US: Dairy farmer considers hydroponic fodder production

Bradley Heins says that grain can be sprouted to produce fodder, but that’s neither cheap nor easy. In that type of fodder system, a grain like barley, wheat, or oats is sprouted in plastic trays and allowed to grow for seven days. It’s then fed to livestock. Sprouted grains can be grown indoors without soil. Still, it’s essential to begin fodder-sprouting with clean seeds free from mold, according to the University of Minnesota-West Central Research Center.

Heins is a professor of organic dairy management at the center in Morris, Minnesota. He’s conducted research on the feasibility and economics of fodder production. Fodder is palatable, and cows appear to like it, he said. And because it’s fresh, nutrients are immediately available to the cows.

But a big drawback is mold. Minimal changes in temperature and humidity are required to grow consistent fodder, he said. One can lose a full day’s fodder production because of mold. Animals fed moldy fodder can become sick or die depending on the type of mold produced.

Cost needs to be determined in terms of pounds of dry matter. Fodder might be called cheap, but that’s on an “as-fed” basis. The as-fed expression represents feed as it would be fed to the animal, including water, according to the University of Nebraska. If fodder is converted to a dry-matter basis, it isn’t necessarily cheap, Heins said. That’s because several labor requirements and initial capital expenses are involved.

Read the entire article at I Agri View

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