Sunday, September 11, 2016

Feed Dehydrating - Round 2 Success so far

We are on round 2 of our feed dehydrating operation.  The first test was very successful, but of course left room for improvement.  The second test, slightly larger, now drying in the sun, holds even greater promise!

To Recap, we are experimenting with solar dehydrating of "chipped" zucchini as storable winter animal feed. The goal is to harvest all the extra zucchini while we can use melons and fruit for feed, run the Zukes through our PTO (tractor driven) chipper / shredder, lay them out on trays to dry, then store in food grade buckets for use later in the winter.

The first test showed that each 4x8 tray produces about one 4 gallon food grade bucket of feed. That's a HUGE compression ratio! That tray was holding about a quarter RTV bed load of zukes.  Basically compressing a typical RTV bed load of zucchini into a couple small 4 gallon buckets of dry feed.

The improvements made this time around are:

1. Raise the exit flap on the chipper to allow freer flow of zucchini chips. This means less "minced" and more "chipped" giving a better texture of final product, plus holding more juice in while dehydrating.  When the juice is held in, and evaporated, all the nutrients in the juice are transferred to the feed. If the juice drains off, so does that portion of nutrients. Simply allowing the chips to exit more freely improved the nutrient ratio dramatically.

2. Adding Salt. Redmond RealSalt or Himalayan of course. (not that toxic white stuff).  the salt adds those important mineral nutrients to the feed, but also aids in drying. Salt helps to "pull the moisture" of food to the surface where the sun can dehydrate it faster. It appears to help a lot, as this round is dehydrating maybe 50% faster in cooler weather.

The overall layout. we now have 6 trays in use. The design seems to be holding up well. Easy to use, light, strong enough, and fast drying with airflow.  The "kiddie pool" on the right is where the chipper sits when in use, to catch the chips and mulch. Then we simply shovel it into 5 gallon buckets and pour out on the drying trays. It takes about 4 to 6 5 gallon buckets to fill a tray.

Here is a closeup of the zucchini chips at one day in the sun. You can see that this has a lot more chips and less minced "sludge" than the first try. 

Here is another closer view. After the chips are laid out, salt is sprinkled across the entire top surface, then every day or two the chips are "stirred" or "scratched" as the kids call it. 

Based on this success, we may be building another half dozen racks so that we can dry an entire harvest at once.

Next time, we may even add some greens to the mix by running the greens through the shredder part of hte chipper / shredder. That will nicely mix the greens and provide even better nutrition.

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