The Prairie Homestead http://www.theprairiehomestead.com Homesteading | Self Sufficient Living | Living off the Land Tue, 02 Feb 2016 00:47:04 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.4.2 DIY Fodder System for Animalshttp://www.theprairiehomestead.com/2016/02/fodder-system.html http://www.theprairiehomestead.com/2016/02/fodder-system.html#comments Tue, 02 Feb 2016 00:47:04 +0000 http://www.theprairiehomestead.com/?p=15916 I’ve recently become enamored with the concept of growing fodder for animals. Not only is it simple enough for even the smallest-scale homesteader to accomplish, it’s incredibly cost-effective. I’m thrilled to have my homesteading neighbor, Jana from Celtic Prairie Farm sharing her knowledge with us today! Hiya! I’m Jana from Celtic Prairie Farm. I’m so […]

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diy fodder system for animals

I’ve recently become enamored with the concept of growing fodder for animals. Not only is it simple enough for even the smallest-scale homesteader to accomplish, it’s incredibly cost-effective. I’m thrilled to have my homesteading neighbor, Jana from Celtic Prairie Farm sharing her knowledge with us today!

Hiya! I’m Jana from Celtic Prairie Farm. I’m so pleased to be Jill’s guest blogger today and to have the opportunity to share our homemade fodder system. If you’re needing an economical, highly nutritious way to feed your homestead critters, a small scale fodder system may be just what you’re looking for.

Fodder is simply any food grown for livestock. So when we needed a way to supplement our animals’ nutritional during the long Wyoming winter, growing our own fodder became the obvious solution, particularly when the hay we purchase may not be the best quality. Having fodder growing in the dining room also takes care of my gardener’s need to be growing something year round.

Fodder is nearly completely digestible, so a whole lot more of your feed budget benefits the animal instead going straight through the ground!
When the grain is sprouted, and grown hydroponically, nearly all the starch in the grain is converted to sugar and is better utilized by the animal’s rumen. The best part is that the whole process, from sprout to ready-to-feed-fodder only takes a 6-8 days. Quick! Then the animals eat everything, including the sprouts, the seeds and the roots so nothing is wasted! You can even put it in your own smoothies!

Building Your Own Fodder System

Unless you have a large budget and a lot of animals, there aren’t many affordable fodder systems available for the small family farm. Since we didn’t want to spend a couple thousand dollars on a fodder system, we started searching the hive-mind of the internet for ways to make our own. We came across several websites and YouTube videos and eventually settled on a hybrid version that we’re still tweaking a bit to suit our growing situation and the animal’s needs.

We built a pretty simple rack using pvc pipe that fits the standard black heavy duty 10″x20″ seedling gardening trays, with 12-16 small holes drilled evenly in the bottom of the trays. Take note though, the standard trays that you normally get are pretty flimsy and won’t hold up to several pounds of fodder without cracking on the corners after only a few uses. Try to find heavy duty trays, either at your local garden center or online.

Fodder rack

Many different types of grain can be grown for fodder including barley, oats, wheat, or even sunflower seeds. Wheat is readily available for us since one of our neighbors is an organic wheat farmer. Score!!

We start by soaking our wheat in a bucket for 12-24 hrs. We drilled a bunch of tiny holes into the bottom of a 5 gallon bucket, then put that bucket inside another. That way, when you lift the first bucket at the end of the soaking period, the water drains easily. If you agitate the wheat after it settles and sinks into the water, the chaff will float to the top. Skim that off since it won’t sprout and you don’t want that in your trays.

After the soak, spread about 5 cups of soaked grain in a tray. I use a 3″ putty knife as a seed spreader rather than my hands, so the natural oils on my skin don’t come in contact with the wheat seed. You can spend a ridiculous amount of time trying to get it all even in the tray, but just do the best you can. After all, its not one of those sand, zen garden desk things with the little rake. The goal to to get the grain to a depth of about 1/4″-1/2″ in the bottom of the tray. Too much and it won’t all sprout. Too little and you won’t have the yield that you want for your growing time. About 5 pounds of dry wheat yields approximately 25 pounds of finished fodder depending upon how clean the grain is, the temperature of your growing area, watering etc.. Check out the progression:
Fodder Collage

Our fodder is watered gently, 4 times per day, enough so that the seeds stay moist, but there isn’t any standing water in the trays. Standing water will cause mold and odors. Many sources suggest using a small pond pump in the catch basin at the bottom of the rack to recycle the water back up through the plastic tubing to drip through the trays more than once. However, we found that recycling the water caused mold, slimy fodder mats and a foul odor. Instead we’re currently using a 5 gallon bucket filled with clean water for the pump to deliver water to the top of the rack and drip throughout the trays, down to the basin at the bottom. About once per week, we pump out the used water into the lilac bushes in the yard.

The animals love it! A general rule of thumb is to feed 1-2% of an animal’s body weight in fodder. So you’d feed a 500# steer between 5-10 pounds of fodder, or 1-2 trays. Its important also, to keep plenty of hay available. Fodder isn’t meant to be fed by itself since ruminants still need hay for roughage. It took a few days for the animals to catch on to the fact that wheat fodder is sweet and yummy, but now they wait at the fence for fodder delivery! Even the chickens like it.

chicken fodder

The sheep crowd around and jostle for the best feeding position!

sheep fodder

And the cattle munch it right down!

cow fodder 2

A small scale fodder system might be a great option for your small homestead livestock including cattle, sheep, goats, rabbits, chickens and even guinea pigs!

Other Posts You Might Enjoy:

growing fodder for animals

profile thumbnail

 

You can find Jana over at Celtic Prairie Farm, where she and family work toward self-sufficiency by gardening, preserving food, raising Irish Dexter cattle as well as Icelandic sheep and chickens. She also knits obsessively while binge watching Netflix in the middle of the night. You can also follow Celtic Prairie Farm on Facebook and Instagram.

References:

http://wcroc.cfans.umn.edu/fodder
http://www.motherearthnews.com/homesteading-and-livestock/sprouted-fodder.aspx
http://blogs.cornell.edu/organicdairyinitiative/files/2014/05/Hydroponicfodder-article-11wpnm0.pdf
https://mosesorganic.org/farming/farming-topics/livestock/sprouted-barley-fodder-a-revolution-in-animal-feed/
HPH 18 tray Hydroponic Fodder System Plans and Growing Instructions (Half-Pint Homestead Plans and Instructions Series Book 4)

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Crock Pot Taco Meathttp://www.theprairiehomestead.com/2016/01/crock-pot-taco-meat.html http://www.theprairiehomestead.com/2016/01/crock-pot-taco-meat.html#comments Wed, 27 Jan 2016 12:40:08 +0000 http://www.theprairiehomestead.com/?p=15918 There’s nothing like a kitchen remodel… … to give you a whole new appreciation for easy meals. Ah heck… who am I kidding. I always appreciate a simple supper, remodel or not, because our homesteading life continually keeps us hopping in one way or another. Taco meat isn’t something I consider complicated in the first place, […]

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crock pot taco meat recipeThere’s nothing like a kitchen remodel…

… to give you a whole new appreciation for easy meals.

Ah heck… who am I kidding. I always appreciate a simple supper, remodel or not, because our homesteading life continually keeps us hopping in one way or another.

Taco meat isn’t something I consider complicated in the first place, but I’ve recently started making it in the slow cooker, which has elevated it to a whole ‘nother level of EASY.

The best part? You can toss a big ol’ frozen brick of ground beef in there and you don’t even have to thaw it first. If you’ve read my bean canning tutorial, then you know how much I struggle with the whole concept of defrosting…

Crock pot taco meat is simple, juicy, and packed full of flavor. You’re gonna love this.

slow cooker taco meat recipe

Crock Pot Taco Meat Recipe

  • 2 lbs ground beef (frozen is fine)
  • 1.5 cups of diced tomatoes with juice (or one 14.5 oz can)
  • 1 cup mild green chilis, diced (or one 7 oz can)
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1.5 teaspoons sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1.5 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Instructions:

Place all ingredients in a slow cooker.

Cook for 2-4 hours on HIGH until the meat is completely brown. Checking it once or twice to give it a stir and to break up the meat. If it finished cooking before you need it, turn the crock pot down to LOW or WARM until you’re ready to eat.

If you are planning ahead, you can cook the taco meat on LOW for 6-8 hours.

Serve with tortillas (here’s my homemade tortilla recipe if you want to give it a try), shredded lettuce, shredded cheese, homemade sour cream, and a side of refried beans.

taco-meatTaco Meat Notes

  • I always cook up 2 lbs of beef at a time so we have leftovers. However, if you only want to use 1 lb, this recipe can easily be halved.
  • Our homegrown beef isn’t very fatty, and I usually tell the butcher to grind it pretty lean anyway, so I never need to strain off fat. However, if you’re using ground beef that’s very fatty, you can strain off some of the fat before serving.
  • If you have thawed ground beef, you can totally use that too. Just reduce the cooking time.
  • You can totally freeze this for later if you wish.

5.0 from 2 reviews
Crock Pot Taco Meat
Author: 
Recipe type: Main Dish- Beef
Cuisine: Latin
Prep time: 
Total time: 
 
Ingredients
  • 2 lbs ground beef (frozen is fine)
  • 1.5 cups of diced tomatoes with juice (or one 14.5 oz can)
  • 1 cup mild green chilis, diced (or one 7 oz can)
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1.5 teaspoons sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1.5 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
Instructions
  1. Place all ingredients in a slow cooker.
  2. Cook for 2-4 hours on HIGH until the meat is completely brown. Checking it once or twice to give it a stir and to break up the meat. If it finished cooking before you need it, turn the crock pot down to LOW or WARM until you're ready to eat.
  3. If you are planning ahead, you can cook the taco meat on LOW for 6-8 hours.

how to make taco meat in the crock pot. Super easy

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Homemade Suet Cakes for Chickenshttp://www.theprairiehomestead.com/2016/01/homemade-suet-cakes.html http://www.theprairiehomestead.com/2016/01/homemade-suet-cakes.html#comments Thu, 21 Jan 2016 00:09:04 +0000 http://www.theprairiehomestead.com/?p=15838 If you ever visit my chicken coop, don’t expect to see any chandeliers… I’ll admit, they do look kinda cool, but I tend to be somewhat of a minimalist when it comes to chicken keeping. I prefer to stick to the basics (that means no chicken sweaters either…). Heck, my flock doesn’t even have names, other than […]

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how to make suet cakes for chickens

If you ever visit my chicken coop, don’t expect to see any chandeliers…

I’ll admit, they do look kinda cool, but I tend to be somewhat of a minimalist when it comes to chicken keeping.

I prefer to stick to the basics (that means no chicken sweaters either…). Heck, my flock doesn’t even have names, other than the rooster, which the Prairie Kids named “Chicken Nugget”.

That being said, I do like to provide them with a little bit of extra nutrition in the winter when they can’t be out foraging for lovely bugs and green stuff. Our long, cold Wyoming winters wear on everyone after a while, even the critters.

These homemade suet cakes are modeled after the ones offered to wild birds. My version uses tallow and is an excellent way to offer your flock a bit of extra fat and energy, especially during the winter months.

how to make suet cakes for chickens

Homemade Suet Cakes for Chickens

  • 1 ½ cups melted tallow, lard, or meat drippings
  • 1 cup unsalted sunflower seeds (in the shell)
  • 1 cup dried fruit (cranberries, raisins, chopped apples, etc)
  • 1 cup whole grains (scratch mix, whole wheat, or millet are ideal)

Instructions

  1. Line a nine-by-five inch loaf pan (or any similar sized pan) with parchment paper or foil. Mix the seeds, fruit, and grains together, and place in the pan.
  2. Cover the dry ingredients completely with the liquid fat. You may need to mash everything around with a fork to make sure there are no air bubbles.
  3. Allow the cake to harden completely. You can speed up this process by sticking it in the refrigerator for a while.
  4. Remove it from the pan by lifting up on the liner to pop it out. You can cut it into several pieces, or feed the whole thing at once by either tossing it in a feed pan, or pinning it to the wall like I did with a scrap of chicken wire.

suet-cake-holder

Suet Cake Notes:

  • This recipe is extremely flexible. Don’t hesitate to play around with it!
  • Some other ingredients that would make great additions or substitutions to this recipe would be unsalted nuts or peanut butter. You can also sprinkle in spices and herbs such as garlic powder or cayenne pepper, oregano, rosemary, etc.
  • If you don’t butcher your own animals, see if you can purchase fat trimmings or suet from your local butcher shop. Here is my tallow-rendering tutorial.
  • Looking for other cool ways to use tallow? Check out my tallow soap recipe, my tallow candle tutorial, and how to make the best french fries ever with tallow.
  • Another option is to save the fat that you drain from frying up hamburger and sausage. Store it in the freezer until you have enough to make this recipe. A little bit of bacon grease is fine, but I would avoid using large amounts because of the nitrates and sodium it contains.

homemade suet cake block for chickens

5.0 from 1 reviews
Homemade Suet Cakes for Chickens
Author: 
Recipe type: Barnyard
 
Ingredients
  • 1 ½ cups melted tallow, lard, or meat drippings
  • 1 cup unsalted sunflower seeds (in the shell)
  • 1 cup dried fruit (cranberries, raisins, chopped apples, etc)
  • 1 cup whole grains (scratch mix, whole wheat, or millet are ideal)
Instructions
  1. Line a nine-by-five inch loaf pan (or any similar sized pan) with parchment paper, foil, or plastic wrap. Mix the seeds, fruit, and grains together, and place in the pan.
  2. Cover the dry ingredients completely with the liquid fat. You may need to mash everything around with a fork to make sure there are no air bubbles.
  3. Allow to harden completely. You can speed up this process by sticking it in the refrigerator for a while.
  4. Remove it from the pan by lifting up on the liner to pop it out. You can cut it into several pieces, or feed the whole thing at once.

homemade suet cake block for chickens

Other Chicken Posts You’ll Enjoy

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Managing Homestead Livestock in Winterhttp://www.theprairiehomestead.com/2016/01/managing-livestock-in-the-winter.html http://www.theprairiehomestead.com/2016/01/managing-livestock-in-the-winter.html#comments Thu, 14 Jan 2016 18:02:34 +0000 http://www.theprairiehomestead.com/?p=15788 Why do I feel qualified to write about this topic? Well, because of this: And this: Oh yeah, and this: Living in Wyoming for the last 12 years has given me what feels like a PhD in “Homesteading in a Location with Insanely Crazy Winters”. The coursework includes: How to chop ice when you’re 8 […]

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horses eating hay in snow

Why do I feel qualified to write about this topic?

Well, because of this:

cattle in snow

And this:

wyoming blizzard aftermath
(Our house and coop are no longer yellow, by the way. Hallelujah.)

Oh yeah, and this:

barn in snow drift

Living in Wyoming for the last 12 years has given me what feels like a PhD in “Homesteading in a Location with Insanely Crazy Winters”.

The coursework includes:

  • How to chop ice when you’re 8 months pregnant
  • How to climb through thigh-high snow drifts while carrying a handful of eggs
  • What to do with cow pies that are completely frozen to the ground (I got an F on this one….)
  • How NOT to let the hydrants freeze solid so you have to carry buckets of water from the house

Good times, eh?

winter-homesteading-1

Now, I’m not complaining (well, just a little bit, maybe…), as I’m admittedly one of those crazy people who chooses to live in windy ol’ Wyoming, but learning to keep animals thriving during the dead of winter takes some special considerations. Let’s chat about those today.

Managing Homestead Livestock in the Winter

bales of hay in barn

Feeding

We don’t do a lot of extra fancy feeds during the winter, but we do make sure our animals have plenty of hay available at all times.

The process of digesting roughage helps keep horses and cattle warm, so it’s important they have plenty of roughage (hay) available to munch on throughout the day.

While our cattle will pick at the pasture grass a bit during the winter, we don’t have enough land to support them all winter long, so we feed large round bales of grass hay during the winter.

cows with round bale feeder
Don’t let the goats fool you… they aren’t stuck.

Back in the day, we fed small square bales. However, getting a tractor has allowed us to feed large bales instead, which saves us a lot of work. Depending on how many animals we have at any given time, we have to put out a new bale about every 5-6 days. The main downside of feeding large bales is the amount of waste that is produced as the animals tromp on the hay, but it just comes with the territory (and goes in the compost pile).

When I lock up Oakley the milk cow at night (I’m milking her once per day right now), I usually give her extra hay (or even some alfalfa hay) and sometimes grain since she needs more calories than our fat and sassy beef cattle.

hydrant in snow

Water

Watering in the winter when it’s consistently below zero = not my idea of a good time. Although animals might not drink as much water as they do during the summer, they will drink more than you think, and it’s important they have consistent access to it. (Especially the milk cow!)

I would greatly encourage you to invest in the tools you need to prevent yourself from having to haul water from the house. Because:

a) Ain’t nobody got time to do that multiple times per day, all winter long. Especially if you have larger animals who need many gallons at once.

b) If you have to haul buckets, it’s easy to skimp on the water you’re providing, and the animals might not be getting as much as they need.

stock tank in winter with heater

We use a tank heater in our big stock tank. Yes, it uses electricity, but when the temps are below zero for weeks at a time, it’s near impossible to keep the tank from eventually freezing solid, even when you are chopping ice 2x/day.

We use a heated dog bowl for our chickens. It needs to be refilled at least once per day, but it ensures they have access to water 24/7.

If you absolutely can’t have electric water heaters, then invest in a good ax. When it’s really cold, you’ll want to chop at least twice per day to ensure you stay on top of things. Depending on how thick the ice is, you might need to remove the big chunks so there is room for the fresh water.

wyoming barn in snow

Shelter

Sometimes when I post pictures of our winter homesteading efforts, someone will chastise me for not making sure all of our cattle have a barn to stand in.

This always makes me giggle a bit, especially when I envision building barns for the thousands and thousands of cattle that call the Wyoming prairie home.

That’s just not a possibility folks.

However, the good news is that horses, cattle, goats, sheep, you name it, don’t have to have a barn to survive during the winter. They have the most amazing coats of hair designed to keep them warm and cozy in freezing temps.

The chickens are allowed to go outside in the winter, but they usually opt to stay inside... Especially when the snow is piling up.
The chickens are allowed to go outside in the winter, but they usually opt to stay inside… Especially when the snow is piling up.

We do have a barn with room for *most* of our critters, so sometimes I’ll open it up during the worst storms. It just makes me feel better when the wind is whipping snow around outside, but it’s not a requirement.

Now it’s a little different when it comes to chickens. They do need some kind of shelter and a place to roost, but it may not need to be heated. Here’s my post and opinions on the topic of heat lamps for chickens.

What IS a requirement when it comes to shelter?

Lots of hay to eat, and if you live in a very windy place, you’ll want some sort of windbreak.

Cold temperatures are tolerable for critters (even very cold temps) as long as they have some way to get out of the wind. Windbreaks can be natural (like trees or the lay of the land) or man-made (like steel panels or wooden fences). Just make sure they have some way to escape the raging winds.

steel windbreak in wyoming for cattle

We use these steel panels in our lower pasture and you will ALWAYS find the horses or cattle standing next to them during the worst storms. The wind here always comes from either the north or west, so we positioned these accordingly.

We built wooden windbreaks into our main winter corral (see the above photo with the cows and feeder). We keep our cattle in this pen during a majority of the winter (to allow our pastures to rest) and the wooden panels provide ample shelter.

managing homestead livestock during the winter

Other Tips I’ve Learned

  • Don’t forget to keep your salt and mineral feeders full during winter. For some reason, it’s always easier for me to forget to check them during the winter months, but the animals still need the salt and nutrients.
  • If you’re using hoses to water, drain them every. single. time. Otherwise you’ll end up with a pile of dripping, thawing hose in your mudroom and it makes a mess. Ask me how I know.
  • Clean the barn as much as you can when temperatures are above freezing. Because when the cold snaps come, having mountains of poop you can’t scoop will drive you slightly batty. Ahem.
  • Invest in the right clothes. Because you’ll do a better job of completing chores when you can feel your fingers and legs. This post has the scoop on my favorite winter gear items.

managing homestead livestock in the winter

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