Until then I decided to switch my cows from their sweet grain to something organic and healthy. The cows eat grass and hay and the grain is just a supplement to occupy and reward them at milking time. They love sweet grain. LOVE IT! It has molasses so I can't blame them.
My husband would argue that the grain is such a tiny amount of their diet that it doesn't really matter, and I agree. We would give them 3 cups of grain along with some dried kelp, a dairy mineral salt and a couple of vitamin E tabs.
I wanted to go organic anyway. I wanted to see if I could afford it! Organic cow feed is very expensive and I can only get it shipped here. There is not a single local feed supplier with organic feed.
Here's where the fodder idea meets the organic grain idea.
I have a friend who introduced me to sprouted grains. Now, this is not a totally new concept for me. I have sprouted plenty for my family and I know the basics.
After 2 months of sprouting cow grains I can attest that they are affordable and my cows love them!
Here's my system to share so those of you who are thinking of an affordable organic route can see what I have been doing.
First I buy my certified organic grains! We happen to have a delivery route through Azure Standard and so I buy my grains from them. This is like a food coop and it is wonderful. You can go online and get their number to call and see if they deliver to your area OR you might be able to organize a delivery route for your area.
I buy the following:
Certified Organic Red Wheat (50lb) $19.15
Certified Organic Barley (50lb) $18.95
Certified Organic Dried Peas (25lbs) $12.25
Certified Organic Alfalfa Pellets (50lb) $21.80
The first thing is to get a 2 gallon bucket and drill holes in the bottom for drainage.
The grains must soak first so I place the drilled hole bucket inside a regular bucket and add my grains.
For two cows I use 2 C wheat, 2 C barley and 1 C peas. I let them soak in cool water for about 6 hours. Then I drain them and let them set to drain until evening.
Each evening I spray water onto the bucket, allowing it drain through. I will stack my buckets up, using shims to separate them. I keep about 5-6 buckets going at all times, staggering their start times.
After 3-4 days I will have sprouts ready for the cows. I will at this time add to that bucket 1 C alfalfa pellets then I will rinse it all and pull the clumps of sprouts apart. I let it drain until morning. The alfalfa will soak up extra water and by morning the bucket will be quite full!
I was worried the first time I used the sprouts that the cows would need some molasses to eat it but I was very wrong. In fact all of the animals (horse, sheep, goats, chickens) love these sprouts!
These bags of grains lasted me 2 months feeding 2 cows! I no longer buy sweet grain and so I think my feed bill is actually doing very well with the switch.
There was no change in milk supply from the cows either so I think that was good.
I would say the biggest challenge for me is space. You have to find a place or sink for all of the buckets and grains and such. Right now I use my laundry room sink and I have a small area next to my sewing table to keep draining buckets stacked. I have a storage box they sit in so water doesn't get on the floor. Every three days I empty the storage container of excess water and wipe it clean.
As far as time, it only takes about 15 minutes a night to maintain. Even though there are nights when I just don't want to do "another thing!" it really isn't a big deal and doesn't take up much time.
I know there are other grains that could be added for extra vitamins but right now this is my system and what I use.
Another weekend is here and another summer month is coming to an end. We will celebrate the 4th next week for sure, but we will likely be processing chickens next week as well. How's that for summer on the farm:-)
Tonight is another outdoor movie night! If you are local, stop by...I will pop some corn for you!
Have a great weekend!