Our mission is to create a family farm model that is easy to replicate on a small enough plot of land to be affordable to the average city goer. On our farm we employ methods that are sustainable and caring for both the land and animals that are raised on it. We are currently using aquaponics on a small scale to grow our produce (large scale coming soon). And our animals (red wattle pigs, goats, rabbits, chickens, ducks, geese, donkeys, and horses) are raised with a free grazing rotational pasture model. We try to give our animals as "natural" a life as we can.
I am writing a book that consolidates all the information required to to run a fodder system at the various stages of a fodder systems life.
Fodder is a cheap and sustainable way to feed farm animals a better diet at a lower cost. There are some complexities to be understood when setting up a fodder system. And there are even more complexities to understand while running a fodder system. As the subject of hydroponically grown fodder for animal consumption is relatively new, the information for this topic is fairly scattered. Locating all the information you need to build and manage a fodder system is time consuming.
The book I am writing seeks to solve many of the day to day complexities of building and managing a fodder system. It also seeks to answer the questions you might have after you are successfully running the system such as "what are the dietary needs of a given animal and how do I formulate that with fodder".
Animal feed is the most expensive running cost of an animal based farming operation.
As many farmers know, the number one expense in their animal production program is feed. Feed, like most products, fluctuates in price with supply and demand. Unfortunately this means that during the summer months when there is not enough water to grow plants, and during the winter months when there is too much cold for plants to survive, prices for hay and other base resources tend to rise. This makes the cost of feed sky rocket which in turn causes the small family farm to struggle a bit with unplanned expenses. We recently saw a bail of hay go from $5 on up to $20 and a round bale go from $50 to well over $100. This affects the small farmer's budget and revenue stream considerably. Additionally, dried out feed stored for months at a time such as hay or bagged pellets, aren't as nutritious as living plant matter eaten directly from the field.
Hydroponically grown fodder is economically steady, climate independent, and a scale-able solution that can be used to feed farm animals of all kinds around the world.
We have been interested in designing a low cost easy to build and maintain fodder system for feeding our animals. For that reason I have been doing loads of research on this topic. I have been able to find all sorts of information out there in the form of videos, blog posts, forums, facebook groups, and many others. There really is a burgeoning community around this topic - world wide. But for a new person more interested in the solution than they are in the steps to get there, there is no one source of information similar to the "something for dummies" line of books, that quickly paints the picture around fodder.
And while there are a few small companies providing small fodder systems and a few large companies providing larger fodder systems, having a fodder system is only half of the game. We need a manual that outlines not only how to build a fodder system (that is fairly simple), but more importantly: how to operate that system, how to formulate the appropriate diet for each animal you intend to feed fodder too, how to scale the system as your demand grows, and how to trouble shoot your system over time.
Fodder is the product of growing certain types of seeds into grass over the course of a few short days. This is done by first soaking the seed for 4-12 hours. Then spreading a 1/2" deep layer of soaked seed on a flat surface. You water the seed every few hours for the next 7 days. At the end of 7 days you will have taken 1 pound of seed and converted it into 5-10 pounds of grass/live plant matter. Whereas only 35% of the nutrients found in hay are digested by the animal, 80% of the nutrients of the live grasses are digestible, which equates to needing to feed your animals less fodder than the dry alternatives. Fodder ends up being at least a 50% cheaper feed that is much healthier for your animals. And if you really tune your system you can get even lower per pound costs.
"1 pound of grain produces 5-10 pounds of feed in 7 days!"
Produced by this project:
I am currently developing the fodder book in public. Meaning you can pop over right now and see the progress that has been made so far. Also, if you wish to contribute to the book, feel free to suggest edits and improvements along the way.
The book will outline the following
- the basics of fodder such as the seed types, suggested soak times, and approximate seed sprouting times
- different types of systems that can be built or purchased
- all the lingo around fodder such as "germination rate"
- the environmental variables to consider when tuning your system
- considerations for the type of fodder system that is right for you
But more importantly the book will also provide
- what each seed offers nutritionally
- how to formulate the appropriate diet for each farm animal
- including appropriate non-fodder supplements
- plans for building a small, medium, and large system
- and common Q&A from experienced fodder system owners
What do I get as a contributor:
For the folks visiting kickstarter.com for the very first time take a look at the bar to the right. There you will see all sorts of contribution levels and rewards associated with each.
Here are some images of what the tshirts and stickers will look like:
Risks and challenges
Science: My biggest complexity in writing this book is around the science that is required to understand the nutritional value of fodder. I am not mechanized to get this done myself. And if I was, I am not educated in this area of study. For that reason I will have a dependency on a local science lab. I am currently talking to Texas A&M (not too far from my farm) to have them do this work for me. Having each sample processed costs anywhere from $5-$25 depending on how much information you are interested in learning about the sample (plus shipping). This makes this risk a monetary one which hopefully will be resolved by this kickstarter campaign! To remediate the risk there are two approaches. 1) get less information back for each type of fodder thereby incurring a smaller cost per sample processed or 2) get more extensive samples done around fewer types of fodder (barley, wheat, BOSS, etc.). Either way this is a solve-able problem.
Writing: Writing a book is not an easy task. For that reason I am surprised every time I decide to write a new book. So far I have started, completed, and published three books. I have also been involved at many steps with the production of other people’s books. I have been a paid technical editor, proof writer, and general reviewer on several other works for various publishing companies.
Self Publishing: Writing a book with a publisher is a bit easier than writing a book on your own. A publisher pokes and prods you along the way. They make sure that you hit your delivery dates. And they make sure that the work you produce is worth reading. Given that I am self-publishing this book, I chose to write the book in the open. As I finish a chapter, I will publish it for all to see. This helps me gather feedback from everyone interested which can immediately be re-assimilated into the book adding to the quality of the finished product – in real time. As for dates, I am currently way ahead of schedule on this book already!
Publishing & Printing: The actual task of publishing and printing a book is another one of those items that I simply can’t do on my own. For that reason I intend to use a few internet services to make that easier. I am writing my book on a free service called LeanPub. They help me with the production aspects of the book. I write the pages, check them in, and with very little configuration – am able to publish a digital copy of my book in seconds. I am then able to take that electronic work and send it over to a printing company such as LuLu (another online service). They will help me with the printing aspect of the book. They are also able to get the book into standard book stores and online to such retailers as Amazon. All of these free services get their money on a per transaction basis. If the book does well – they do well!
Building: Building a fodder system is fairly easy. However, I am as new to fodder as anyone. It is a somewhat new space. But I have built several systems for my farm and for other farms with success each time. And I intend to build a couple more systems as part of this book project (example works for the book). With each new system that is built I gain additional experience to add to this book.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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