Fodder · Rabbits

Fodder Woes

The last several days have been … busy. I’ve had just enough time to set up the day’s fodder batch and leave for work. Upon coming home, just enough time to feed everyone and go to bed, basically. This isn’t even our busy season! Blah.

These are the stories of having a day job. 😛 I shan’t bore you with the re-telling — you probably know most of the details just from your own day.

My last main update on the Fodder was that the Leaning Tower of Fodder was no more, and it had been replaced by the Awkwardly Leaning Shelf of Fodder.

Since doing so, I discovered that the fodder was … not sprouting well. Seriously, maybe a third of the density it had been. So I’ve been troubleshooting that process.

I think part of the issue is that I lazed out (okay, the flu didn’t help encourage me to do ANYTHING) on keeping the whole house humidifier topped off. The overall house’s humidity plummeted, enough to dry out the sprouting seeds. I also expanded how much seed / trays per day (to 2, and just started to 3) I was doing, but not really increasing the overall water.

In my research into things, however, I saw several recommendations for adjustment under other circumstances. Some homesteaders don’t separate the seeds out into trays until day 3 or 4, to increase each seed’s humidity and chance for sprouting. Others start the initial sprout in traditional mini greenhouses used for starting plants inside. Others add a small amount of chlorine bleach to the initial soak water to minimize mold and bacterial growth risks.

My adjustments to all of these: I am rinsing in the morning and leaving the seeds “open air” for the day. After the evening rinse has finished dripping out, I put a lid partially on to each of the first 4-5 days’ trays. Putting the lid on for the longer period (day) increases the risk of mold spots, which then have to dry out to not be an issue.

I’m also adding a little bit of bleach to the soaking trays, adding a small amount of water, then adding the seeds. After that, I start with the mixing of seeds plus water to the right amount.

I’m also adding a second quart of water directly to the day 3 or 4 trays, instead of only letting it drip through, to ensure the seeds are flooded during that critical sprout-no sprout stage. That’s the first day they’re separated out into their separate trays, as well, so that may make a difference to the newly exposed roots. I seem to be getting better growth for that versus soaking and spreading in separate trays from the get-go.

One thing to note: There seems to be three “strata” of seeds. The top layer is drier, with poor germination. The bottom layer must be too wet, and again has poor germination. The middle layer is where all the action is occurring. So mixing up the layers also seems to help encourage a decrease of wastage, while keeping the seeds in a single container for the first couple of days increases the depth of that middle layer, and overall germination rates.

Another comment I saw is that “dark trays yield better root mats.” What I’ve done to replicate this, so far, is use some duct tape I had laying around to cover the sides and most of the bottom of some trays. I have not seen a significant difference yet, but it’s only been a few days.

So how is it working out, overall?

With these trays, 3 jars of seeds is the max they can handle for soaking. Each jar is about 15oz of dry seed (I finally weighed one properly). At three trays a day, this *should* result in approximately 17-18 days worth of fodder per 50lb bag of seed.

An adult rabbit should get 3-5% of its body weight in fodder. For a 10 pound buck, the largest rabbit I have, that’s 8oz of fodder at day 7/8. (Day 7 of growth, day 8 from soaking.)

So the math works out to: (15oz / tray) * (4 increase in growth) = 60 oz average per tray.

(60 oz/tray) / (8oz/rabbit) = 7.5 servings per tray. **

** Now, that only applies IF I’m getting the 4x growth increase. For the few days where it was barely a 2-3 growth increase, that math was definitely not in my favor. On the trays where it’s been (after draining excess water) still 5x, obviously, I’m doing better than calculated. But calculating on the lower end is best for this.

I have eleven older animals, two who are still technically juniors and growing. They need more than the seniors do. There’s also currently 4 bred does, who as they get closer to kindling, need more. There’s three litters of kits right now, all of whom are likely able to polish off a tray on their own. (At the 5% of body weight, an 8 kit litter of 4 pound kits would take a third of a tray. I can testify that they’ll demolish that or more in about five minutes. Then gather around the J-feeder for pellets.) This makes three trays … just about correct.

So the $20 bag of fodder should yield about 17 days’ worth of food, at around $1 a day. (Of course, that doesn’t count the infrastructure investment, but that eventually evens out.)

Meanwhile, at the top end of consumption for my herd (4 bucks, 7 does, 3 weaned litters), a $12.49, 50 pound bag of rabbit feed works out to being enough for … 4-5 days. (Seems about right. I carry the feed up in a 5 gallon bucket, which is approximately half a bag of feed, and have to refill the bucket every 2-3 days.) That assumes zero waste, which obviously never happens. That’s about $2.70 a day.

That works out to an approximate cost savings of $50 a month in rabbit feed. Actual savings, of course, will vary depending on fodder yield and amount of kits / litters in play.

In two months or so, that completely evens out the infrastructure costs spent on implementing this. Once it warms up, the shelf can go outside, and that will decrease the electricity costs. I intend to try to pick up a solar-powered fountain pump to run the watering aspect. I’ll still need to keep a tank filled with water with it, but that’s workable. The soaking seeds will be inside to manage. (Maybe. I might put those into the shed. I’ll figure that out in a month or two, when it’s warm enough.)

I haven’t even gotten to the point where I can feed the chickens sprouted seeds. Meh! I’m still only on the rabbits. The chickens do get the seed wastage, though, the seeds that have more or less fermented instead of sprouted in the bottom of each tray. (My calculations on actual yield have attempted to account for those, by decreasing the yield by 1x. So I’m counting it as a 4x instead of 5x.)