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Seed Sprout Fodder System

(This article needs some cleaning up – there are duplications and some sections could be structured better – if you have time, please reach out and help us improve this article)

Intensive Sheep Production Using Barley Sprout Fodder:

Process of Barley Sprout Fodder Production:

  1. Germination: Barley seeds are soaked in water for a specific period, typically 12 to 24 hours (e.g., 12-24 hours), to initiate the germination process.
  2. Sprouting: After soaking, the seeds are spread on trays or in shallow containers. Regular rinsing and drainage are provided to maintain moisture and prevent mold growth.
  3. Growth: The seeds will start to germinate, and within a few days (e.g., 3-4 days), barley sprouts will emerge. These sprouts are young, tender, and highly nutritious.
  4. Harvesting: Once the sprouts reach the desired height (usually 12-18 cm or 5-7 inches), they are harvested and fed to the sheep.

Benefits of Intensive Sheep Production using Barley Sprout Fodder:

  1. Nutritional Value: Barley sprout fodder is highly nutritious, with rich sources of vitamins, minerals, and enzymes. The young and tender sprouts are more digestible and palatable for sheep compared to mature grains or hay.
  2. Year-round Feed: This system allows for year-round production of nutritious feed, irrespective of seasonal changes or weather conditions. It’s particularly valuable in regions with limited access to pasture or during dry periods.
  3. Reduced Feed Costs: Growing barley sprout fodder can be cost-effective as it eliminates the need for expensive feeds or supplements. Barley seeds are relatively affordable, and the rapid growth of sprouts minimizes the time and resources required for feed production.
  4. Improved Feed Conversion: The high digestibility and nutrient content of barley sprout fodder result in better feed conversion rates, leading to improved weight gain and overall growth in sheep.
  5. Water Efficiency: Hydroponic barley systems use less water compared to traditional pasture irrigation. The water is efficiently utilized by the sprouting seeds, reducing overall water consumption.
  6. Space Efficiency: Barley sprout fodder can be produced in a compact space, making it suitable for small-scale or intensive farming systems.

Potential Problems and Considerations:

  1. Mold or Contamination: If the sprouting process is not properly managed, there’s a risk of mold growth or contamination, which can be harmful to the sheep. Regular rinsing and drainage are essential to prevent mold development.
  2. Nutrient Imbalance: While barley sprout fodder is highly nutritious, it may not provide a complete diet on its own. Supplemental feeds or minerals might be necessary to ensure the sheep’s nutritional needs are met.
  3. Investment and Equipment: Setting up a hydroponic barley system requires initial investment in trays, shelving, lighting (if grown indoors), and a proper irrigation system.
  4. Time and Labor: Growing barley sprout fodder requires daily attention and maintenance, including rinsing, draining, and harvesting. This might increase labor demands compared to traditional feeding methods.
  5. Transition Period: When introducing barley sprout fodder to sheep, a gradual transition is necessary to prevent digestive disturbances.
  6. Feeding Rate: While barley sprout fodder is a valuable supplement, it should not replace all other feeds entirely. The appropriate feeding rate needs to be determined based on the sheep’s nutritional requirements and production goals.

In conclusion, intensive sheep production using barley sprout fodder can be an effective and sustainable feeding method, providing significant nutritional benefits and reducing feed costs. However, it requires careful management and consideration of potential challenges to ensure the health and well-being of the sheep. Farmers interested in adopting this system should seek guidance from experienced practitioners and adapt the approach to their specific farming conditions and objectives.

A cheap and powerful fodder for most animals. Here we discuss actually growing the fodder and the tools/methods you can use. We have another article on Intensive Sheep production where we explain such a system in use.

One of the most exciting aspects of intensive agriculture is a new production method for food for sheep. Barley seeds are spread out on an open floor or trays in a room and irrigated with sprayers or drippers for eight days. The barley sprouts are then fed to sheep. Farmers are keeping 500 to 1200 sheep in small spaces in this way.

Moreover, with the sheep being kept close, lambing and slaughtering yields are much higher than with sheep kept in camps. This production method could well be one of the bigger cash cows for the village, apart from yielding excellent meat for the braai.

The sprouts can also be fed to most other animals including Chicken, wildlife, goats, cows, horses and can even be eaten by people.

A bit about feeding

Food consists mainly of carbohydrates and protein. Both are needed. Carbohydrates give energy and protein is mostly needed to build muscle/meat. Thus the feed/fodder must have a good balance of both, otherwise the animals do not have much energy or they cannot grow meat. If the animals do not get enough of either of these two things, they will loose weight and get thin.

At the farm one tries to feed our animals with fodder that has a good balance between proteins and carbohydrates.

The Barley Sprout fodder system we explain here is a cheap fodder source which also has a very good balance between proteins and carbohydrates.

This is what the fodder looks like once fully sprouted after 7 days:

How to Develop a Fodder System to Feed Your Animals Cheaply in 6 Steps.

By Jennifer Poindexter from MorningChores website explains it like this:

Fodder is when you buy quality grains, soak them, and then allow them to grow for seven days before feeding it to your animals.

As you can tell, it is pretty simple, very inexpensive, and something we do for our animals. Which is why I’m going to share with you how to set-up your own fodder systems, and how you can begin to save on your feed bill with this healthy alternative we call fodder.

Why Grow Fodder?

There are lots of reasons to grow fodder. The first would be for the animal’s nutrition. Fodder seeds are soaked prior to growth. Therefore, they ferment and that is great for the animal’s digestion.

Then they sprout lovely green foliage which is great for nutrients to the animal.

Next, fodder saves you a lot of money. You can turn 50 N$ of seed into about 200 N$ of food. Obviously, you spend less because the food goes further.

The third reasons you might grow fodder would be because of self-sustainability. I’m a homesteader. I like being self-sufficient. Even though I live on less land, I like being able to grow and produce as much of my animals’ feed as I possibly can.

So fodder is a great solution for me because I’m able to grow it and it is also very compact to do so.

Which leads me into my final reason for growing fodder. Not only is growing fodder compact but it is also very fast. You soak seeds for 24 hours and within a week, you have a ton of food ready to feed your animals.

So I ask you this, if fodder can do only one of these things for you (and often it does all of them) why wouldn’t you grow it?

What Can You Use to Grow Fodder?

Now that you realize what an awesome thing fodder is, you might be wondering, what do I use to grow it?

Well, some of the basic options are wheat, barley, and whole oats. I’ve also known people who have sprouted sunflower seeds. Truthfully, you can sprout almost any seeds. You just stop them from growing after day 7, and you must soak them before growing. It is truly very simple.

However, I will say that my preference is wheat seed. For us, it has the best growth rate, and our animals really seem to enjoy it.

Also, we tried to sprout sunflower seeds because black oiled sunflower seeds are supposed to be very nutritious. But by the time we paid the higher price for them, and then we didn’t have a lot of luck with sprouting them, we realized they just weren’t for us.

So you’ll need to find the seeds around you at the best price and try your hand at sprouting them. You’ll find what works best for you. It just might take some trial and error until you find the right one.

What You’ll Need:

  • Trays with holes drilled in the bottom
  • Wood to create a sliding drawer system
  • An under-the-bed box

Here is a very simple instructional video – it can be as easy as this:


Buy Your Seeds

You’ll begin by buying your seeds. You can buy seeds at Agra or Feedmaster. Organic Barley seed is rare in Namibia.

Many different seeds can be used for this system, the most common one though is Barley, due to it’s excellent Protein/Carbohydrate mix.

Set-up a Soaking System

The first thing you’ll need to do is figure out how and where you are going to soak your seeds. You’ll need a container to soak them in.

So for us, we had a bunch of milk jugs that we had been saving for an herb garden project. Since we had too many, we just cut the tops off of them and began by placing two scoops of seeds into each milk jug.

Now, I have a two tower fodder system (which we’ll discuss in a minute) so I knew I needed two milk jugs because you need one jug per tower.

Once I got the seeds scooped into the milk jugs, I covered the seeds completely with water and let them sit. They’ll need to soak for about 24 hours. When you return the next day, you’ll want the seeds to be fat and the water to be virtually gone from the container.

Create Your Fodder System

Now, this is the big step. You are going to need to create a towering system. You’ll need one tray of fodder per day. I actually raise two trays because I feed one tray to my rabbits and one tray to my chickens.

However, depending upon the size of your trays and how many animals you have, you’ll need to estimate how many trays you need per day. How many trays you need, will determine how many towers you need to start. Keep in mind that animals need between 2 and 5% of their body weight in fodder per day to remain healthy.

But it will be less, if you are using fodder as a supplement. For instance, I feed my rabbits fodder, hay, and pellets. So they don’t require as much. That is the same for our chickens and any other animal I feed fodder. They all get a variety of foods.

Then you are going to create a rain chain. We built our towers from scrap wood we had. It is basically a tower with little slats for the trays to slide on like a drawer system would. Our trays are actually oil pans we purchased with holes drilled in the bottoms of them.

The fodder shelves:

The shelves can be made out of wood or plastic pipes. Most systems have 7 rows of shelves stacked on top of each other, and slanted so that the water from the top shelve flows to the second shelve, then to the third, then to the fourth etc. At bottom you put a tank so that the water can drip into your tank, from where you start watering again. This way you use the same water again and again.

Here’s a sketch on how the trays flow into one another. Note you don’t need a pump. Simply use a homemade bucket with holes in the bottom to water your sprouts three times a day, around 8h00, 13h00 and 19h00.

Next, you’ll need a tub at the bottom of the tower to catch all of the water that you are going to pour through the rain chain.

The trays:

Trays can be of plastic trays, stainless steel trays, aluminium trays or homemade trays made out of wooden frames and strong plastic sheeting. The last one is the cheapest option.

Here is a tray made out of timer poles and plastic sheeting. A size of 110 cm x 30cm wide and 5 cm high is popular.

Growing the fodder

Then you’ll pour the soaked seeds into the tub. The water will run down through the holes and water the trays beneath it. You’ll work your way down with each new day and when all of the trays are full of soaked seeds, you’ll see that the first tray (7 days later) should be tall enough to feed to your animals.

Now, you have two options when it comes to watering your fodder system. You can either water it by hand twice a day. I usually take a gallon pitcher and dump a gallon on it in the morning when I’m dumping the seeds into the trays and soaking the next days seeds.

Then my husband will water it that evening when he comes home from work. But we did discover that if you fill up the tub under the fodder system, you can put a small fountain pump in the bottom and set a timer on it. This way, the fodder will be automatically watered twice a day.

So during our prime time of year, we use this method because the more water the better it usually grows.

Put the Seeds in the System

After you have your fodder system in place, you’ll need to get in a routine of dumping your soaked seeds into the next empty tray each day.

Then you’ll add one or two more scoops (depending upon how much fodder you’re growing) into each jug and soak them for the next day. You’ll do this every day and then water your entire system (unless it is set up to water automatically) after the seed rotation in the morning.

Plus, you’ll need to water the seeds again later in the day. Keep in mind, you can place your fodder system anywhere that is around 20 degrees Celsius. It does not have to have sunlight to grow so it can be grown in a basement or closet even. The main thing is that the grow system doesn’t get too hot or too cold.

For us, we’ve grown fodder in our bathroom, in our living room, and now we’ve created a small greenhouse so it can grow outside all year long. Then I can add a heat source in the winter or a cooling source if needed in the summer.

But I don’t have to move it all over, nor do I have to have it taking up space in my house either.

Let Them Grow

So after you’ve got your seed rotation down, you’ll just need to let the seeds grow. You should have a tray to feed to your animals at the end of the 7 days.

Then you’ll feed a tray a day. Each tray takes 7 days to reach full size.

This is what the fodder looks like while it is growing:

This is what it looks like close up:

Feed to the Animals and Repeat

After each tray has reached full size, you’ll feed it to the animals. Then repeat the same process again and again. It does take a little effort to keep the process going, but really not much different that scheduling that trip to the feed store every week or so.

Plus, this method is much more frugal (in my opinion), naturally since you are growing it from start to finish, and it is healthier for your animals as well.

So keep it in mind when you are thinking of inexpensive ways to feed your animals.


You need to be careful of mold. If your trays are not clean and you did not use the bleach (Jic) to soak the seeds, then it is possible that mold grows on the roots. Be very careful about this. Always check the roots for mold before feeding it to the animals. Mold is a poison for the animals and they will die if you feed them fodder with mold on it.

Why are my sprouts molding? Simply put, your sprouts are sitting in too much water. If the sprouts are too wet between rinses and there’s no air flow, this creates the perfect conditions for mold to grow.

If you have mold in your fodder then you can cut the grass and feed that only. Put the roots with the mold inside your compost where the chickens cannot find it.


Simple tray build:


Simple instructions:


500 sheep can be held in 20 kraals of 25 sheep each. Each Kraal is 15x15m plus a 5×5 shade. Arrange these in two rows on a ridge, with the middle row open as access roads where the feed is delivered and sheep herded to the shed for dipping etc.

You don’t need fancy trays, simple roof sheets will do. Much cheaper: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dJVkhns1rhs

Dealing with Mould – and ways to prevent it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p3pUeAwht0k. Here’s one more: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xEvqngpDJqo&list=WL&index=5

Barley Should not go below 15 degrees cold.

Here’s another video showing a wooden shelf build with simple plastic trays and detailed info: https://youtu.be/D2eQaKcYYfU

Here is a very simple instructional video – it can be as easy as this https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f1OYag_LUvA


Mamre Intensive Sheep Lambing system: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e3Hcm56-ep8&list=TLPQMTEwNTIwMjHpHf3LDwMFnA&index=1

1300 liters a day to produce 1.5 tons of fodder. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W_Ubu0fklu4)

Typically they eat around 4% of liveweight per day which is around 1 kg of grass dry matter, increasing by 0.1 kg /week due to weight gain. A rough rule of thumb is to divide the age of the lamb in weeks by 10 (over the range birth to weaning) to get lamb grass intake in kg DM/day. Lamp to slaughther a 8 months is about 2kg per day. Thus 2l per sheep per day with this system.

South Africa Barley suppliers, wholesale prices, and market information – Tridge





Barley Sprouting Seeds – Organics Matter SA (Pty) Ltd

This shed 26m long and 6.5m wide produces 3 tons of fodder per day. Feeding 300 cows with 1000 calves on 1200 ha. 10kg per cow per day.


Check this video – you


Systems of 240kg per day to 10 ton per day are feasible. For our farm we plan a system of 500 sheep. We keep them for 60 days, fattening them for the market. This costs us 5000l per day to produce the sprouts. Our sheep won’t need much water to drink since they eat so much juicy green.



Various other seeds can also be used, such as Maize. https://www.aggnamibia.com/sprouted-maize-fodder-how-available-is-seed-in-namibia-for-aeroponic-fodder-production

Can You Use Corn/Maize or Sorghum or Millet Seeds to Grow Hydroponic Fodder? Check this video to learn about mixing different grains for optimum crude protein content of 23%

Water requirements are minimal compared to normal fodder production: 25 000 liter water to grow 10 tons per day

This fodder can be fed to all our animals.

The only drawback of this is that we have to buy the barley seed, or per




Check out this list of possible pitfalls of a sprout production system:

Commercial systems:

Local suppliers:

For commercial hydroponic fodder solutions – fodder produced in a container – contact SunSail Aquafarming. https://www.namfarming.com.

16 Super Reasons to Choose an Agri GreenGrow Aeroponic Fodder Grow Unit System:

  • It is a sustainable climate change solution for highly nutritious, year-round, livestock feed.
  • Farmers have more control over low market trends.
  • Rangeland grazing has chance to recover after droughts.
  • Food security and self-sufficiency is addressed by localizing high quality fodder.
  • Income generating opportunities by selling nutritious green fodder and good condition livestock.
  • Will help your operation to flourish in increasingly challenging environments.
  • Will result in significant feed cost savings.
  • A self-contained, 100% insulated aeroponic fodder production system with solar option.
  • Low input, high output (seed to feed ratio is 1:8 – therefore 2.5 kg barley seed will produce 20 kg of feed).
  • Requires no soil, pesticides, herbicides or chemical fertilizers.
  • Simplistic design that is water and power efficient.
  • Consumes 96% less water than conventional farming.
  • No waste, as the ‘sprout mat’ is entirely edible and super nutritious.
  • Leaves a small carbon footprint on your farm due to reduced transport costs.
  • All our units can be designed according to specific requirements.
  • All our units are supplied with formulated education and operator training.
These trays can be bought from AgriGrow




More info and links


You don’t need fancy trays, simple roof sheets will do. Much cheaper: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dJVkhns1rhs

Dealing with Mould – and ways to prevent it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p3pUeAwht0k. Or


Barley should not go below 15 degrees cold.

Here’s another video showing a wooden shelf build with simple plastic trays and detailed info: https://youtu.be/D2eQaKcYYfU

Meatco: Hydroponics Fodder Production a glimmer of hope for farming

Here are more videos to consider:

Various other seeds can also be used, such as Maize. https://www.aggnamibia.com/sprouted-maize-fodder-how-available-is-seed-in-namibia-for-aeroponic-fodder-production

Aeroponics – Seed Sprout Fodder System

Online barley trading and price information

Can You Use Corn/Maize or Sorghum or Millet Seeds to Grow Hydroponic Fodder? Check this video to learn about mixing different grains for optimum crude protein content of 23%

How to Grow Barley Sprouts in the Winter to Feed Your Animals – The Survivalist

Here’s a short video giving background on Namibian Barley farming.



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