Wintertime Fodder Production and Feeding October 21 2016, 0 Comments

It is a beautiful time of year here in the Midwest!  The leaves are turning from green to amber, the combines are rolling in the fields, and the sounds of cheering at the high school football games can be heard all over every small town on Friday nights.  But for Midwest livestock producers this time of year, our thoughts quickly turn to what’s coming next: WINTER! 

Many of you have asked about how fodder is produced and fed in the wintertime in colder climates.  YES, it is practical and feasible to feed fodder in the winter, and as a matter of fact, it is one of the best times of the year for your animals to have high quality, highly digestible nutrition.

So, how does it work?  With FodderWorks F series systems, the process starts at the factory, where the boxes are built with structural insulated panels to withstand harsh weather conditions.  Standard insulation packages have an R24 rating, but for extremely cold climates, the extra insulation package with R32 insulation can be a good option.  On our Southern Iowa farm, we have standard insulated F Series systems that keep temperature very well in the winter.  We have our fodder systems inside an unheated machine shed, which keeps them out of the cold winter wind (and also the hot summer sun!). 

The F Series Fodder Systems are designed to be outside, and even in the harshest climates they will withstand the elements.  However, if you’re in the “wind belt” of the US, like we are, you will enjoy fodder feeding time a lot more if you’re out of the winter wind.  Since the Fodder System is 70 degrees F year-round, it will be comfortable inside the system while you’re working, but if you step outside your warm Fodder System into a cold and windy environment, it won’t be nearly as enjoyable as it would be if you were out of the wind.  If you can, put the F series inside an unheated building (or a heated one if you have that option).  You’ll be glad you did, if you’re in a climate like ours.  Your system also will keep temperature easier all year 'round, saving you money on electricity.

The next step is making sure your water and drain connections are well insulated.  If you’ve put your F series system in a heated building, CONGRATULATIONS! You don’t have anything to worry about.  For those of us with fodder systems outside, or in unheated buildings, making sure the water connections stay thawed in the wintertime is important.  

Connecting an F Series Fodder System to a frost free water connection can be done a variety of ways.  Most use a connection coming up from the ground (below the frost line) in an insulated tube.  This would be installed in the same fashion as the water connection for a frost-free automatic livestock waterer; just slightly different because the water connection is on the side of F Series systems, not underneath.   Make sure you leave an access door near the fitting so you can make inspections and any repairs!

For the drain, make sure that, if possible, your discharge drain is located right below the outlet in the machine, so ice won’t form in the drain line.  If this isn’t possible in your situation, you can purchase heated drain lines (designed for RV’s / campers in wintertime environments). 

We can help talk you through various ways to hook up your system so it will keep running smoothly all winter. We will make sure you have the exact measurements of the machine before it arrives on your farm, so you can be ready to hook it right up to your connections!

But what about FEEDING fodder in cold weather?  Does it freeze?  Will the animals eat it? 

Our animals LOVE eating a warm, fresh feed all winter.  Fodder doesn’t freeze outside in the cold as fast as you might think.  It is 70 Degrees F when it comes out of the system, so it is best to feed it as soon as it is harvested.   Fodder will get stiff if left outside in the cold for hours, but most often the feed is long gone before that would ever happen!  Last winter, I fed our sheep small pieces of fodder on frozen ground; in 10 minutes after I scattered the fodder, I couldn’t find a trace of it anywhere.

Yes, fodder will eventually freeze solid if left outside in sub-freezing temperatures long enough, but the animals will still eat it!  It just takes them longer to eat a “foddersicle”. Especially with cattle, the heat from coming from their mouth and nostrils will quickly thaw the fodder they’re trying to eat (at least enough for them to chew it!)

Lastly, make sure YOU are ready for wintertime!  Fodder is a high moisture feed, and you’ll get a little wet working with it.  So in the winter, having a good pair of waterproof, insulated gloves is important.  I also have an insulated coat and bibs from Dan’s Hunting Gear LLC  This is, hands down, the best outfit out there for this kind of job.  It is tough, won’t tear, and is super warm.  I won’t feed without it in the wintertime. 

Hope you’ve enjoyed this preview of wintertime fodder production and feeding! 

Look forward to being with you next time,

Justin Akers

FodderWorks Midwest LLC

Your FodderWorks dealer in Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska, and Kansas