses love this stuff.

      • David says:

        This really depends upon your source of barley seed. If it is field run, it is bound to be full of chaff and dirt. (But it can be the cheapest) If really dirty, you may want to first place the seeds in a drain bucket full of holes and wash the dirt off, then pour into a bucket and fill with water to strain. Be sure to really stir it up. Use a wide screen ladel to sift off the floating debris. Viable seeds sink,

        You should be left with seeds that will still have their hulls intact. Pearled or hulled barley will not sprout.

  33. shelly says:

    I want to replace ALL grain for my milk cow with barley/oat/wheat fodder and black strap molassas but cannot find anywhere to figure out how to transition her (she will still get plenty of costal hay) and how much she will need per milking/feeding. I also want to raise our chickens on it and no feed. Is that possible? How much do they need and what about doing it with a pig? Thank you so much. I am so hoping for an answer! I have sprouts growing and have given some to the cow but don’t know how to change over safely and how much she needs!!!!

    • David says:

      Hi Shelly,
      You’ll have to work with your vet on that one or compare notes to others who are raising cattle for the diet tips there. As a general rule though, always transition ruminants gradually to a new feed whenever possible. If you assure your cow has a good source of hay, then you shouldn’t worry too much about adding the fresh barley fodder.

      When it comes to chickens, there are some that grow fodder for a full 8-9 day cycle, but I find that chcikens benefit the most from fodder grown at the 2-4 day cycle, with very little grassy sprout part. They’ll eat more and waste less that way.

      I do not know feed requirements for pigs, again, I’d ask your vet about percentage of fodder in a diet.
      I always defer the diet questions and “how much to feed” back to your vet, but I’m sure some others raising cows may chime in here too.
      Good Luck!

      • shelly says:

        Thank you! And yes, any other advice or comments from those with experience or wisdom would be greatly appreciate!

    • Larry Bailey says:


      I have done extensive research, on layers and meat birds: talked with Dr. James Hermes at Oregon State as well as several other animal nutrition people. It would be best if you emailed me with specific questions (what are you trying to accomplish, how large is your flock, meat vs layers, what do you sell, organic vs conventional, volume, breeds, region you live in, pastured poultry or chicken coop vs MIG mobile pasture and electro netting etc) email me at riskman at gmail dot com.

      • shelly says:

        I wrote to and it was returned as a bad address? I have an email to send you (-: I’ll copy and paste it here and you can look me up on Facebook and message me or whatever works best for you. Or did I get the addy wrong?
        This is the email I tried to send:
        First off, thank you so much for your willingness to share! We currently have only 10 hens and one rooster. They are just for our family. I also have a Jersey cow for family milk. We have three growing boys and a girl who eats as much as they do so we go through a lot of groceries and want to eat organic and clean. We live on my family farm land so we have acreage to use. I just started the fodder thing and have a tiny shelved “green house” in my kitchen with a plastic zip up cover. I have been soaking a mixture of barley, oats and wheat for 24 hours and then spreading out on waxed paper with holes in it that lines greenhouse flats with huge holes in them (thus the need for the waxed paper). I mainly want to get Annabelle (cow) switched to fodder and have read that it is possible, but I also would LOVE to not buy any chicken or pig feed either (we don’t yet have a pig but plan to get one). I heard that starting out with too much fodder for a cow will cause bloat and I don’t know how much she would need if that is all she gets eventually. Currently she gets about 10 pounds a day of sweet feed that is corn and soy free but she just came from a raw dairy where she got 20 pounds a day. She gets all she can eat of my dad’s coastal horse hay. Any suggestions or advice would be appreciated! Again, thank you for you time. My name if you want to FB message me is shelly tefertiller–thanks!

      • Larry Bailey says:

        It should be riskman1 at gmail dot com….sorry about that.


  34. amit says:

    what should be the temperature required for the sprouting& drying of the wheat grass ….what should be the optimum temperature required for the growth of the wheat grass.

  35. Great article, exactly what I needed.

  36. Larry Bailey says:

    Response to Sheryl says:
    February 26, 2013 at 11:30 am – we have raised heritage chickens as meat birds. It depends on your goals–if it is to make a modest profit then you will have to sell the meat for $6.95/lb (no kidding). If feed conversion is important then heritgage breeds will not be good for meat. Ditto for breast size. For our commercial direct sales we have gone back to Cornish X. They are not genetically modified birds they are a hybrid breed. We have found that people will pay $4+ per lb for amazing flavored pastured Cornish X chicken finishing out in the 4.5 to 6 lb/bird range. Most will not pay ~$7/lb for “slow growing-razor breasted heritage breeds.

  37. shelly says:

    one more question, please? you say in your post that you spread about 2 pounds of seed into a flat to begin growing after the initial soaking. Is that 2 pounds before or after it has been soaking up water? Oh and what is the proper germination and growth temp for Barley? Thank you!!

    • David says:

      Hi Shelly,
      Our current seed rate for the grow trays we use is 5lbs per tray. That’s 5lbs of dry seed, measured before the soaking.
      Barley is a cold weather crop and can germinate in temps as low as 45F-50F. The ideal grow space temps for both germination and growing sprouts, while avoiding molds, is between 60-65F. Above 70F and you’ll start experiencing problems.

  38. chiotsrun says:

    Great info and great photos (love it when folks take the time to document visually). I was thinking, if you also water the seeds with a little fish/kelp emulsion you’ll have double superfood. Kelp is so super nutritious and full of all kinds of minerals. There’s a lot of great info out there on the health benefits of kelp and other mineral supplements for animals of all shapes/sizes.

    • David says:

      Yes kelp meal is a wonder of wonders that is even readily available here in the PacNorWest too, around Puget Sound. Yes, you can add it as part of the water source via a fertilizer injector that will feed it at a specific rate in to each water cycle. Yes, it will have some benefit in growing your sprouts. The challenging part becomes the cost-benefit analysis. In a flood-and-drain using a reservoir system, or a flood-and-drain-to-waste system, adding extra inputs translates into additional outputs. While the idea of maximizing sprout growth and nutrition via supplementation, there is actually too much being wasted along the way. Indeed, a kelp fertilizer is more necessary beyond a sprout, that is, when the plant is beyond that stage of growth. A better solution if you wanted to get your animals to derive some benefit from kelp meal is simply to start top-dressing the fodder mat with it instead. The challenge becomes palatability to the animals, they may need to adjust to the change in taste over a short period of time. Another solution, direct access to free choice mineral supplementation or kelp meal if the animals will self regulate their intake (like they do with salt licks for example). But, as I have personally found with growing fodder mats, once you start adding components, especially to the water stream, not only do you waste most of it, but you are more likely to have problems with molds, smells, fermenting, and production declines. Fresh water is best for a sprouting application.

  39. Matt says:

    For those asking about temperature, humidity, tray types, etc. Here are some of my experiences.

    We started with plastic storage trays, but converted to metal roofing for our sprouter. The plastic trays we used initially pooled water and resulted in poor root mass. We never made it much above a 5:1 ratio in the trays. Drainage is extremely important, probably more so than about anything else. We chose the metal roofing because it was a small fraction of the cost of real grow trays and any standard metal roofing profile will have tall ribs on each sheet with several small ribs in between each tall one. This makes for great drainage. The roofing also has a built in leveling system – just spread the seed level with the high ribs for an approx. 1/2″ seed bed. The upgraded system is now giving us a constant 6:1 ratio on a 7 day cycle. Another advantage of the roofing is ribs provided a perforated root mass if you will. We harvest 90 lbs per tray per day. The perforations allow us to easily pull off roughly 20 lb manageable sections at a time.

    Our system is located in our basement near our wood-stove. The temperature stays a constant 68 to 72*. Circulating fans keep the temperature consistent from floor to ceiling. At first the wood stove kept the humidity at about 60%, later we doubled the capacity of our system and the humidity shot up to over 90%. Even with high humidity, we didn’t have any problems with mold. I personally think the excellent drainage kept mold from forming. For what its worth, we use well water on the sprouts that’s about 55* and do not recycle any water. We did turn on the de-humidifier and the humidity is under 55% now.

    As for animal acceptance of the feed, they ate it within 24 hours and started looking for it within the first week. Now they line up every day eat it like they haven’t eaten in days. Our cows and calves are split in two groups. The calves get about 2.5% fodder to body weight and free choice of a poor quality hay and they are doing great. The cows are getting less as a percentage of weight and are doing moderately well, but should do excellent as soon as I expand our sprouting capacity again.

    If it is permissible, here is a link to our facebook page. We have pictures our our setup on there. Look for a recent post and one about a month old.


    • Susanna says:

      Question for Matt,
      What keeps the seed from washing off of the end of the metal tray when watered, until the root system gets going?

  40. Matt says:

    The key is low volume and pressure until you have root mass (several days). We water by hand since i’m operating out of my basement. I can’t install an automatic water system – not targeted or contained enough. We use both a nozzle with a shower type setting an a wand for larger volume. When the seeds are first put in trays and don’t have any roots to hold them in place, we use the nozzle and only squeeze it about half way so it operates at a lower pressure and volume. When the seeds are first put in trays and there’s not a lot of green or roots, the seed doesn’t need a lot of water. Only enough to keep it moist. After several days, when the root system is established enough, we use the wand and almost flood the sprouts.

    Also, I missed earlier mentioning an alternative to chlorine as a pre-soak and cleaner. We use 35% or 50% perioxide. I currently use one ounce of 35% per two gallons of water for the pre-soak and dilute it to 3% as a cleaner. To clean the trays, I spray them with the 3% and then scrub with a long brush and then rinse. It keeps everything sparkly clean.


    • shelly says:

      looks like you have it down! thanks for sharing your method. I hand water as well and it is cool to hear someone else is doing it too (-:

  41. perry morris says:

    I have just now heard about barley fodder,and for the past week have read everything i can find. The temps,and humidty factor has caught my attention , I live in south texas , in a bad drought ,fodder could help here a lot. would i need to have a climate control system . If so any suggestion on how to control these cost, and if i use an inclosed room with a/c , would i need special lights. thank you and you have a very intresting site and i have enjoyed the past couple of hours. It would be great if you folks would keep this conversation going ,this how man/woman kind has conquered the great problems of life. THANK YOU ALL

    • David says:

      Two challenges you will have are climate control (yes, you’ll need air conditioning in the summer, heat in the winter), and seed sourcing (the southern states generally have a harder time; try finding wheat if you cannot find barley).

      Light requirements are minimal: CFL lights do just fine and use less energy. Put them on a time. I recommend 16hr on / 8hr off

  42. shelly says:

    Is anyone doing barley sprouts exclusively for a family milk cow?
    I am at a loss in finding wisdom on sprouting and feeding fodder! My vet has never even heard of it )-: I would be so thankful if anyone could answer me a few things: Wondering if alfalfa pellets need to be added to the fodder when feeding a dairy cow? If given enough barley sprouts, isn’t that sufficient? Or does Alfalfa need to be added for more protein? I am giving 2 pounds dry barley soaked and sprouted so it ends up being 3 or 4 times that amount twice a day plus a splash of raw apple cider vinegar, a cup or two of kifer (like yogurt), and a T of real mineral clay. Do I need to add in alfalfa? Help! Oh, she also gets about 30 pounds of coastal hay daily as well. Is there anything else I should be supplementing with? I do have a real salt salt block out in her pen. THANK YOU FOR YOUR TIME AND HELP!!!

    • David says:

      With fodder mat production, you are feeding a live sprout to the animal. This is a highly palatable, highly digestible, high energy, wet feed. You will have great results with the health of your cow: increased lactation and better health are common. You already are part way there by sprouting that grain, letting it grow into a fodder mat increases the protein content. Fodder mats are low in fiber, thus the importance of always having hay for fiber and roughage. Everything else that you are feeding is just adding to the health of that very well cared for cow! I’ll probably want to learn more from you about what it takes to have a single family dairy cow. 🙂

    • John V says:

      In case you didn’t find an answer for cows, here is a link from a couple dairy farmers who fodder their cows.

  43. Kristi says:

    Started raising barley fodder a week ago, I was super excited to give it to my sheep yesterday. They took two bites and refused to touch it again. My horse on the other hand was delighted to finish it. Any suggestions on encouraging the sheep to eat it?

    • David says:

      Quite common for animals to look at it when first given and walk away. Just allow them the time to recognize it as foodstuff and not some alien that you put in front of them. Keep feeding it to the sheep, they’ll come around to the point of begging.

  44. KamalDeep SINGH says:

    Dear Sir
    I wish to know that how much hydroponics green fodder required for per laying hen.
    Can we rearing chickens with barley green fodder from day old?

    • David says:

      You’d have more luck feeding poultry grains that have been sprouted in a bucket for only 2-3 days vs. sprouting them into a full fodder mat of 7-9 days.

      • KamalDeep SINGH says:

        please let me know composition of sprouted barley after 2-3 day and diet of sprouted barley per laying hen?

  45. Pingback: Fodder for pigs - Homesteading Today

  46. KamalDeep SINGH says:

    Dear David,
    I’ve 20000 birds (laying hens) please let me know all (complete) information about sprouted barley so that i could cut off my feed expenses.
    My questions are below?
    1. Which grain is better after sprouted for poultry birds?
    2. How much diet/bird per day will be sufficient?
    3. Is it complete DIET or we should add somewhat extra for making it complete ration?
    Thanking you
    KamalDeep SINGH

    • David says:

      My advice to you Kamal would be to consult with a local veterinarian on the feed recommendations for your operation.
      For 20,000 birds, I would not be able to advise you very well.
      Barley Fodder, as a wet feed, is only one portion of a laying hen’s diet.
      Some chicken owners sprout for 2-3 days in buckets, then feed. Others sprout full fodder mats 7-9 days old.
      I’ll ask any other chicken raisers to chime in about their approaches and diet recommendations on this comment thread.
      Perhaps others will offer you some better guidance.

  47. KamalDeep SINGH says:

    thank yu David……… it will be great help if you will find any solution for anywhere
    thank once again

  48. Howdy would you mind stating which blog platform you’re working with? I’m going to start my own blog soon but I’m having a difficult time choosing between BlogEngine/Wordpress/B2evolution and Drupal. The reason I ask is because your design and style seems different then most blogs and I’m looking for something unique.
    P.S Sorry for being off-topic but I had to

  49. Amy says:

    This is a great website! Do you know if this would work differently (or at all) with steam flaked barley?

    • David says:

      You must use viable grain seed to sprout fodder. If the grain has been processed (hulled, steamed, etc.) then it will not sprout and would not work.

  50. Kathy LeCave says:

    Hi David,

    Do you have pics of your new fodder room and system that you would share with us? I am new to this idea, but VERY intrigued! We have alpacas.

    • David says:

      In fact, if you visit our Facebook page, there’s an album there that has pictures of our Fodder Room! Also check out our videos on You Tube for a video on our Fodder Room procedures

  51. Kathy says:

    Does anyone know where to purchase a battery operated timer that can do short cycles for only half a day?

  52. David, have you ever planted anything else with the barley? where on you site does it show/explain the system (tubing/pipes/pump etc)… that adds the water periodically? Thank…so interesting.

    • David says:

      Yes, I’ve sprouted wheat to equal success as with barley.

      The irrigation is provided by standard garden irrigation supplies found at your local hardware store: a water timer (mine runs a 9 volt battery), ½” drip irrigation distribution line, and ¼” tubing branching off the distribution line for each tray, running down into the tray and touching the inside bottom of the tray (so that water fills the tray from the bottom upwards). Larger systems may require the addition of small water pumps to add pressure to the system.

    • John V says:

      Mary Beth:
      I currently sprout barley and sunflower seeds at a ratio of 4-1, respectively, for my goats. The germination time is the same for both and they evidently like the taste. I use oilers in my dry feed mix as that provides shine for their coat and added nutrition in their diet.

  53. John V says:

    Hi everyone. I’ve been growing barley fodder for my small herd of boer goats in SE Michigan for about 4 months now with great success. My wife and I have a 10 acre farm with about 1.5 acres of fenced pasture and 7 acres of unfenced woods with which to raise our 14 goat base herd. During kidding season we can easliy double that number. I came upon the idea of growing fodder after seeing an advertisement in an agriculture magazine back in February of this year. It was one of the most brilliant ah-hah moments I’d had in a while. After the drought we experienced in Michigan last year, hay was very hard to find and very expensive once you found it. Our pasture grass was burned up by mid-June and watering was a joke. I had to resort to shepherding the goats in the woods to eat or cutting brush and dragging it back to their corral. Either choice was time consuming and a lot of work. After learning as much as I could about growing fodder it seemed like an idea that could revolutionize small farming. I estimate it will reduce my feed costs by 50% and offers 24/7/365 days of nutrition that is drought proof and ideal improved Winter feed for pregnant females.

    • Leigh says:

      Hi John. I’ve been researching growing barley fodder for my chicken and duck flocks, as well as a couple of horses (and probably a couple of dairy goats eventually). Here in mid-Michigan I’m having a hard time finding a local supplier for the seed. Where are you purchasing from (and for how much) if you don’t mind my asking? The shipping costs make buying online very cost prohibitive. I’ve got the grow trays, shelving, and supplies needed to get started – but nothing to grow! I currently ferment feed and scratch for my 2 flocks but I would really like to add barley fodder to their diet. I have an older horse and a cantankerous mule that would both benefit greatly from adding fodder to their hay.

      • John V says:

        Hi Leigh. Sorry for the delay. I buy my barley seed from Rogers Elevator in Mt. Morris, MI. The seed is not certified organic but is not treated w/ chemicals or fertilizer either. I have no need for organic certification. You could also check online to find a grain elevator near your location. Just about any one of them can order seed for you. Make sure to ask them for untreated seed. I buy about 500lbs at a time for around $17/bag.

  54. Joel says:

    This is so wonderful. I’m impressed and wish to put it in practice.

  55. david says:

    We own an organic farm and we would like to build a barley fodder system. we are dependent on solar power for the aircons and therefore need to optimize our energy consumption. what is the min temp i can set the aircons to in winter which will still provide me with adequate growth and the maks for summer which will not promote mould growth?

    • David says:

      Minimum temps and controls for humidity will vary based upon your local conditions (both climate as well as local yeasts and bacterias).

      That said, for me in the PacNorWest, my minimum temp is around 60F degrees.
      I usually strive for a 65F space, +-5F degrees.
      For my location, above 70F degrees starts to trigger my local yeasts to ferment and bacterial activity which encourage molds to take hold.

      With barley, it is a naturally cold weather crop, and can germinate as low as 50F degrees, but the lower the temp, the longer a grow cycle you can expect, and shorter sprouts.

  56. David says:

    Have any of you heard of or tried using an aquaponics system to grow fodder?

  57. David Gerry says:

    HI David,
    I sprouted barley last winter with good success overall. Do you know what is the best variety of seed to use for fodder? I am planning on planting several acres and cleaning my own for me and maybe others in the area. Last year I could only find certified seed for about $17 a bushel. It was fine for the trials but I fear it would become cost prohibitive in the long run.Thanks for all the info.

    • David says:

      I have not focused on variety as a characteristic for the barley I select.
      What I do look at are “viability”, it must sprout, and “untreated”, no fungicides.
      I usually am looking for “Field run” or “Combine Run” grains, as they are the cheapest.

      For your interest in growing it, I would recommend contacting your local University Extension Agent for information on varieties that would grow well in your area.

  58. jason says:

    Hi, I would just like to find out if normal flourecent light can be used in a grass cabinet where barley is grown in or do the appropriate grow lights need to be used?

    Thanks Jason

    • David says:

      If by “normal” fluorescent lighting you are referring to T-8 or T-12 long tube like bulbs, then those will work just fine. If you choose to use CFL bulbs, be sure to find daylight rated ones (not soft white).

      You do NOT need anything that is more intense for lighting than fluorescent lighting. In fact, sprouting can be done with LED lighting above the trays or even bright white holiday lights on a string. The requirement for lighting for a sprouting application is minimal.

  59. jason says:

    Hi David

    Thanks for your input! The fluorescent globes that are in the cabinet momentarily are L58W/640 long tube basic plus cool white globes? Hope you can help and let me know if they are sufficient cause I am not really sure what T – 8 and/or T – 12 means. Sorry I just don’t have much knowledge on the hydroponics system and I am trying to sort this cabinet out as my boss is travelling abroad and its not working as they say it should! Also they say I should be getting about 300kilograms out of the cabinet a day but I am getting only max 200kilograms out. If I also run a full 7 days as the recommend to get the quantity of barley grass then I have problems if fungis on rooting system then I dispose the grass which is a waist of seed and money. please advise if you can?

    Much appreciated.

    • David says:

      Hmmm, I’m at a loss for providing further assistance with your setup without more information.
      I do offer technical support and troubleshooting via a phone call, but do charge for my consulting time.

      Your reference to this system being a “cabinet” makes me think it is some sort of commercially purchased system. If so, I’d contact the manufacturer for support. If it is a DIY system, one that sounds like has been left to you to tend, then there are probably some operational parameters that your boss made up for in order to keep it tuned and running smoothly. That is a big problem with DIY systems: the operator may not be aware of what labors they are actually doing to keep it running. They may have documented the simple procedures, but with a sprouting application, like this, its the nuances of running the system that are the key to keeping it operating consistently and repeatable.

      I do not think lighting is your issue, however. You are probably being challenged more with temp and humidity control than lighting if you are getting molds at the 7 day mark. That’s only a guess, because there can be many points along your work flows where things can be going wrong.

  60. Angel says:

    I appreciate all your comments and hopefully you can help me out.I am close to Yuma AZ and the climate here is very hot from 70 ish in the winter to 115 in the summer.I want to implement this system but then it seems we would have to use AC to keep things cool and this would be a real cost. I was thinking to make an underground room but that is some real cost also even if it was DIY. If barley requires 75 max temperature can you think of any ways to make the system work for us? Or maybe grow another crop?Thanks

    • David says:

      In some more tropical environments they sometime using maize/corn to produce maize grass the same way. But, I have no experience using this option.

      That said, there is not much wiggle room with temps when it comes to the production of fodder mats. My temp ideal for my given location is actual 65F +-5F (more like 60-65F).

      You will require the use of heating/cooling in your grow room. Perhaps explore alternatives from just using an A/C until to do so. I’ve heard of others using swamp coolers, heat exchangers, and a HRVC ( There are alternatives out there.

      The importance of controlling temps in your grow room cannot be understated.

      • Xenophon Y. Alesna says:

        Sir, am Xenophon Y. Alesna of Gen. Santos City. Philippines, in the southern part in the island of Mindanao, where boxing great Manny Pacquiao is also from. I would like to know the e_mail ad of Mr. Nikhil Narayana of India as i have some queries on his experiment with corn sprouting. Am just beginning to experiment with corn seeds. Having tried barley, oats and sunflower with no success as they maybe treated, bought hereat locally from commercial agrivet stores. Am into hog raising where commercial feeds continually increasing, I’m searching for alternate feeds so as to make my venture viable. Thank you and more power.

        Xenophon Y. Alesna

  61. Samuel says:

    Where do you buy your non GMO barley?
    How much does it cost per ton?

  62. nic says:

    good. send mr more info

  63. Karolin says:

    Azure Standard ($26.60 for 45# animal feed) ships for free if you can find a drop point manager in your area if it is available this time of year. Modesto Milling is also an alternative if you live in central CA. They have nearby feed stores which they work with. In addition, you could form a collective and have the feed shipped directly to you or a nearby business.

    • David says:

      Thanks Karolin for the information.

      Our seed source is actually within our regional area here. In general, for those looking for seed sources, we usually recommend starting with a call to your local University Extension Agent. They are typically plugged in to the farmers in that region and know seed suppliers. The best source for seed, and typically the cheapest, is finding a farmer nearby growing it. Beyond that, finding a seed source can sometimes be just as much of a hunt as finding a good source for hay.

  64. Scottie says:

    I wonder …would it be possible to take a mature fodder mat and transition it into non-hydroponic situation …something akin to a large tray of fertile manure and allow it to grow to full maturity and produce seeds to be harvested for the next batch of fodder sprouts ?

    • David says:

      Just taking a mature fodder mat, as is, and planting it would not be very successfully due to the seed density we use during a “sprouting application”. If you did desire to use your sprouts as “starts” for planting, at a minimum you would have to break the mat up into small chunks so that the plants are no longer crowded together. If you placed a fodder mat out to simply grow to maturity, you’d find small, underdeveloped seed heads at the end of the season. If you desire growing your own barley for harvest, the best bet is simply to pre-soak your grain to trigger germination, and broadcast that seed over an area for planting, cover with straw mulch for added protection from birds, or actually plant the seeds 1/2″-1″ into the ground in holes about 2-4″ apart.

  65. Nikhil says:

    We did a small trial in our home with maize / corn seed.
    The room temp was around 78 degrees F with 60-70% humidity.
    We used 8 kgs of grain and watered using flood method for first 4 days and spray next 3 days. Watering was 4 times a day, 6 am, 11 am, 4 pm, 8 pm.
    There was just a small window for light.
    Result was good with no mold or fungus issues.

    However, the yield from 8 kg was around 24 kg only. It was less than what I have heard from you and others. I have read commercial systems talk about 6 times yield. Can you help out with what could have been the issue for less yield?


    • David says:

      I do not really have experience with sprouting maize/corn, so do not exactly know if the ratio of return will be the same as with, say, sprouting a cereal grain. That said, perhaps your density of seed was too great, or not enough, in the trays that you used. Try different amounts of seed to start with and see if your results vary.

  66. prof Dr Osama Hassan says:

    Dear sir
    I have been over a year ago investigating the subject of barely sprouting and I have had some trials that seemed interesting too.
    I have had some emails contacts with producers of the technology involved wether in Europe or even in China. I got the impression from reading about your experience that automation systems are not necessarily the key for success. Further automation which is central for controlling the temperature and humidity is not mandatory. Can you really tell a out?!
    Do you really need to have wall isolation, air cooling etc.
    Waiting for your response by email.
    Best regards.

    • David says:

      Sprouting for Fodder mat production is a delicate dance between the creation of a live sprout and controlling the decay rate of the discarded seed hulls, which is where molds take hold. Many variables are at play which can affect the success and outcome of a sprouting application. Tray design and irrigation approach/drainage is first and foremost important. However, one must also provide a dedicated space for sprouting that can be climate controlled for the ideal pocket of operation for your local conditions. My fodder room is a dedicated space with a heater for the winter, and an A/C unit for cooling during the summer (if sprouting through the summer). It also has a fan to keep air circulating. Humidity, as the weatherman likes to say, is all “relative”. I can have equal success sprouting at 20% humidity or up to 78% humidity, which I’ve measured. I judge the humidity level of my room based on its evaporative rate. The litmus test for me is to watch the shoots of latter days growth for water droplets. If there are water droplets at the tops, then the sprout is respiring faster than the room can evaporate it away. More air circulation is usually the answer, but a vent may be necessary for the room too. Basically as that water falls to the seed bed, it encourages the seed hulls to get mushy and decay faster. With my true flood and drain approach, the irrigation waters for a short period of time until it reaches a designated flood zone. That flood zone doesn’t change throughout the grow cycle. What does change is that the root mat formation lifts the seed bed, with its discarded hulls, up and out of the flood zone. Thus, reducing agitation and the decay rate and giving the leverage over mold formation. So, if you have water droplets falling from above, or an irrigation method that mists or sprays, you have to maintain tighter controls over the evaporative rate of the grow space.

  67. Nikhil says:

    We are from India and have developed own solution from your ideas,
    We are doing hydroponic fodder from maize/corn in our own home based setup.
    Room temp varies from 21 degrees Celsius to 26 degrees, humidity is always around 70%.
    We are able to get only 3 kg grass from 1 kg grain after 8 days.
    Soaking is done for 12 hrs and Watering is 4 times a day. Fortunately, there is not much of fungus / mold problem, but yield is still less.
    Is it possible to identify where we are going wrong and how to increase the yield?

    • David says:

      I do not have experience in sprouting corn/maize, but, in similar instances of lower yields with barley or wheat, sometimes, all other factors being equal, it can be your initial soak times which impact your yields due to poor germination rates.

      If your pre-soak procedures are currently 12 hours, you can simply try to reduce the time soaking. This is especially true if the ambient temperature that the seed is being soaked in is warmer than the typically cooler grow room. Warmer soak water can oversoak your grain (or corn). Cooler water will allow for longer soak times.

      In addition, be cautious about how many pounds of corn you are soaking at once. For example, if soaking in a 5 gallon bucket, anything over 20lbs of seed soaking for an extended period of time will cause seed compression in the bucket. That will mean the seeds at the bottom will not germinate from being compressed too much by the weight above. One way around this is to add an air compressor with an air stone that is powerful enough to keep the seed in the soak bucket agitating so that they don’t settle. However, the easier option is to soak less in a bucket and add more soak buckets.

      All that being said, I do not know if the yield rate for corn is similar or less than the same yield rate typically experienced with cereal grains like barley. A 3x return for corn may be more the norm compared to the typical 5x return in weight from barley.

      • Jean-Paul says:

        Hi there, if you want to get a much better yield increase you need to soak your corn for 24hours, then after that, subject the soaked seeds to a 48 hour incubation process in a bucket or tray with drainage holes where you water at least three times in a day to wash off starch residues and prevent mould from forming. Make sure you cover the tray with a lid or black plastic bag, or polythene. After the 48 hours, place the already sprouting seeds onto your trays and water three times as you’ve been doing. The incubation process will give you 99.99 percent germination and a much better increase in yield. The incubation process must be carried out at room temperature, though anything higher works just fine. You should be in position to get between 6 to 10 times increase in yield from 1kg. The trick is also to give 2 litres of water per kg of corn, so if you put 2kgs of dry seed, you should give it 2 litres of water per watering cycle. Hope this helped.

  68. Pingback: Barley Fodder System | Symbi Biological

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  70. - says:

    Iam very pleased….
    How can I replace barley grains with barley spouts for feeding goats

    • David says:

      For goats you can typically figure between 2-3% of their body weight in fodder and 1-2% in hay per day as your production goal. Then, design a system to the size you require. Using our approach and trays, produces 25+lbs from 5lbs of barley per tray. A 20 tray system, given some assumptions for set up and cycles, can produce 50+lbs of sprouts per day.

  71. Titus says:

    can chicken or goats feed on this fodder alone?

  72. Reblogged this on 2 Boys 1 Homestead and commented:
    A great idea for feeding your flock!

  73. Dawn says:

    Is there a particular species of barley seed that make better fodder? I can grow my own fields of barley and store it in the silo I have. Or I can buy from a local mill in 1 ton totes for $220 per ton…put I suspect I can get that cost down to $60 per ton if I grow it myself.

  74. Ramandeep says:

    I would like to know what are the demerits of using treated seeds. I bought sowing quality barley seeds as I thought they would have better germination. However I have found both you and other people suggesting to stay away from such seeds.
    Is there any way I can remove that treatment by cleaning/washing them and use those seeds.

    • David says:

      Grain seeds for conventional planting are sometimes treated with a fungicide.
      Typically it is dyed pink or red so that it stains the seed.
      This is meant so as it will not be mistaken for feed and given to animals to eat.
      Treated seeds are not meant to be ingested; they are meant to be planted.
      The danger in trying to soak or wash treated seeds is multi-fold:
      – washing the seed concentrates the fungicide into a water solution
      – handling this or skin contact can be dangerous for the human
      – the effectiveness of washing chemicals from a grain hull is uncertain. There may be some toxicity still on the hull post germination. The concentrations of which in fodder mats would be dangerous for animals.

      • Ramandeep says:

        I’ll try to exchange them for normal feed quality barley.
        I am trying to build an ebb and flow system. I’ll keep you guys updated with my progress. My setup is going to be in a 250m2 polyhouse outdoors and will be an year round operation. The polyhouse will have fans to control the humidity but the temperature will be difficult to control. We don’t get very high temperatures but it does get cold in winters. No snow but temperatures do get down to -2°C at night. Lots of sunlight for warmth during the day though.

  75. Gerald Kelly says:


    I bought 3 48# bags of field grade barley from a local seed supplier for $21 each. It seemed like a good deal compared to other prices I’ve seen. When you mentioned you bought 1150# for $200 that is quite a bit cheaper. Where would you recommend we buy good seed for barley fodder? In Vernon NY there is a supplier called Pohls. very friendly place.

    any advice appreciated.

    • David says:

      For our local/regional area, we contact a Feed/grain mill located out here. Typically, barley is running at around $.25 per lb.

      For your area, contact your university extension agency for sourcing grain by the ton. They should know your regional farm suppliers.

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  77. Mike genaw says:

    Is there a difference in fodder seed vs regular ie alphalfa, barley etc.

    • David says:

      Yes. Seed size.
      Grains are typically used because it is not only less density in the tray, but too small a seed becomes difficult to sprout into large mats.
      Typically, those who would like to sprout other seeds than grains for a different nutritional profile, will still start with a wheat or barley grain as the mat base, and then add other seed like, Clover, alfalfa, etc. even field peas. But all those are usually added at a much lower rate than the bulk of grain making the mat.

  78. peggy says:

    David, thanks for your reply to my question. Which of your blogs describes how to use your system. I’m looking for a non-labor intensive system that isn’t too expensive.

    also, do you have any experience with animals scouring when eating fodder and alfalfa together?

    • David says:

      For alpacas, alfalfa tends to be too rich.
      We feed orchard grass hay.
      We hardly have health problems with our herd.
      Prior, we did experience more mouth abscesses with a pellet/hay diet, and increased parasite loads.
      Once we switched over to a fodder/hay strategy, lots of problems went away.

    • David says:

      Read through the other Barley Fodder posts on our blog here on WordPress.
      Be sure to page through the comments, many questions answered there over time too.
      Also, visit our Facebook page and check out the photo albums. There is one titled, ‘Our Fodder Room’ with lots of close ups.

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  80. Jimmy says:

    Hi, how do the tray look like? I mean does it have holes on one side where it slants to drain water or at the bottom for direct drain as you water seeds?

  81. Joy says:

    I plan on getting laying hens this summer and would love to do this for the winter months..just curious do you need other food or would the fodder be enough feed for them?

    • David says:

      We feed a 4 day sprout to our poultry instead of a 9 day sprout which we find wastes more for them. We’ll simply use soaking buckets and let the grain sprout in the bucket, rather than using our grow tray approach for a fodder at for our ruminants.
      The main diet for our poultry is always foraging and good pasture. Secondary to that is the sprouted grains. Given this approach, we have not had to add any other feed stuff to our poultry diets.

  82. Amanda says:

    Thank you for this post I will definitely be trying this. I just have one question, how many are in your herd?

    • David says:

      Our herd numbers vary, but we produce enough feed for 25-30 alpacas on a daily basis. Our current herd is 16 alpacas and a llama.


    Thanks for the subject. I am starting a backyard goat keeping project and had been advised to produce Hydroponic feed but could not know how to start. This page has helped me a lot although in my area I cannot find barley but I will use maize or sorgum seed. Would you have a feeding ratio (kgs fodder0 to kgs goat’s live weight? Thanks again and bye for now

  84. Aloha! I have a sprouting machine that I bought from Fodder Solutions in Australia about 6 or 7 years ago. I grow barley sprouts for my 3 horses and for our ducks, chickens, geese, and 2 goats. My unit is very similar to the one shown at except that it is not mobile. My water supply is fed in from our municipal water system with the pressure reduced. We have a locally purchased room airconditioner unit which is installed on the top of the unit and
    I often say that running a sprouter is a little like running a nuclear power plant in that you have to get the various parameter right all the time. I know that I can consistently produce lovely clean mat of barley sprouts with a thick layer of clean white roots with no mold or mildew if I get it all right.
    That is:
    -The temperature in the box must be between 68 and 72 degrees F for barley.
    -All the Naan Dan Jain sprinklers must not be plugged and must flow freely in the “on” cycle.
    -The workable spray cycle for me is 30 seconds of spray every 60 minutes.
    -One must check things each day to make sure that none of the sprinklers have water flowing in the off cycle. This usually comes from some particles in the water that get stuck on the seal of the solenoid valve that is controlled by the cycle timer. If a sprinkler is leaking onto the sprouts all the time, that area will get anerobic and spoiled. The sprouts need to dry out between on cycles. It’s easy enough just to take the solenoid valve, making sure not to lose the spring which will jump out if you are not careful.Then you can scrape any particles off the rubber seal and reassemble the unit.
    -I use a cut off plastic bottle as my measure for the seeds. I tend to go with light seed loads rather than heavy. If your load is too heavy, the root mat may be too deep and that also causes things to get anerobic. I’m pretty good at throw/dumping the barley seeds on the tray such that they are evenly distributed. Then it takes a small amount of smoothing with a flat hand and a quick back and forth jiggle to get the seed load flat and evenly distributed.
    -It’s also important to treat each new load of barley with something to remove mold spores, etc. I don’t presoak seeds. I found that to be way too much work. I do treat the seed when it is on the trays in the unit, by opening up a big valve of a PVC unit that my husband built for me. The dosing unit is about 3 feet tall, and the incoming City water goes through this unit before going to a filter and the solenoid valves. I drop a briquet or 2 of calcium hypochlorite into the dosing unit, then close the valve. Then I run two 30 second spray cycles. This is important because it decontaminates the new seed surfaces, AND it helps to prevent the sticky goo that the seed produces when germinating, so that the sticky goo does not create anerobic areas that spoil during the sprouting. The calcium hypochlorite is used by the pool industry. Of course you need to avoid breathing in chlorine fumes when you do this.
    -With my type of system, it is good to have an emergency power supply in case of a power failure. We have a diesel generator for our whole farm, because we also raise fish and they quickly exhaust the oxygen in their water. In a pinch though, I have had to run dechlorinated municipal city water through the fish tanks and have propped the sprouter doors open and sprayed the sprouts with a sprayer on a garden hose. Hopefully that doesn’t happen too often.
    I hope this is helpful!

    While I am preparing the sprouts for my horses they try to get my attention for an advance snack. If I don’t do that, they work at the gate to see if they can get through to me. Also, we have school groups who come to the farm and love to feed the animals. I cut the sprouts mat into squares with a serrated sickle. I tell each kid to make a fist around the green part of the sprout and stick the white part on the horse’s nose. So far no eaten fingers.

    • David says:

      A Fodder Solutions commercial system is one of the nicer ones on the market, and you are correct in that it is a bit like running a nuclear reactor to stay in that ideal ‘pocket of operation.’

      These are all great insights into your operation, and will certainly help others who are doing their diligence on the topic. I’m a classically trained Systems Analyst and the only other aspects I’d add to your observations are how dynamic these parameters are in differing locales and climates as well. For example, in the PacNorWest wet, temperate rainforest, our grow room temps are best at a lower range; different yeasts and bacterias that like colder conditions.

      I like to say there are many ways to skin the cat when it comes to Sprouting. Different irrigation styles, grow environments, and even seed can all get a livestock owner to that desirable protein percentage. What is most important is to recognize there may be variations where one may have to adapt given approaches to their operation.

      The onus then, becomes upon you and I to share our observations and experience so that we can position others for success as well. So, thank you for taking the time to share your collection of insights so concisely! Well done!

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  86. Amir says:

    Hey hi. Nice thing there. Was wondering if these can be fed to chicks (baby chickens) and how long will they stay fresh after harvesting. And how much should I feed these to chicks and chicken.

    Will this be enough for commercial purpose poultry or would we need to feed grains as well?

    Thanks in advance

    • David says:

      Baby chicks need a starter feed before sprouted grains can be fed.
      For poultry, a 4-5 day sprout is better than a 7-9 day sprout, the latter being more suitable to ruminants.
      Sprouts are one portion of a total diet. For our poultry, their main diet consists of good pasture and foraging, supplemented with sprouted grains.

    • Eliabeth says:

      I am not a poultry pro, so my comments re feeding chickens and chicks, are based on my amateur experience and observations. Since chickens have to grind up their feed in their crops, I aim to ensure that the are not getting too much fiber as in a sprout that is too long and fibrous, and that I made sure that they have the right size of grit and not too much of it. This is particularly true of chicks. I tend to feed chicks pelleted grain and give them duck weed or azolla that I grow in my aquaponic system so they don’t get blocked up. I don’t give them sprouts till I feel confident they can handle them.

      • David says:

        We feed poultry a 4 day sprout vs. a 9 day sprout which is more suitable for ruminants. One correction though as a 7-9 day sprout actually lacks fiber content. We would not feed older sprouts to baby chicks as you point out, they need grit to help grind it up. A sprouted grain vs. an actual microgreen is definitely more effective for poultry and can be done with buckets vs. grow tray systems.

  87. Marsha says:

    I am having an issue getting barley outside of winter. Can you purchase barley in the winter when it’s plentiful and store it to make fodder throughout the year. Will it still germinate as quick or will germination I’ve increase

    • David says:

      The advantage with whole grains, like barley, over pelleted grain rations, is that of storability. Grains are nature’s storage vault and are meant to last a couple years or longer when properly stored, with minimal germination rate loss. We purchase a full year’s supply of grain, like we do with purchasing our hay. (That’s not something that can be done with pellets. They would got stale and mold quicker).
      Over time, germination rates do decline as stored grains dry out, but within 1 year, there is little degradation with good quality seed.
      While we store our grain in the 50lb grain sacks, stack on a pallet, some will opt for using 55gal barrels and lids too to maintain freshness.

  88. srilakshmi says:

    Good information and useful instructions they amazing. You did a great job on this topic, I have read your posts they amazing and very help us.Thanks for sharing this information.
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  89. i am having a completely different problem. My hens just don’t seem interested in the greens that i have been sprouting and feeding them. The sprouted greens just lie in the feeding container, untouched. Do i need to chop this into tiny pieces? Yet they go for plants that are growing in the soil, so i do wonder if that is a solution? Am i giving too much of their regular feed, and so they feel full? But they move around the run looking at something to peck.

    • David says:

      For our alpacas, which are ruminants, we feed a grassy sprout, 7-9 days.
      For poultry, a shorter duration sprout, 4 day, works better.
      See our Facebook page for a photo album on our use of buckets to sprout for poultry.

  90. gerald williams says:

    In the ab and Flow Trey do you tilt it so the water isn’t stagnated?

    • David says:

      Our trays are designed specifically for no tilting.
      They sit flat and level on a sturdy shelf.
      The design of our tray features raised center sections, surrounded by lower drain channels, that lead to and even lower recessed drain fitting at the end of the tray.
      The seed, against the drain cap, causes water to back up in the tray to create a flood zone that is of equal height across the entire length of the tray.
      When the irrigation stops, the remaining water continues to drain and fall into the drain channels; what’s left behind is negligible.
      There is never any stagnation when irrigating with fresh water.
      The benefit of an established flood zone is two fold:
      -keeping seeds soaked, washed, and drained when germinating in the early days,
      -allowing roots to lift the seed bed up, and out, of the flood zone in later days, for better leverage in mold control. (Hulls decay quicker when constantly wet; overhead irrigation can quicken this, ebb and flow flood zone slows it down.)
      No tilting required.

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  93. Pamela Dixon says:

    Every time I try to start barley sprouts it gets real smelly and rancid. I end up throwing it out. What am I doing wrong

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