SAs I bet you can tell, Scrapple and I aren't necessarily about doing things the easy way. We've set out down this path to do them the right way, or at least the way we believe that to be. This mindset led us to rotational grazing, which, while being a bit on the labor intensive side, has the overwhelming benefits of providing our herd with a variety of fresh, nutrient dense, forages daily and enhances the land with the amazing fertilizing feature of our four legged friends.
We've strived to give our herd the best care possible, while at the same time allowing them to be goats and so far they seem to thank us by not only staying happy and healthy, but also giving us some amazingly delicious milk!
Along with the around-the-clock grazing, we give our milking goats (when they're in milk) a bit of grain when they're on the milking stand twice a day to supplement their diet. In keeping with our values and practices, we had hoped to feed organic but, unfortunately, none of our local suppliers carry an organic goat feed. We went with the next best thing, local, while hoping that eventually someone would start carrying organic/non-gmo.
Fast forward to about 6 months later (about a month ago) when while on a pasture walk just over the TN border in Kentucky, we had the pleasure of meeting and chatting with the owners of Windy Acres, which is only about an hour drive from Little Seed. In addition to raising grassfed lamb and beef, they grow certified organic grains. Eureka!
After consulting with Alfred and a very helpful friend we decided that we could indeed mix our own organic ration from what they had available. We decided on spelt, wheat, barley, and cracked corn to start with - a variation on COB (corn, oats, and barley). After some digging around about mixing your own feed, I came across the concept of sprouting the grains. The idea appealed really appealed to me.
Why take the extra time and labor to sprout? Sprouting not only neutralizes phytic acid, which blocks the absorption of many important minerals, it also increases the vitamin content. For example, sprouted wheat contains four times the amount of niacin and nearly twice the amount of vitamin B6 and folate as unsprouted wheat as well as more protein. As the grains are soft from soaking, they're also easier on the goat's teeth and digestion.
Even though it's a bit more involved than scooping a premixed ration out of a feed bin, all said and done, it is actually quite easy. I had sprouted grains and legumes before for Scrapple and I to eat, so I knew the basics - soak, drain, keep damp... All I did was scale up a bit to a 5 gallon bucket. Here's my setup and process:
2 white cotton pillowcases
1 large bucket with lid
I fill a clean white cotton pillowcase with the amount of grains I will need for 2 days, twist the top closed, and place in the bucket. Then I fill the bucket with enough warm water to cover the grains and add the lid.
After 24 hours I pull the pillowcase out of the bucket and place in the colander in my sink. I let the grains (still in the pillowcase) drain for 4-6 hours. While the grains are draining, I clean out the bucket with hot water and vinegar.
After they've drained, I put the pillowcase back into the bucket for the night. The next morning, the grains have sprouted and are ready to feed.At this point, I start another batch soaking in the 2nd pillowcase and keep the first pillowcase with the sprouted grains on top of the bucket lid.
It's important that the grains stay warm, so I keep my set-up in a little nook in our kitchen. Before milking, I measure out the grains, and mix them with a bit of cracked corn.
It adds some extra time to my routine, but there's no doubt it is well worth it. The goat's love eating the sprouts and I love watching the them grow, knowing that they'll end up as tasty and nutritious treats in our herd's bellies (er - I mean rumens!).
P.S. Even if you don't have a herd of goats, you should give sprouting a try! The process and benefits are the same (and tasty I tell ya), but you can easily downsize your setup to a mason jar and some cheesecloth.
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