How to Grow Fodder for Livestock With Hydroponics

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Growing any kind of plants hydroponically means growing them without the use of any soil. Plants are usually rooted in a growing medium such as perlite, wood shavings or gravel. Shallow trays with burlap or foam rubber in the bottom are an easy way to grow hydroponic fodder for livestock.

Young plant in soil.
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Things You'll Need

  • 4-inch-deep tray that will hold water
  • Foam rubber cut to fit in the bottom of the tray
  • Alfalfa seed
  • Hydroponic nutrient solution
Step 1

Soak seeds in plain water for 12 to 24 hours. Be sure all seeds are completely submerged.

Seeds in small container.
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Step 2

Prepare the hydroponic growing tray by placing the foam rubber in the bottom of the tray. Put half-strength nutrient solution in the tray, enough to keep the growing medium – the foam rubber – damp but not soggy.

Greenhouse with plants and seeds.
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Step 3

Spread the seeds evenly over the foam rubber. Use plenty of seeds so the sprouts will grow into a thick, grassy mat.

Close up of hands holding seeds.
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Step 4

Place the tray in a semi-dark, warm location for about two days. Loosely cover the tray with a dark trash bag or a piece of black plastic if desired, instead of moving the tray.

Black trash bags to cover seeds with.
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Step 5

Check the sprouts each day but leave them in the dark until they are about half an inch tall. Then give them full light, either by placing them in sunlight or by using a grow light.

Seeds sprouting in dish.
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Step 6

Water them as needed with a weak nutrient solution. Keep them damp but not soaked. Too much liquid may cause them to rot.

Watering seedlings.
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Step 7

Replace the nutrient solution with plain water after the sixth day. It is not necessary to drain what is in the trays but switch to plain water for adding to the plants at this point.

Spout of watering can.
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Step 8

Harvest the sprouts when they are about 8 inches tall. This usually takes from 7 to 10 days. To harvest, peel the sprouts off the foam rubber. They will come up in a mat, which can be fed directly to livestock. The animals will consume the entire mat of greens, including the seeds that remain.

Cow eating plant.
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Tips & Warnings

  • You can use many kinds of seeds instead of alfalfa. Any grass or cereal seed will work. Try oats, barley or rye.
  • Start a new tray every day to have a constant supply of animal fodder.
  • Make your own full-strength nutrient solution by adding 1 tbsp. Epsom salts and 2 tbsp. water-soluble fertilizer to a gallon of water. Make this solution fresh, as you need it. Double the amount of water to use it for hydroponic sprouting.
  • Hydroponic sprouting should be done in an environment that is about 65 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit. The seeds won’t grow in lower temperatures.

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