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Sprouting Field Corn

 
Thomas Partridge
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So we were thinking of in the future expanding our three sister garden to roughly an additional 4000sqft and one of the things we are discussing is whether to grow sweet corn for market or field corn for the chickens. I know that field corn alone is not a suitable feed for chickens except as a snack or in the winter, but it occurs to me that if the field corn (which in itself is more nutritious I believe than standard yellow corn) were to be sprouted, that could raise the proteins up to an acceptable level. The problem is I can't find any nutritional information on sprouted corn - does anyone have experience with feeding chickens a good bit of sprouted corn?
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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I feed a lot of dried sweet corn to the chickens. In general, the drying process is easier for me with grain corn than with sweet corn, but they both dry. The chickens eat both of them.

As a chemist, I think that vitamin content would be expected to change during sprouting, but not amino acid content. I'd expect colorful grain corns to have more phytonutrients than boring white or yellow sweet corn. There are colored sweet corns, but marketing might be an issue.

 
Thomas Partridge
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Thanks for the response!

I should clarify, I do not intend to market it. The corn is a natural biproduct of my garden. Sweet corn doesn't grow tall enough to work for what I need and I would get a better value out of feeding the corn to my chickens than turning it into corn meal.

So in laymans terms are you saying the protein percent would not change by sprouting them? I free range my birds year round so my main concern is protein and calories in the supplemental feed.
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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Thomas: If it's only for chicken feed, then I'd definitely go the for some type of grain corn: hard flints (like popcorn for example) are easiest for me to grow, harvest and dry because they don't mold as easily and are more resistant to predation. Soft flour corns are easier to process for human consumption. Dents are mid way between. My grain corn population tends towards a blend of soft flints, dents, and soft flours. Dents tend to be easiest to remove from the cobs. I select for tall plants that are more resistant to predation by animals, and that out-compete weeds better.

In layman's terms, the protein was put into the corn seeds while it was growing. It doesn't increase after harvest.

Mixed grain corn: soft flints, dents, and flours.


 
John Weiland
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@Joe L: "....the protein was put into the corn seeds while it was growing. It doesn't increase after harvest."

It's kind of a trade-off really,.....new proteins are synthesized by the stored mRNA upon water uptake and germination, but older storage proteins are converted to amino acids and mobilized into the newly emerging tissue. Good photo diagram of the process in this article (let me know if the link is bad):

http://rubisco.ugr.es/fisiofar/pagwebinmalcb/contenidos/Tema27/seed_germination.pdf

But also, through the winter our chickens get about 90% cracked and whole corn with a bit of wheat/oat/sunflower seed at times. In the summer, they don't get much and are foraging the acres. They drink water from the river and just have to avoid the "northern plains crocodile": aka... the snapping turtles. Beautiful photo of your corn by the way....
 
Thomas Partridge
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We are still experimenting with which variety works best in our location. Our best year we had in a different location was with Cherokee White Eagle, so we are trying that this year and we will see how it goes. We plant about 240 stalks so it is a fair bit of corn that we would not want to force ourselves to eat (polenta is fine but I couldn't eat 400 ears worth of polenta in an entire year) but it isn't enough to completely feed our flock. I would be more interested in using it to supplement existing feed to reduce our overall feed bill - especially in the colder months when they eat twice as much.

That is why I had the idea to try sprouting it, but couldn't find much in the way of that particular grain. Lots on feeding them sprouts but it is mostly wheat sprouts and such - not corn sprouts.
 
John Weiland
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Thomas,....don't know if you had already tried this one, but as with the one review we found it grew really tall! I was surprised given our frequent high winds that it was not toppled after it matured. Had never heard of "frying" corn before and it was a fun thing to grow: http://www.victoryseeds.com/corn_truckers_favorite.html They have a number of other interesting heirloom varieties at that supplier.
 
Wes Hunter
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You might consider splitting the difference and growing field corn for market. We did this last year, with about 1/4 acre in a semi-three-sisters thing. After harvest, I ground the corn into cornmeal and sold it for $2.00/lb., which calculates out to north of $100 per bushel. Next year it will be at least $3.00/lb.

Feeding the corn to our birds didn't make sense, since as a small commercial farm the amount harvested would have been a tiny drop in a bucket of the amount needed. Selling cornmeal was much more profitable.

As to the effects of sprouting and/or fermenting feed, my understanding is that it doesn't change the protein content, for example, but it does make the protein more available, thereby effectively increasing the protein percentage. But I'm no expert.
 
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