Barley Fodder for Alpacas: Sprouting Seed to Feed Livestock

Sprouting Seed to Feed Livestock

My barley fodder trial with sprouting seed to feed our livestock started out with a few propagation trays intent on keeping my barley fodder trial simple.  This was a good idea because I immediately learned that most of the alpacas needed time to take the plunge into the fodder feed. Each day since December 9, 2012, I’ve introduced the fodder, some as leaves and some as small fodder mats with the top part of the leaves cut off.  There are still two alpacas who are only nuzzling the barley leaves or the fodder, but the others have tried and some have embraced (with their lips) this new green stuff even when frozen. (The temperature is hovering during the day between zero and 18 degrees.)

I’ve simplified my growing procedure.  I find that thoroughly watering each tray twice a day is sufficient, and it really hasn’t mattered if I leave the seeds or fodder resting in a little water for  an hour. I always thoroughly drain the trays and empty the tray beneath each perforated tray into a bucket.  (I do make sure that the growing fodder hasn’t dried out.) Sometimes I give the trays a misting with a hand sprayer.

The Procedure

I put two or two and a half paper cups of barley seed into a perforated bucket that sits inside another bucket into which I’ve put a dash of bleach and a bunch of water so the seeds are well covered. After soaking the seeds overnight I rinse them several times in clean water by lifting the perforated bucket with seeds up and down in the fresh water in the bottom bucket. The seeds in the bucket remain in the sink in a fairly dark area for three days by which time the white roots are starting to feel their way around.

Then I transfer the rooting seeds into a propagation tray or a cat litter tray. (A plastic cat litter tray is more substantial and grows a much larger mat, yet I’m able to lift the tray for draining.) Each tray has holes drilled into one end. The tray with the holes sits inside another tray which will catch the water. I put a couple of small stones in one end of the bottom tray so as to give the top tray an angle for draining the water. This also helps me lift the top tray.

As you will see in the photos, the seeds start sprouting quickly.  So far the seeds are taking about fourteen days before the mat and leaves together are about five inches tall. I start another bucket of seeds every four days or so.

I put the cut leaves and the fodder mats in a plastic container and head to the barn. The alpacas are expecting “barley food woman” now, so I don’t have to stand for many minutes in the frigid air patiently holding the tray or a fodder mat until the alpacas sniff and try.  I’m pretty sure that all the alpacas will rush for the fodder when the temperature is warmer. I have my frozen fingers crossed.

In the meantime, I have some boy alpacas eating frozen strands and clumps of barley clinging to the wire on the gate! Much to my relief, their lips have not stuck to the metal!