Do you, or do you want to, work on a farm in Hawaii? If so, you must know that feeding your farm animals the most nutritious food possible is absolutely critical. For quality eggs, milks, and meats, or just a thriving flock of happy animals, you must provide your animals with quality food.

What makes for a quality food source? You need to look for a few things when you are designing a diet for your animals. Firstly and most critically, you want to ensure that your animals are consuming enough calories. Even a nutrient-dense diet of animal super-foods will prove insufficient if your animals are deprived of essential energy. Secondly, you want to seek foods that provide the levels of protein, carbohydrates, fat, minerals, and vitamins your animals need. Finally, you must concern yourself with cost effectiveness. How much time and money is required to secure your source of food? Are you purchasing, growing, or harvesting the food? How much do you have to allot to food provision, and will your selected food source exceed these amounts?

After conducting thorough research of different feeding methods, we have decided upon creating a fodder system to supplement the diets of our pigs and chickens. Fodder is becoming increasingly popular these days, with some building their own systems and others sourcing them from larger companies. Through trial and error, we have established a fodder system for providing our pigs with an enjoyable, nutritious source of food. If you work on a farm in Hawaii, you may want to consider growing fodder too.

What is Fodder?

What is fodder? Literally speaking, fodder is defined as any source of feed for livestock. In popular terms, though, fodder is a term for sprouted grain. Though fodder systems are just recently gaining in popularity, they are anything but new. European dairy farmers began experimenting with fodder in the 19thcentury.

You can use multiple types of grain to create a fodder system. One of the most popular is barley, which is what we find to work on a farm in Hawaii. Barley stores and grows easily and is more digestible soaked and sprouted than it is dry. When the barley sprouts, it produces a bed of grass-like greenery up to seven times its initial volume. Thus, in growing fodder, we can provide “pasture” for our animals without spending money to expand our land base, emulating their natural patterns of organic foraging. Fodder proves an excellent source of beta-carotene and chlorophyll. It even helps to control parasitic overgrowth in animals that live in dry climates.

Cost Effectiveness

Fodder allows you to reap more from your physical and monetary resources. Managing your resources is critical when you work on a farm in Hawaii, as inputs are particularly expensive here. To grow fodder, we use whole barley, which is relatively cheap compared to other grains or feed sources. Because fodder is typically grown in a hydroponic system, it utilizes space not just by latitude and longitude, but also vertically. In so doing, fodder systems allow you to reap more food per unit of land than traditional pasture while still providing a pasture-like feed source. Our pigs absolutely love it.

It also requires very little time. In just an hour a day, we can provide food for over a dozen pigs and ten chickens. We do supplement our pigs’ diet with food scraps and produce, as fodder is not calorically dense enough to sustain such large animals. Pigs also need more roughage than fodder alone can provide. But it does provide the bulk of their consumption.

Health and Sustainability

Fodder is a healthier and more sustainable option. It requires very few inputs—just water, barley, and a fodder system. Fodder requires no costly amendments the way traditional farming does. Because we live in Hawaii’s warm and moist climate, we have no need for a greenhouse. Thus, it is not only cost-effective, but requires little to no input of harmful substances or chemicals. If you work on a farm in Hawaii, fodder is therefore particularly advantageous.

Fodder also eliminates the need for other feed sources, which often contain genetically modified corn or soy ingredients. When our animals consume these harmful chemicals and additives, we, too, consume them through their eggs, milk, or meat. They also enter animal waste, contaminating the natural environment. Thus, fodder will not only improve the standard of living for your animals. It will also improve your own health and the health of your land. If you sell your animal products, it will supply you with a healthier and more marketable product, increasing your revenue.

Creating Your Own Fodder System

How you choose to create your own fodder system will largely depend on your climate and the scale of your operation. Large farms in cold climates may require a temperature and moisture controlled greenhouse with large trays and both wide and tall shelving units. If you work on a farm in Hawaii at a low to moderate elevation, you may not need a greenhouse.

Because we own a small farm and live in a temperate climate, we have no need for a greenhouse. Our fodder station occupies approximately 8 x 15 feet of land. We stack two metal shelving units on top of two pallets. After soaking whole barley, we spread it out in trays about an inch deep and place the trays on the shelves. A timed watering system built into the shelves ensures that the barley stays continually moist without becoming overly hydrated. The barley is typically sufficiently sprouted and ready to use for feed within a week.

Important Considerations

We do not insulate our fodder station. We do, however, create netting “walls” to keep out birds, which sometimes like to snack on the soaking barley. Be aware that if you don’t insulate your fodder system, you are also likely to attract bees. Netting is great for aerating your station, which is necessary to prevent mold overgrowth. If mold becomes an issue, you can add sunflower seeds to the fodder. Just ensure that they do not comprise more than 5% of your feed.

Finally, be sure to create enough space to allow for overproduction. Some of your trays are bound to fail to produce. To ensure that you always have enough fodder, always sprout an extra tray or two.

Cost Calculations

Before deciding to build a fodder station, you should first conduct a thorough analysis of the costs and benefits. Consider what you are spending now on food. How much will barley cost you, and how long do you anticipate it will last considering how many animals you’re feeding? How much will it cost to build the fodder station? What do you project your water bill might be? Will your time expenditure on the feeding process increase? Compile your yearly costs, including the cost of building the fodder station, to determine your monthly cost. If that price exceeds your current food expenditure and creating a fodder station will not greatly improve the quantity and quality of your animals’ diet, you may want to reconsider. You also want to keep in mind that, while sprouted barley is voluminous, it is also water dense. Do your research. What are the specific needs of your animals? You also want to incorporate the costs of supplementary foods if necessary.

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