Thanksgiving was a ton of fun this year with all of the “orphan” staff who stuck around here for the winter and didn’t make plans to go home. We had a full table of good friends and many a ranch story told. 050 007 (Uhhh…the man in the turkey hat has been kind-of-sort-of-not–so-really- disguised for his own pride’s sake.) 017      The Colorado River is typically frozen completely over by Thanksgiving, but although it was on its way, it was definitely warmer than most Novembers on the ranch around here. That was all about to change over the next several weeks however… 026027      And even though our snow was lacking for that time of year, as always, we find a way to enjoy what we have! (Yes, that’s a dog on a snowmobile.) 126191      And with Thanksgiving past, we began looking anxiously towards Christmas and the great gifts the ranch was getting (and giving) this year. One of which was a brand new stock trailer. It’s true it looks almost identical to our old one—because it’s by the same company—but this one is all shiny and new! IMG_0767      The other gift was our finished fodder barn! All wired, plumbed and ready to go, we ordered our first load of barley seed and awaited its arrival. But in the meantime, there was some decorating to do around the ranch… IMG_0768     Now we don’t know about YOU all, but most of our regular decorations are almost exclusively western. So it doesn’t take much to make a Cowboy Christmas—just add a little color to what you already have! But we do love to find a few new ideas now and then. One was this really easy, but super cute horse wreath we made by twisting together the stems of an old garland we no longer used. A couple of coat hangers twisted together on the back to give it support and then attaching the ribbon and “features” was the easy part! IMG_0771IMG_0775IMG_0782IMG_0784IMG_0790      And an occasional antler secured in the bows of green make any piece look “ranchy”. (And we have plenty of those around!) IMG_0795     We shouldn’t have wished for the snow though. No sooner did the thought enter our minds, than the white stuff appeared. And with it, a little bit more of our river disappeared as it began to freeze. 011176      But we managed to get half of the herd home before the heavy stuff started to fall. If you don’t know, we send the herd to winter pasture every Fall, off of the ranch where they can have even more room to run and relax for the winter months. But with our new fodder system about to be up and running, we chose half of the herd—particularly our older ones-- to come home to the ranch to begin taking advantage of the benefits the new feed would give them.      So HERE is where we begin to fill you in on all the hype of this new adventure we decided last year to take on. First of all, many of you may be asking “WHAT is fodder?” Well, to put it “simply”, it’s hydroponic hay—organic grass grown from seed in just SIX days to the peak of its nutritional benefit when it’s then fed to livestock. The system was developed in Australia for ranchers working to feed their animals in serious drought conditions. A fodder system could grow feed by creating ideal conditions of moisture, heat and light in a contained environment. If the ability to grow your own feed wasn’t benefit enough, it was also much more cost efficient AND the nutritional values were beyond impressive.      It should be said that the sod-like “biscuits” (they call them) are not meant to completely replace hay as a food source. The high moisture content of the sprouts benefits digestion and recovery after work, but for digestive health, it is recommend that a horse consumes a min. of 1.5% of its body weight as dry matter. In our operation, where our horses average about 30lbs a day of food, we approximate an 18 lb. biscuit per horse and the remainder be the same high quality hay they typically are fed. 087 Here are just some of the known benefits of feeding fodder (straight from :

  • Properties known to reduce the incidence of ulcers, inflammatory laminitis, tie-up, compaction & colic
  • Reduce recovery time after hard work
  • Exceptional growth rates in yearlings
  • Stimulates appetite, especially during conditions of heat stress
  • Fed daily, maintains a horse’s well being by aiding the digestive process and supplying protein and high levels of cool energy. This allows a horse in work to maintain the bulk essential for an extended campaign
  • Improvement in general appearance and coat condition
  • High in digestible fiber, which is digested into volatile fatty acids & is readily absorbed into the bloodstream as a source of energy
  • Sprouts contain higher concentrations of the freely availably minerals important for animal nutrition, compared to grain prior to sprouting
  • Helps replace essential fluids lost in work and increases hydration, especially in regions where heat causes excessive loss of fluids from sweating
  • Provide essential amino acids and vitamins which encourages early breeding (D Cuddeford. PhD Royal School of Veterinary Studies)
  • Improved behavior
  • Higher milk production in lactating mares

(*On a side note, we’ve been told by fellow ranchers it also improves their coat, mane and tail. Which we’re in dire need of based on the below hairdo….) 114

  • Organic and affordable – Growing demand for economical “natural” animal feed as well as concerns relating to animal feed safety and the environment make Fodder Solutions systems an attractive means of producing affordable organic “green” feeds.


Process Benefits
grass being watered
  • Optimum production
  • Accelerated growth
  • High yield in a very small area
  • Low water consumption
  • Low energy consumption
  • Easy maintenance
  • Trouble free operations

And this isn’t just for our horses! All livestock benefit a great deal from barley grass sprouts, so our goats, sheep and donkeys will be reaping the nutritional gain from our new system also. 238      So now that you’ve learned a little bit more about what it does for the animals, we’ll show you what our first experience was with it and how it’s working thus far.      As we mentioned, the system we ordered is a contained unit, but they can be custom built inside your own larger building to fit the needs of various sized herds or are available in smaller units for smaller farms. We calculated our feeding needs could be met with the size we sent for and built the outer building to make for a clean, warm work area during the winter months when our temperatures are often below zero. 007      Our first task was prepping all of the seed trays with a bleach scrub and rinse. With 6 rows deep, 3 trays wide and 7 rows high—there were a lot to do! 024041037055      Then we seeded day #1. A precise amount of feed goes into each compartment of the trays to form an individual biscuit. Seed must be evenly spread over the tray and shook down to be as level as possible. 072079088094      After all the trays were seeded, we closed it up and came back approximately the same time the next day. After 24 hours, these little sprouts had made their way! (We were slightly giddy.) This row was pushed back and a new row of trays was put in front-- seeded the same way as the previous day. 044      Day #2! The sprouts from our first seeding were looking good and the second row we’d seeded was looking like the above photo. We pushed both rows back and seeded a new row of seed once again. 050070074      Day #3 and #4! Looking across the rows you can see each day’s progress. By day three we were looking at little green sprouts and by day FOUR there was a considerable change visible! 010      As the rows were pushed back once again, our excitement was growing like those barley seeds! 020021 We said “Let if Grow.” Apparently someone misunderstood us….. 037063      But the weather in the fodder barn was somewhat tropical (to us anyways) and day #5 had us grinning from ear to ear. There are few things as beautiful as fresh green grass in the dead of winter. The only thing better is knowing it’s going to your four-legged friends! 001033002013020     Our excitement on day #6 was over the top as we opened the doors to the finished biscuits ready to feed to our horses that day. They, of course had NO idea what was coming, but just a day before Christmas Eve, we knew we were giving our herd the BEST gift we could give them and that was pretty exciting for us. 001      The roots systems of the seeds grow together quickly and hold the biscuits together in a sod-like fashion. But with no dirt and no dust, the horses can eat the entire biscuit for optimal gain. And during the winter, they’ve got a nice clean bed of snow to eat it on. 010020      We pulled and weighed the first biscuit and at almost exactly 18 lbs., we knew we were in business. The soft, warm, wet grass smells as fresh as it looks! 027030      And doesn’t Cheri look great draped in fodder?? ( Ya, we thought so, too.) It’s soon to be all the rage. 032  So one by one we loaded them up and headed out to the horses! 035042      We knew from other ranches’ experiences, that day one of feeding it would be uneventful as the horses took their time “figuring it out” so-to-speak. As we threw the greens out on the snow, they watched us curiously. 052064      We lured a few over and walked it out to others. It was hilarious to watch them sniff and nibble the tips—unsure of what it was we were offering them. A few cautiously mouthed it, while others meandered (and even ran!) away. Silly horses… 071099074081095      We left it for them to figure out, but it was only a short while later that we checked back on them and it was ALL gone! We knew then that their curiosity had gotten the best of them and after a taste, they were all in. And the next day—there was a long line following the truck as we spread the next days’ bounty. It was devoured without hesitation! 089049 Right to the very last nibble! 104113    We can honestly say we’re most excited to see the improvement for our “old guys” who are the gems of this ranch and take care of the littlest cowboys and cowgirls who come to ride the range. Although they are given excellent, extra special care year-round by our wranglers, we know what a great deal this will benefit them from the inside-out in ways we couldn’t before. And no one deserves it more than them! 124      So now that we’ve begun, we are officially fodder farmers 365 days a year! We are excited about all the good things to come with this new feeding system and what it means for the ranch and our much loved herd. And good things for them means good things for our guests, too. So in a way—the gift was for all of YOU as well. It’ll take two people about 2 hours to feed out the rows, clean and rotate the trays and seed a new row again, but the extra effort will yield some amazing things for our horses in the next few months.  And they (and you!) are worth it. We can’t wait to share it with you all in person come next season. It’s as incredible as it sounds! We’ll keep you filled in on the progress—but Colorado’s oldest operating guest ranch has now officially moved into (a part) of the modern world… But we know old Edgar Messiter would approve!