This is a picture I dug up from last spring, Xanadu and her first doeling, Avalon
I have been wanting to break away from our COB (rolled corn, rolled oats and rolled barley) dependence for sometime now. However, I have not wanted to be hasty, impulsive or drastic in the changes we make to our goats diet. Nor did I want to make any changes without thoroughly researching first. During these slow February days I've had some time to think about our goats diet, assess their conditions, come to the conclusion that I should be doing better, and finally get around to finding some reliable sources and examples of studies and individuals sprouting grains for goats or other livestock. I am sharing this post now before I've even changed my current practices because I am this exited about the concept of feeding living sprouts to our goats in place of their dried rolled grains - especially this time of year when all is dark and dead or dormant around us.
First let me back up and explain why we are feeding COB in the first place. When we first got our goats we fed goat chow, because that is what everyone we know and read about fed their goats. Goat Chow is a processed pelleted goat feed with a few crushed or rolled grains and added vitamins and minerals. On the ingredient list for Purina goat chow which is what was available to us through the local feed store, the first ingredient is processed grain by products. The list does not even say which grains are used. The main reason I could think of to feed Chow over COB was:
- Higher protein content
- "Scientifically" formulated for goats.
- Everybody does it - not a good reason but it must work right?
- A long list of ingredients I didn't understand.
- The grains were ground up then compressed into pellets, during which process lots of significant nutrients are lost.
When it comes to feeding whole vs. crushed or rolled grains to livestock. The opinions are completely contradictory:
- One side holds the position that goats, chickens and other livestock can not digest whole grains, that whole grains will pass through intact and therefor not be used by the animal. Crushing and rolling grains makes them more digestible.
- The other side says that once grains are crushed, ground, rolled etc. that valuable and significant nutrients are lost, that the seeds rapidly go stale and rancid and the result is a significantly reduced source of vitamins and minerals. This side argues that whole grains are intact and nutritionally superior to processed grain feeds.
I have known for a while the health benefits of sprouting grains for human consumption. When we buy bread we choose sprouted grain products. I go through phases of sprouted beans and seeds for our own salads and sandwiches. I sprout grains for the chickens from time to time in the winter. They love them, and we notice an immediate effect on the color of the egg yolks, they get brighter orange within just a few days of eating sprouts. This week I finally got around to doing some research. I was looking for sources that have goats and have been sprouting for a while with successful results. I also wanted to find some more scientific studies dealing with feeding sprouts to livestock. I found both, and while I am obviously inspired and excited about these few sources, I would still like to delve deeper into the subject.
Here is the most scientific or scholarly article I found:
This article focuses on feeding barley sprouts to cattle and horses and the health benefits derived from the sprouts. The article points to a study where barley sprouts were experimentally fed to cattle with impressive results in energy levels and weight gain. The main health benefits of feeding sprouts as opposed to whole grains are such:
- Sprouting increases enzyme activity which tends to enhance the levels of beneficial nutrients while decreasing the negative aspects of dry grains such as phytic acids which are high in cereal grains and prevent the absorption of vital minerals such as calcium and magnesium.
- Sprouting makes whole grains easier to digest and more palatable.
- Sprouting increases protein, fiber and essential fatty acid levels in grains.
- Sprouting increases vitamin levels of grains, some of the most significant vitamins that are increased are B, C, A and E vitamins. It also helps with the absorption of the vitamins that may be present.
- Sprouting increases Antioxidants, Chlorophyll and has an alkalizing effect on body cells.
So, I'm feeling pretty confident that at least sprouting grains can only be much healthier for the goats than their present grain rations. But what about cost and labor involved? Here is a little math. Last I checked I'm paying $15.99 for a fifty pound bag of dry COB. Here is one of the basic recipes, tweaked just a bit to make use of ingredients that I'm already ordering in bulk for the chickens. I've broken it down to what I'm paying a pound for each grain or seed. Ten pounds is more dry grain than what I'm feeding currently. However, once the goats are in milk, I'll be feeding that much or more.
- 5 # Whole Barley, 9.99 per 50lb. (.19 lb) .95
- 1# Austrian Winter Peas 39.99 50lb. (.79 lb.) .79
- 1# Winter Wheat Berries 38.00 50lb. (.76 lb.) .76
- 2# Whole Oats 9.99 50lb. (.19lb) .38
- 1# Black Oil Sunflower Seeds 24.99 50lb. (.49) .49
$23.59 in grain per week, not including alfalfa pellets or other supplements, but not bad
As far as local or organic ingredients, the whole oats and barley are from Delta, I don't know if the seed is treated? The Wheat berries are organic and from far away via Azure Standard. I don't know anything about the whole peas or sunflower seeds.
My conclusion, without yet venturing into the world of sprouting grains for goats, is that this practice is going to be much healthier for the goats, surprisingly not much more expensive, but undoubtedly much more work.
I've been waiting till our milking and grain area is heated, to begin sprouting for the chickens and goats. However, as that may be a while yet, I'm going to start sprouting on a small scale and see how it goes. I already purchase all of these ingredients, so no special trips to the feed store are required yet, although I'll be buying more whole grains in the place of rolled COB. Of course rule number one in feeding goats is make all diet changes gradually. So I'll begin by just adding a handful of sprouts to everyone's existing grain rations and we will increase the amount of sprouts and decrease the COB over the space of a couple weeks. I think that despite having several very pregnant goats, now is not a bad time for a feed switch. I'm sure their bodies have got to be craving some green living food. Soon we will be too busy with kid care and milking to experiment. Once we are milking, the does will be eating two to three times as much grain as they are now, so we'll start the transition now and work our way forward. I'll keep you posted.