March 31, 2016

The final report regarding Linda's NC-SARE funded hydroponic goat fodder project is now available in the SARE database.  The NC-SARE funded project is completed, and Linda intends to continue to grow fodder for her goats.

December 3, 2015

There are now sketches of the trailer used for the hydroponic fodder system and some details of the inside layout that have been drawn by Linda. (on the Project tab).

November 21, 2015

The slideshow presentation we gave at the October fodder system workshop is now online (on the Slide Show tab).

October 20, 2015

Also, we will be having our second fodder system workshop on Saturday, August 14th from 9 AM to 12 noon. Here is a link to the flyer.  Everyone interested is invited.

October 3, 2015

We now have a new set of videos about the fodder system available at the Fodder Video tab.

July 1, 2015

We now have data charts regarding temperature and humidity at the Fodder Data tab.

June, 2015

We now have videos about the fodder project a the Fodder Videos tab.

May, 2015

Further updates about the project in the Fodder Blog

Also, we will be having our first fodder system workshop on Saturday, June 20th from 9 AM to 12 noon. Here is a link to the flyer.  Everyone interested is invited.

Late April, 2015

A further update about the project in late April of 2015 in the Fodder Blog

April  2015

Norm, one of the people involved with the Fodder project summarizes the project's status as of April 2015 in the Fodder Blog

March, 2015

We made some changes to the trays and racks so they would drain better and had more individual control.   There are some new pictures at Fodder Photos.

February, 2015

We are beginning to post data related to temperature, humidity and other factors that affect the growing of fodder. This should help other understand what conditions are needed to grow fodder hydroponically during all seasons.  You can see that data on the tab named Fodder Data.

October, 2014

New people have been put in charge of the project. They will lead the data collection phase of the project.  We'll be reporting on this website such important details as inside humidity, water temperature, inside temperature, outside temperature and economic factors.  Please look at the tab called Fodder Blog to see the progress being made.

We'll provide in the future videos and other media to help show how to do a fodder system for dairy goats.

Here's the goats competing for the fodder!
Here's Terry feeding fodder to the goats - they sure like it!
New type of tray - wider than others in use - April 2015
New type of  wider tray being set up in extra space in trailer  - April 2015
Long Rack of Fodder  - March 2015
Water Barrell - 2015
Fodder Racks - March 2015
Tubing of watering system - 2015
Fodder Racks - March 2015
The empty trays  for the system in March, 2015
Fodder Growing - March 2015
The empty trays  for the system in March, 2015
The tray and hose connections for the system in March, 2015
The tray and hose connections for the system in March, 2015
We have started to use a new type of rack
Soy beans sprouting
Aeration of water used to soak the seeds.
What the fodder growth looks like from underneath
More Photos
Update for October 3rd, 2015
Saturday, October 03, 2015

In September, the project restarted with a new watering method for the fodder and a new drainage system. The timer is set to run for 3 minutes, 4 times a day.  The method produces fodder roots that seem healthier.

So far, there is still no mold.

Also, there are some new videos showing the inside of the fodder system trailer.

Update for June, 2015
Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Results of fodder workshop on June 20th

Several people attended the June 20th hands on fodder system workshop at HeartsQuestGoats farm.  One couple wants to replicate the fodder system at their goat farm.   All attendees learned how to construct the racks for the fodder, how to implement the watering system, how to climate control the environment, and how to manage the growth of the fodder.

Also, attendees were given a tour of Linda's new milking operation, which is producing enough milk for her to sell to a goat cheese making operation.

Handouts given at the workshop included charts monitoring temperature and humidity, and a chemical analysis of the fully grown fodder.

Update on May 24, 2015
Sunday, May 24, 2015

Some recent changes, as per Norm Dennis:

    a)  watering is set up by timer to be every 3 ˝  hours apart, for 15 minutes at a time

    b)  Regular vinegar is now being used to clean the trays.  He leaves the vinegar residue in the tray when he “plants” the seeds.

    c)  He will be putting measuring rulers in the trays to determine the heights of the fodder after each day of growth.  He feels that 4 inch high is about the height for wheat to feed it to the goats.

    d)  He says there still is  still no mold.  He expects that to stay the same now that some of the excess humidity is being vented outside.  The wheat seems to like humidity and grows faster when it is higher.

    e)  The plans is to start growing barley mixtures in the wide trays starting the days after Memorial Day.  Barley has a high protein content.   It is somewhat more expensive than wheat.

Update on May 11, 2015
Monday, May 11, 2015

Here is the latest update from Norm Dennis on experiences with the fodder growing system:

1)  Now that the outdoor humidity is increasing, there is the need to vent the 3-1 heater/ AC / dehumidifier unit.  The humidity inside is getting too high at times.

2)  Norm has been using red apple cider vinegar to clean the trays.  That has worked well.  So far there has not been mold.  He does  not use bleach or ammonia to clean the tray surfaces.

3)  He spray washes the trailer once a week, to clean it completely.

4)  He soaks the seeds for 24 hours before putting them in the tray.  Nothing is added to the water., but it is aerated.

5)  The mix of wheat, soybean and black sunflower seed has been growing well.

6)  Norm has been cutting the grown fodder into 4 inch squares before feeding.  Each square weighs about  2.9 lbs when not wet.  He feels this is the best way to feed the goats.  If he doesn't cut it into squares, they waste some during the feeding process.  About 70 squares can be made from three narrow trays of growing fodder, so about 70 goats are being fed fodder consistently.

7)  He will be starting over again with the wide trays.  Their water circulation system did not keep all parts of the large trays sufficiently watered, and the fodder did not grow so well in them.

8)  Since outdoor grass is growing, the goats will be feeding on that, too.  Linda's 4 acres of pasturage  is another source of live food during the warmer months.  Mixed in with the grass are pine seeds and acorns, helpful with  de-worming.

Update on April 23rd, 2015
Thursday, April 23, 2015

Fodder was growing daily from April 7 until April 18th.  On that day the trailer door blew open and goats got into the trailer.  They ate all the fodder that was growing, and the seeds that were stored  for the future.  They also wrecked the place.  It took a few days for the workers to get the system working again, and from April 22nd into the future the fodder is growing again.  Before the goats invaded the fodder trailer, enough was being produced to feed the over 80 adults between 1.5 and 2 lbs per day.

Currently, the fodder is watered six times a day,  for 20 minutes each.  That is every four hours.  That regimen keeps the fodder consistently watered and growing well.

Soon we will be performing chemical analysis of the fodder grown, to know its composition regarding protein, carbohydrates, sugars, etc.  This will be useful information to match with established nutritional guidelines for feeding goats. 

Although we have a 3 in 1 heater/AC/dehumidifier to adjust for outdoor changes of temperature,  some conditions, like excess wind, can cause us to have to adjust the heater settings to keep the indoor temperature around 70 degrees.

Fodder System Update - April, 2015
Tuesday, April 07, 2015
These are notes from Norm, one of the people involved with the fodder project.

1)  Temperature control is harder during the Spring season, since the outdoor temperature changes often.  During the coldest part of the winter, the 3 in 1 heater-A/C unit could not keep the trailer warm enough, so another heater had to be used.

2)  Humidity levels during the winter and Spring have remained low, so there is not any mold growing.  The  3 in 1 heater-A/C unit can also dehumidify.

3)  Watering is done 6 times a day, 20 minutes at a time.  The increased watering produces increased speed of fodder growth

4)  Only fresh water is used.  Water is not recirculated.  Each watering uses about 5 gallons, so 30 gallons a day.

5)  About 120 lbs of fodder are produced daily.  The growth cycle is 6 days usually.

6)  Norm is adjusting the percentages of wheat, soybean and sunflower used as the fodder mix.  He feels more soybean is better for goats feeding their young.  A higher wheat percentage might be better for other times of the year.

Getting the Fodder System Re-Started
Thursday, November 20, 2014

Hi, My name is Hollie Grauel and I started working on Linda's fodder project in early Sept.    I seen her ad in the local paper and my interest was piqued.    My husband and I own sheep and fiber goats and would like to also implement a fodder system at some point to offset the cost of hay.   So, I called Linda......and here  I am.     So far, it has been a wonderful learning process.

The crux of a successful hydroponic system is having ideal environmental conditions.   I did a short production run for a  few week  and learned quite a few things.   Right now  the fodder has been feed out and I shut the system down to do some tweaking.   What fodder was grown seemed to be enjoyed by the goats.   Most of the adjustments have to be done because of the very early cold snap.   Since we are experiencing January temps in November, Linda is upgrading the heating unit with an all in one heater, air conditioner, and dehumidifier.

Firstly, the water needs to be oxygenated to get the full benefit of its properties.   At one point, I had an aerator in one bucket of soaking wheat seed and one bucket was without.     The seeds that were soaking with the aerator were already sprouting and ready to grow when i planted them....the non aerated ones were not.  We also bought a large aerator for the reservoir for the water used in watering to make sure it gets ample oxygenation.   I am also checking the pH of the water.   The ideal range is 6 and it has been between 7 and 8.   I will be taking measures to reduce that .   I'll also be watching the temperature of the water.

The main problem we were having during the test run was high humidity which in turn led to excessive mold.     This seems to be a common problem in hydroponic systems.   The fodder system can be difficult because you want medium temps, in the 70s but low humidity.   As soon as the pump kicked on to water, the humidity sky rocketed.   We will see what it does now that its much colder and we have a new heater.   We do have an exhaust system that has a thermostat which we can install if need be.   Hopefully this won't be an on going uphill battle.

The temperature right now is a struggle.   We are still trying to winterize the building.     With this early winter became clear we were not ready for it.   We will be insulated more and the door needs weatherstripped.   Hopefully then all the drafts will be blocked and the new heater will keep it at a steady warm temperature.  

Within the next few weeks we should have they system up and going again.   On top of the mentioned updates we will be doing, I also want to simplify the watering system.  Right now  each rack is plumbed together and with all the tubing the waterflow gets weaker the further down the system it goes.   I  want to just have one  pipe go straight up the middle so it should have the same water flow throughout.   I will continue to keep you posted on the progress.
Thank you for your interest,
Hollie Grauel


Linda's pleased to announce that she is continuing to implement the SARE (Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education) 2013 Farmer-Rancher Grant Award for "Growing Hydroponic Fodder for Dairy Goats on a Limited Acreage Farm." That project began in the early part of the summer, 2013 and is continuing to the end of 2015. 

Below are sketches Linda has made of the trailer for growing the fodder, and some details of the hydroponic setup.

Construction and use of Linda's Hydroponic Feed System