The library is a wonderful thing. There, I found Charcuterie, by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn, and within, inspiration. I read about Parma ham and the special diet these pigs eat (including lots of acorns), that some say is the secret to the extra divine end product. I spent the next few hours researching everything from acorns to peanuts, looking for the perfect addition to our finishing ration. The perfect something to give our pork it’s own regional-specific je ne sais quoi . What I settled on was a mix of sprouted grains and sunflower seeds; the grains produced and sold locally here in the Arkansas Delta.
Here is a rough guide to doing what I have done here for the pigs. I’m not really sure how much they like the sprouts, but between the pigs and the chickens, they’ll all get eaten.
Five gallon bucket
Grains and or seeds to sprout
Some sort of trays to keep your sprouting grains in
1. The first step is soaking the grains. Put the desired amount of grains in your bucket, add water to more than cover (the grains expand when they absorb water) and add a splash of hydrogen peroxide to help prevent mold. The first couple of times you might want to measure your grains into your sprouting container. The ideal is to have a layer a couple grains/seeds thick. Mine starts out typically about an inch thick. Soak seeds 8-12 hours. You can experiment with soak time to find the ideal for your specific grain and climate.
I mix everything together, but if you soaked and sprouted things separately you could have more control over how much foliage you get from the different components.
2. Pour your seeds in water into a perforated container in which they can sprout. I used metal pans (3 gallon?) from Tractor Supply. I took the stack of six that I bought and drilled about 50 holes in the bottoms, all at once. Rinse them thoroughly with fresh water.
3. Store sprouting grains in an “ideal” location. Various internet sources would have me believe that you want relatively high humidity (around 75%), and air flow for good success. I leave mine on the porch where they can get some light.
4. Rinse sprouts a couple of times a day, roughly every 8-12 hours. This keeps them hydrated and clean.
5. Soak a new batch of seeds. If you want to have a batch of sprouts ready to go every 24 hours, start a new batch to soak that often.
Here are some pictures of the sprouts in various stages of development.
A few things to consider:
Mold can be an issue. Make sure you clean out your trays and bucket. I clean the bucket every few days with a bleach solution and do the same for the trays in between uses. Also, if you don’t have enough air flow or too much moisture, mold can take hold. I tried using some old flats for starting transplants. They had drainage and seemed sturdy enough, but I was too lazy to clean them out. The corn I had in these puppies got nasty. It was moldy, slimy, and eventually full of maggots. I wouldn’t recommend it.
Seed cleanliness (how clean it is in the bag) can also be an issue, but since I don’t have many options or any control over the matter, I don’t worry too much.
Mold can produce myotoxins which can be harmful to pigs (and probably other critters, but I haven’t done much internet research about them). Myotoxins can kill small pigs and reduce growth rate/feed conversion rates and cause other more serious health issues. Do some research. With my current system, all my sprouts have looked and smelled fresh enough for human consumption, though I wouldn’t recommend it.
Know that everything you buy will not sprout. Some grain is heat dried, which may cause it to not sprout. I had no luck with the Tractor Supply Oats, but great success with the sunflower seeds I bought there. Also, when selecteing grains/seeds, think about what season those things typically sprout. Some things like it warmer, like corn.
It has been a great experiment. It feels awesome to take more control over what we are feeding our animals. If you have any questions, post them in the comments or do some googling. There is plenty of info out on the net, but I would be happy to reply with a more personal touch.
Good luck, and happy sprouting!