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News and information from UC Cooperative Extension about alfalfa and forage production.
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Comments:
by Chad Cheyney
on October 15, 2013 at 9:20 AM
This seems so absurd to me, even at first glance, that its hard to believe that this seems to have gotten so much traction ....like other "miracle products"...you cannot get something for nothing....sigh...
by Daniel H Putnam
on November 2, 2013 at 12:22 PM
Thanks for your comments, Chad.  
After writing this article, I came across a Sandia National Lab Report, largely on the hydroponic forage idea - with some experiments in New Mexico. see: www.sandia.gov/water/docs/ID08_Hydroponic_Pohl.pdf‎  
 
Worth looking at. They did some extensive field studies and demonstrations. This report was quite glowing about the concept - However, in my view, their water-use calculations are wrong since they don't account for the DM losses (should really have anegative WUE due to that) - also they didn't account for the water used to grow the seed.  
 
I wish I could be more posititive about the concept. Am I off on this issue, or missing something?? I don't see how it pans out.
by Pete Clark
on November 3, 2013 at 11:50 AM
At early stages of our evaluation of hydroponics, you raise some valid points. Have not seen the comparison with fresh vegitation which we are looking at. We are also looking at the effect of dried products on production of milk in sheep and cows and the change that horses, sheep and cows when they change to a dm diet from fresh. The impact on the key performance of livestock production also has to be considered and evaluated as until controll groups are fed on grass, hydroponics, traditional mixed fresh/conserved forage and full costings it is hard to fully evaluate and comment. Not sure of the cost of land, machinery, fuel or labour where you are but it is something to look at in UK. Any conserved feed has a reduction from fresh but only looking from one angle does not show the full picture and do not feel it should be totally disregarded.  
Interesting article and thought provoking.
by Pete Clark
on November 3, 2013 at 11:50 AM
At early stages of our evaluation of hydroponics, you raise some valid points. Have not seen the comparison with fresh vegitation which we are looking at. We are also looking at the effect of dried products on production of milk in sheep and cows and the change that horses, sheep and cows when they change to a dm diet from fresh. The impact on the key performance of livestock production also has to be considered and evaluated as until controll groups are fed on grass, hydroponics, traditional mixed fresh/conserved forage and full costings it is hard to fully evaluate and comment. Not sure of the cost of land, machinery, fuel or labour where you are but it is something to look at in UK. Any conserved feed has a reduction from fresh but only looking from one angle does not show the full picture and do not feel it should be totally disregarded.  
Interesting article and thought provoking.
by Daniel H Putnam
on November 3, 2013 at 8:23 PM
Thanks for the comments, Pete. The losses in hay or silage are certainly higher than greenchop. However, in a lot of the TMR rations, water can be added to moisten feeds and make dried feeds more palatable anyway.  
 
However, the main problem I have is the large DM losses with sprouted grain. The Sandia study (quite detailed, worth looking at), shows DM losses during sprouting in the 36% range, greater than our little study. A process which takes 100 DM kgs of feed a creates 64 kgs doesn't make sense to me, no matter how palatable. Not to mention the cost.
by Halle
on November 14, 2013 at 11:41 PM
I really appreciate your thorough and non biased research! I do have to point out something you may have missed though. When it comes to feeding livestock, horses in my case, I do not think of how much dry matter my animals are ingesting. An example of this is oats. I see a lot of whole undigested oats in the stools of horses. It does not matter how much nutrition is packed in that oat the animal got none of it. What needs to be taken into account is digestibility. How much of the nutrition in that seed goes in the front end only to waltz right out the back end? I think this may be where fresh fodder may have an advantage over grains it certainly seems to have a lot more digestible matter than traditional hay.
by Daniel H Putnam
on November 15, 2013 at 8:49 AM
Halle;  
You make a very good point. I'm not sure if 'waltzing' is the right word - but I've seen plenty of whole corn seeds a slippin' and a slidin' right through dairy cow digestive tracts. My nutritionist colleague Peter Robinson may want to weigh in - but grain processing (rolling, grinding, crushing) has been shown to significantly improve the digestibility of grains. Hays are a different story - with much higher fiber contents, which are only partially digested in the best of situation (NDF digestibilities are from 30% to 70%) - but this is normal for hay with its lignin and cellulose. Peter points out that sprouted grain is more appropriately compared with grain, since its fiber levels are so low, and it doesn't really have the functional fiber as does hay. To test what you've said, probably sprouted grain should be compared with whole vs. crushed grains in terms of digestibility/energy yields, taking into account the DM losses we pointed out above.
by Robert Segraves
on December 8, 2013 at 3:59 PM
Interesting points and worthy of discussion. I have to start off with a question - is the essence of the discussion about replacing hydroponic fodder for grain in our feedlot based agriculture or is it about the relative value of hydroponic fodder as a feed source compared to grains?  
 
In my discussions with farmers in my local community that raise beef as part of their livelihood there seems to be two camps: those that feed grain for much or a majority of the animals' diet and those that raise grass fed beef, goats, sheep, and chicken. In the grain feeding camp my discussions about hydroponic fodder were listened to for the most part politely but there seemed to be little interest. I got the impression I was posing a solution to a problem that for them didn't exist. In the grass feeding camp there was much more interest - and it grew out of the much poorer pasture these farmers had available during the winter months and hence the effect their ability to feed their herds/flocks. Some culled the numbers, others turn to some grain feeding. The idea of a hydroponic foddder that was close to the pasture grazing was of much interest.  
 
So is the question Hydro fodder vs. grain? May be not.  
 
1. Dry matter loss - unless something is thrown away there can be no dry matter loss. You may find that on cursory analysis that some dry matter has absorbed moisture but if you put in 10 pounds of dry matter and retain all input you can have no less than 10 pounds of dry matter out, after dehydration. What is being over looked is that the dry matter in grain has potential as converted sugars, micro enzymes, phytonutrients, and other nutritional substances that cannot be realized in the ingestion and digestion (or lack of digestion as discussed above)and are available to the animal only after sprouting.  
2. There is a much debate about the value of grass fed vs. grain fed meats, the nutritional value, the economics, the environmental impacts, etc. I won't go beyond saying that each study I have read has been written with some degree of bias on the part of the authors and or researchers involved. The Jury is still out.
Reply by Daniel H Putnam
on December 9, 2013 at 8:35 AM
Thanks, Robert for your comments;  
What we were considering was a comparison between sprouted grain vs. either grazing grasses, buying hay or feeding grain directly. In that comparison, sprouts do not compare favorably economically.  
 
You are incorrect about the DM issue - due to respiration (burning of carbon and release of carbon dioxide) true dry weight is lost during germination - and in the barley sprout case it appears to be substantial. You should measure it yourself and see if you get the same results we did. (oven dried before, and after sprouting)  
 
This is similar to fermented forages (silage) which loose dry matter during fermentation by evolving CO2 and other gasses. Usually >5% in that case.  
 
Additionally, seed energy is utilized during sprouting, reducing the TDN or energy content of the feed vs. the raw seed. That's a loss in feeding value compared with seed.  
 
You are likely correct that there are activated enzymes and secondary plant compounds generated in the sprouts which may be of interest nutritionally. However, in my view, unless someone can document that these are so important nutritionally that they would overcome a 25-30% loss in feed DM, the loss in energy, or the tremendous economic disadvantage, the concept has to be viewed very skeptically.  
 
PS - By the way, I have no dog in this race, one way or another.
by OeHt Teodoro Martines
on December 8, 2013 at 4:12 PM
Totally agree with you and well explained, it is a scam and a hoax something like many other things that we do is burn resources that will be needed in the future. In the Country Basko Spain wanted to make a big investment pair use the heat of a biocompostability, to make a great greenhouse for Sprouts. Reasoning from a fellow Vet Javier Garro and myself conventional to do so since we lost energy of each of the seeds in the germination process by burning starch and was lost between 5-10% of the energy total.  
That if improved palatability, was better than the food grain, and is best used, not grains untapped defecated A theo friend  
Totalmente de acuerdo con usted y perfectamente explicado, es un engaño una estafa y algo como muchas otras cosas que lo uníco que hacemos es quemar recursos que se necesitaran en el futuro. En el Pais Basko se quería hacer una gran inversión par aprovechar el calor de un Biocompostaje, para hacer un gran invernadero para Germinados. El Razonamiento de un compañero, Veterinario Javier Garro y de mi persona convencio de no hacerlo ya que perdíamos, energía de cada una de las semillas en el proceso de germinación al quemarse el almidón, así se perdia entre un 5-10 % de la energia total.  
Eso si mejoraba la palatibilidad, era comida mejor que el grano, y se aprobechava mejor, no se defecaban granos sin aprovechar Un amigo theo
by Daniel H Putnam
on December 9, 2013 at 8:37 AM
thanks for your comments, Teodoro;  
Your estimation of loss in energy in the sprouts was similar to the Fazaeli study which saw substantial loss in energy during sprouting.  
It's interesting that this was promoted in Spain.  
Dan
by Karl Sapp
on December 10, 2013 at 6:30 AM
I think that the concept has gained some traction because of real results with a few of the small producers that I know. They switch from feeding a grain ration supplement to feeding sprouted fodder and are able to get the same milk production at lower cost (not figuring labor and overhead). I am not sure how they are able to do this. I think that it would be nice to see more research on the nutrient number for this type of feed so that we can have a complete analysis and even some feeding studies to see what kind of influence we get on milk production.
by Daniel H Putnam
on December 10, 2013 at 7:06 AM
I'd like to hear more about it-especially how they calculated their costs. I would assume they should include labor and overhead (cost of the system, energy, and its maintenance).
by Dustin
on December 11, 2013 at 1:21 PM
It would be interesting to see a side by side study of barley fed cattle supplemented with hay vs barley fodder fed cattle with the same hay rations and measure gains. I have read several articles where anecdotally dairy producers saw an intial drop in milk production that seemed to slowly return to normal when going to hydoponic fodder. I am intrigued with the fodder systems and have considered purchasing a small system producing a ton a week to experiment with. Thank you for the article and information.
Reply by Daniel H Putnam
on December 17, 2013 at 12:36 PM
Thanks, Dustin for your comment.  
Yes, this would be an interesting comparison. However, given the losses in weight of the seed during germination (on the order of 1/4 to 1/3 of the DM), it's not enough that germinated seed be 'just as good' as ungerminated seed - it should be a lot better. I haven't seen feeding studies, but in-vitro and lab analysis tells us that germinated seed is likely to be lower in energy concentration than non-germinated seed.
by mark brown
on December 12, 2013 at 5:15 PM
the whole concept interests me, but not for quick results after 5 days, but what value would result if you grow alfalfa from seed to just prior to flowering?(30-50days) Has anybody done any research into this?
Reply by Daniel H Putnam
on December 17, 2013 at 12:39 PM
You raise a very good point - I was wondering the same thing. I'm not sure how hydroponic growth does after 20-30 days. However, if one was to do this, the question would be why not grow the seed in the field and harvest early (small grain forage is an EXCELLENT forage cut early-lots of dairies in the CA's central valley use that - boot stage or vegetative stage wheat, barley, or triticale). The only reason to do this hydroponically is if you couldn't grow it in the field for some reason, because the costs for hydroponic would be higher.
by Robert
on December 16, 2013 at 6:25 PM
I would like to add another aspect to the discussion. In many areas irrigation water is becoming a limiting factor that mainly forces diary farmers to look for alternatives in converting water into forage. What can you tel about water input vs. dry matter in hydroponics and traditional field crops? To what degree could the implementation of hydroponics forage production reduce the amount of water per liter milk?
Reply by Daniel H Putnam
on December 17, 2013 at 12:57 PM
Robert-You've hit the nail on the head- I agree that water is indeed the most critical issue here. I haven't done a detailed analysis of the water use in the case of hydroponic forages. The Sandia study in NM did some, but neglected a few key issues: 1) Water was used to grow the grain - that has to be accounted for and included in the water impact (after all, you could feed the grains directly), 2) the yields (seed DM weight in, sprout DM weight out) were actually negative, so yield per unit water (water use efficiency) was actually negative (in the Sandia case, about 35% less I think). How can one argue that this concept is superior in water use if you get less DM of feed when adding water? Small grains are some of our most efficient in terms of water use efficiency in the field (they are grown mostly with rain or low irrigation amounts)- so the question remains - why not grow grains as a forage in the field? The yields/unit water would be positive in that case.
by Joseph Wells
on December 20, 2013 at 5:42 PM
I'm wondering is there is any study of milk nutrition/lamb health, dry forage v.s Wet forage? What is of interest personally (in regard to feeding sprouts) is it's versatility in time's of low feed. Here in Oregon we've seen temps in the single digits over the last few weeks with little or no snow cover, thus any and all of my white clover seed fields (that I would traditionally be grazing this time of year) are burned off, leaving me to feedlot my ewes for the next weeks until lambing... where ostensibly I feedlot them again!  
Were I to construct a simple hydroponic growing room (with the help of some local marijuana growing hippies) I would be able to quickly access a feed source that would not require me to store large inventories of alfalfa, nor dedicate/transition limited irrigated clover pasture (used to fatten lambs) to alfalfa, which has in the past proven (for me) a poor field forage due to it's propensity to cause bloat, and it's inability to stand up to heavy hoof traffic in our rainy northwest, and our very short growing season for it... You really cant raise great alfalfa in Western Oregon. It's for those reasons I am interested in alternative growing practices. Thanks so much for your work on the matter, the information you've provided will play a key role in assessing the practicality of this sort of system in my own sheep program! Regards, Joe Wells
Reply by Daniel H Putnam
on December 22, 2013 at 1:11 PM
Thanks Joe, for your comments. I can really understand your strong urge to be self-sufficient in feed, understandable when hay and grain prices go into the stratosphere! Ugh, nobody likes buying hay for feed when pasture is scarce.  
Buying hay is painful, but maybe less painful than spending money on hydroponics. I think there is a reason that people call economics 'the dismal science' - it doesn't always support our pet ideas.  
When I calculated the DM equivalent of feed produced via hydroponics, it comes out to hundreds of dollars more per ton of hay equivalent than just buying either alfalfa or grass hays. That's with just the cost of seed, without the costs of labor or infrastructure included.  
Let me know if you come to the same conclusion with some calculations from your area.  
Now, if you were growing the old mary-jane along with the barley......  
Good luck with your sheep program.  
Dan
by Omkar
on December 22, 2013 at 1:16 AM
Firstly - I thank author and the readers to share the views. I started on a high note by reading online articles about how hydroponics is actually helping grow more with less. However the cost analysis is not aligned.  
 
In developing countries like India, green fodder is available in range 1.5 to 2.5 INR per Kg (thats 1 USD per 40 kg roughly) - which grows on its own or as a byproduct of the harvested crops. Employing hydroponics is expensive and it would not even compete with market prices. To make a point see below calculations:  
 
1 Kg of maize costs about 10-15 Rs (ref http://agmarknet.nic.in/cmm2_home.asp?comm=Maize&dt=16/12/2013 for recent market price range). If used as seeds - 1 kg of maize in this cause at least should produce 10-15 kg of green fodder - so as to meet market prices of green fodder. And I have not seen anyone yet claiming to produce 10 times in 7 days. I am not considering costs involved in hydroponics setup, labor, water usage - as it would still the case that they will be at least nullified with costs involved in production, labor and transportation for traditionally available green fodder. The concept does not even meet to tally returns on investments.
by Daniel Putnam
on December 23, 2013 at 9:50 AM
Omkar;  
Thanks for your comments-all the way from India!  
 
I think if you measured the actual gain or loss in DM with sprouted Maize, you would find a LOSS in DM, similar to the barley. so even though you might get 6-10 kg from 1 kg seed, the amount of feed might actually be LESS - try it out and see! (you'd have to measure the dry weight with a microwave or something).  
 
Let's see- your purchase cost for 40 kg of fresh green fodder is according to my calculations, about $82 US dollars per English ton (2000 LBS) if the fodder was 25% DM, and $102/ton hay equivalent if 20% DM. Depending upon the quality of the fodder, that's pretty inexpensive in US terms. Currently, Chinese dairies are paying 350-450$/MT (Metric Ton is 1.1 English ton) for imported high quality alfalfa hay from US.  
 
It would be difficult for sprouted grains to beat that price in India, I think.  
 
I think it's really important when fodders are priced to carefully consider Dry Matter conversions, and it never ceases to amaze me that people seldom do a careful job of that. Hydroponic forage is one example.  
 
Thanks for your comments - interesting!  
 
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!!
by Abe Connally
on December 30, 2013 at 9:36 AM
DM isn't everything. To make a fair comparison, you need to look at digestibility as well, which is quite low for raw grains.  
 
DM and digestibility peak around day 3-4, so it could be that tweaking this system can give you a greater feed value.
by Daniel H Putnam
on December 30, 2013 at 11:41 AM
Abe;  
Thanks for your comments.  
 
Agree with you that DM isn't everything, and that digestibility (ability to produce energy and digest DM in ruminant systems) is the key. However, digestibility must also be determined on a dry weight basis, and if you have a 20-30% loss in DM, that's a major problem.  
 
I believe the digestibility of whole grains is primarily compromised by lack of crushing or processing, as discussed above.  
 
I'll leave the full arguments about quality to the nutritionists (they argue..??? Naw!).  
 
However, the Fazaeli et al. paper (World Applied Sciences Journal 12(4) 531-539, 2012) was clear: Sprouting increased CP (but decreased true protein), reduced non-fiber carbohydrates (NFC), reduced in-vitro gas production (which is a predictor of digestibility, or at least energy yield in ruminant systems), and reduced Metabolizable Energy (ME) per kg of sprouted grain vs. the original grain. This result is in line with the idea that sprouting utilizes stored carbohydrates in the seed, reducing quality as well as DM.  
 
If you have data which contradicts this, please let us know. I'd actually like to see data which clearly supports this practice. As I said, I've got no dog in this race.  
 
Happy New Year,  
Dan
by Brad Wamsley
on January 7, 2014 at 8:30 AM
Excellent article and comments. I am one of four trustees that oversee a 400 acre farm in New Hampshire which has approximately 40 acres in pasture and hayfield. We lease out the farm and were recently approached by a resident in town to inquire if we were interested in helping her expand her current hydroponic barley sprout business. She has an established business but requires some additional space for expansion. Her customers are horse people and the little understanding that I have of horse people is they care for their horses better than I care for my kids. I don't believe they purchase the barley sprouts for the Dry Matter content but rather for the palatability and the feeling of fullness experienced by the horse from eating a relative large bale of sprouts verses a small handful of seeds. We are currently looking closely at entering into a profit sharing relationship with her and that is how I cam across your article. We would be interested in anyone's thoughts on the matter.
by Daniel H Putnam
on January 8, 2014 at 11:03 AM
Brad;  
You may have hit on a situation where this truly might have a fit! This is a situation where the cost issues are not as important and the analytical loss in feeding value is also not at issue, but the enjoyment of the animals IS!! Now I don't know if horses would enjoy sprouts as much as humans, but it seems reasonable that they could! You may also want to consult with a nutritionist on the issue, but this falls under the category of 'varied diet' to create an interesting diet for these intelligent animals so they won't eat the fence posts....?  
 
Perhaps it is akin to my buying little meaty treats for my dogs - they are certainly not cost effective, and don't yield ANY return (I've tried to no avail to get the beasts to get a job, alas), but they certainly wag their tails more with them. I suppose if I applied my above logic to my dog treats, they would be found wanting.  
 
OF course, from the hay perspective, the horse market for hay is famously 'irrational' - that not being necessarily a bad thing, but as they say, the 'customer is always right'.  
 
But I would check to see if they were willing to pay the true cost of producing the sprouts in any event...!
by Jaber AlJuaidi
on January 9, 2014 at 1:25 AM
I enjoyed the discussion thank you all for sharing your thoughts. When choosing sprouted grains vs. dry, economics of feed is not the only factor. Animal health/death should also be factored in. Animal death due digestion troubles on dry grains (bacteria from source farm, contamination) is greatly reduced when grains are systimatically cleaned. Also mixed graines sprout can be of a good nutritional value. In my humble openion, I believe sprouted grains are easily absorbed in an animal belly for the time the food stays in. I know some obe is going to comment and say crushed dry grains can also be mixed for similar results but what should also be considered is how much the food stays in the animal stomach. Think of it like us eating dry grains or uncooked food versus soaking and cooking grains. checkpeas is one example.
Reply by Daniel H Putnam
on January 10, 2014 at 3:03 PM
Thanks for the comments Jaber.  
I think I'll let the nutritionists weigh in on your comments. I think what you are talking about is 'residence time' or intake levels and how that might affect the digestibility of the grains vs. digestibility of the sprouts.  
 
Anyone?  
 
Dan
by Kyle Chittock
on January 14, 2014 at 8:58 AM
Kyle with Fodder Solutions here. I can answer most of the questions above and aid in some "correction" to the article.  
 
One question was about water usage. Fodder is far more efficient here. It only takes 2 to 3% of the amount of water required for standard forage production.  
 
Another question was about cost. Fodder is very cheap to sprout. There's no soil, no pesticides, no fertilizers, no tractors or fuel, and no large space of land required. A system that fits into 200 square feet will produce over 200 tons of feed per year. (That's "wet" lbs - more on that below)  
 
Now to the big question and the main problem here - Dry Matter. I'm probably going to stir up some nutritionists and sound a bit crazy here, but dry matter doesn't matter. Our traditional methods of feeding which rely on dry matter do NOT work with fodder.  
 
This whole article assumes that an animal fed fodder will consume the same amount of dry matter as a traditional feed. They do not.  
 
Before you jump in with your arguments, show me a study that includes feeding animals and measuring dry matter before and after fodder. If you cannot do this, you cannot prove, nor disprove my claim. (I however do have studies - look at the nutrition tab on www.foddersolutions.net)  
 
As an example, watch this video. http://abclocal.go.com/kgo/video?id=9385462 Tracy Underwood saves $200 PER DAY by feeding fodder. Her horses are healthier as well. But the fact of the matter is, that's a savings of $73,000 per year. It's difficult to argue with real results. Just because we don't understand it yet, doesn't mean everyone is making it up! You don't have to believe me, look up Santa Rosa Equestrian Center and ask her yourself.  
 
Another example is a dairymen is Idaho. He replaced dry corn with foddder - lb for lb. Not dry matter lb for lb, but wet fodder, for dry corn. 1lb of seed can grow into 6.5lbs of wet feed. Assuming dry matter loss (which I am in no way arguing with) from sprouting, he may actually only be feeding .15lb of dry matter fodder - for each lb of corn. That's a significant reduction in dry matter for his total ration - yet his milk production is the same, and his milk fats increased from 3.1% to 3.9%. His cost of "wet" fodder was $138 per ton. His corn was $350 per ton.  
 
If you base this solely on dry matter, then you're assuming he'll have to feed more than 60lbs of fodder to replace just 10lbs of grain. - That is a totally unrealistic amount of fodder to feed!  
 
We don't know everything about fodder yet - but universities are testing it and why it works so well. Chico State University currently runs a fodder system with their organic dairy cows. The key thing here is they're feeding animals for their study - and it works.  
 
If you're still not convinced (and I don't expect you to be) then you need to go talk to someone who is using fodder, and ask them 2 things. "How is the health of heard now that you're using fodder? How much has your feed bill changed?" If you need someone to talk to, I know people around almost all of the US using fodder.
Reply by Daniel H Putnam
on January 28, 2014 at 12:27 PM
Kyle;  
Since you haven't offered any data to support your contention, it has to be dismissed as a promotional piece.  
 
Please offer data to support your point of view.  
 
Sorry, you are wrong about the dry matter. It is important to adjust for dry matter. As Glenn Shewmaker pointed out: Try adding 9 lbs of water for each pound of hay, and then sell the hay for 40$/ton? Nutritionally, you still have 1 lb of hay!!  
 
See his excellent article: http://www.progressivecattle.com/focus-topics/nutrition/6025-hydroponic-forage-system-too-good-to-be-true  
 
Here are the key questions which require data (from promoters) to support the practice:  
1. Is there a gain in dry matter during the sprouting process, or a loss? Our research shows a loss of 25-30%.  
2. Is there a gain in quality of the barley or other seed by sprouting, or a loss compared with seeds themselves? Published research shows a loss in quality vs. the initial seed. Do you have feeding data to indicate an improvement in feeding value/lb DM?  
3. What is the total water impact of producing fodder this way? – not just the water used in sprouting but the water used for grain production for the seeds? Keep in mind the DM loss during sprouting.  
4. What is the full cost of producing fodder vs. producing hay or purchasing forage or grain crops? Our data shows roughly double the price for sprouted seeds "fodder" vs. purchased hay. See above.  
5. What evidence do you have that this practice is sustainable environmentally?  
 
Unless you (or others) can provide data which more fully supports this practice, it should be discounted.
by Marc
on January 22, 2014 at 4:12 PM
Let's make a summary : germinate a seed during only a week causes a loss of dry matter, so don't feed animals with a so short harvest... but this is not hydroponic specific ! So a diff between a one-week harvest hydroponic and a yearly conventional crop produce useless conclusions. To compare the effectiveness of increasing DM, compare cultures over the same period, eg a month, and only then we can talk about water / quality / energy
Reply by Daniel H Putnam
on January 23, 2014 at 7:58 AM
Marc;  
Good point to compare over same period.  
 
If you get 4 sprout harvests over the month, same problem, you get losses summed over a month. Still negative growth, and negative water use efficiency.  
 
If you leave the sprouts for a full month, it's not clear what happens (the websites don't promote this), and we don't have data on this. You'd probably run into major plant nutrient limitations, diseases, etc.  
 
The key issue is that sprouts go through a loss in carbohydrate before photosynthesis kicks in to add dry matter with well-established plants. Note that harvested sprouts in our study were only abut 15% leaves, majority (85%) was in the roots and spent seeds.  
 
But (as per comments above) this begs the question, why not plant barley in the field and harvest early. Maybe not 1 month but 2 or 3. Boot stage or vegetative small grains (or annual ryegrass) are very high quality feeds. You would need water (ET) for the field, but you would also need water for 2-3 months of controlled environment growth. You would have to satisfy other plant nutrient needs (N, P, K, S, etc.) somehow - in the field the soil will help, not so with hydroponics, where you'd have to add nutrients.  
 
The other option: grow hay during the growing season, harvest and store. It's cheaper. Don't believe me - do the calculations yourself, but be sure to adjust for dry matter.
by John
on January 31, 2014 at 12:59 PM
Thank you for the informative article and followup in the comment section. Similar to Brad from 1/7, I am interested the applications of sprouted barley to the horse industry, specifically sport-horses and racehorses. As mentioned, the use of sprouted grains in this area would focus on a palatable and varied diet that more closely resembles natural grazing, rather than the economic/yield concerns of dairy and meat producers.  
 
I would appreciate your thoughts on a few issues; one being the consistency of sprouted grains. One of the challenges I've faced in raising and caring for horses is inconsistency in the quality of alfalfa. That said, I'm basing that assumption of inconsistency on anecdotal factors like amount of leaf, how thick are the stems, how much is left on the ground after feeding, etc. I'm curious how truly varied is the nutritional content of alfalfa over a year? I realize this depends on lots of factors, but would it be fair to claim that a sprouted barley diet represent a more consistent (although economical inferior) food source?  
 
The major followup to that question, perhaps for the nutritionist, is where do sprouted grains fit into in a equine feeding program. The promoters cite rising hay prices and stable that have cut the hay bills tremendously. But, it was mentioned here on 11/15 that “sprouted grain is more appropriately compared with grain, since its fiber levels are so low, and it doesn't really have the functional fiber as does hay.” I have reviewed the nutritional data for sprouted barely specifically and am confused as to how to incorporate it. Would a reduction in grain be appropriate? Could a switch be made to a less nutritionally rich hay strictly for fiber, with the sprouted grains picking up the nutritional slack? Additionally, with the difference in DM/high moisture content, how best to adjust for the increased weight of sprouted grains when rationing?  
 
Also, perhaps this is too horse specific for this post, but promoters of sprouted grains claim digestive benefits, specifically in the reduction of colic, gastric ulcers, etc. While this makes some sense to me from my experience, I'm curious if as a nutritionist if these claims seem likely.  
 
I very much appreciate any help with these questions. Daniel, I like the analogy you made to dog treats, I'm just hoping that there can also be some nutritional and dietary benefits to justify the cost of sprouted barely to myself and my customers. Thank you
by Daniel H Putnam
on January 31, 2014 at 2:27 PM
John;  
Good questions. I'll let the nutritionists weigh in on these issues more fully.  
 
On the consistency issue, you are quite right - this is a problem with hay. However, one way to try to control the consistency of alfalfa hay is to buy in larger batches and to test and specify tests quality. That being said, I would think that sprouts may be more consistent than hay, but again, it may not be appropriate to compare sprouts nutritionally to hay.  
 
Dan  
 
PS My dogs still haven't secured a paying job, but alas, I still give them treats.
by Kyle Chittock
on January 31, 2014 at 4:10 PM
Well if it's scientific evidence you desire:  
 
http://www.foddersolutions.net/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/Benefits-of-sprouts-for-feed.pdf  
http://www.foddersolutions.net/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/UK-Sheep-Trial.pdf  
http://www.foddersolutions.net/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/equine-case-Studies.pdf  
http://www.foddersolutions.net/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/Lamb-enterprise-sprouts-at-Glen-Innes.pdf  
Respiratory+Disorders+in+Horses  
Digestive+Tract+Equine  
 
John, those horse studies should answer your questions.  
 
To further address your questions Daniel:  
1. Is there a gain in dry matter during the sprouting process, or a loss?  
Let's do the opposite with your analogy. Dry up a cow's milk and feed it to one calf, while another receives the normal milk. Which one will be healthier?  
 
2. Is there a gain in quality of the barley or other seed by sprouting, or a loss compared with seeds themselves  
Read the article above "Benefits of sprouts for feed." Clearly there is a gain. If not, why are humans sprouting wheat grass and drinking it for the health benefits? Would they not be better eating the dry wheat grain? No, they're not.  
 
3. What is the total water impact of producing fodder this way?  
Sprouting grain uses 2-3% of the water required for standard forage production - aka hay. In addition, because of the high moisture content animals will drink less water. There is also no fuel involved, no tillage costs, no transportation costs, etc. This has been used for the last decade in Australia because of it's resilience in harsh drought conditions.  
 
4. What is the full cost of producing fodder vs. producing hay or purchasing forage or grain crops?  
Typically it's around $100 per ton. That's including the fact that you're paying for good quality seed grain. The grower of the grain (typically barley) is turning profit from selling the seed. If you grew your own barley seed, the $100 per ton would decrease dramatically. (This is a "wet" $100/ton - since that's how you feed it.)  
 
5. What evidence do you have that this practice is sustainable environmentally?  
The use of the technology has been growing rapidly in Australia over the past decade, as well as Africa and India over the past 2-3 years. Think about it - a machine that takes up just 200 square feet - produces 200 tons of feed per year. This means there is more land available for grazing or growing other crops. (Such as the crops required to put more seed into the system, and further reduce land and water usage.)  
 
In regards to letting the sprouts grow longer - Past 6 days sprouts start to change into a grass. You lose digestibility and nutrient value the longer it grows past the sprouting stage. Again, refer to the article "benefits of sprouts for feed".
by Daniel H Putnam
on January 31, 2014 at 5:45 PM
Thanks, Kyle.  
Finally at least a little data. Thanks!  
 
I see you've nicely avoided the dry matter issue again - by the way, dried milk powder is fine nutritionally and is used around the world for human (or animal) nutrition, reconstituted. Surprise-It's in the non-water fraction!!  
 
In your 2-3% water-use concept - your forgot to adjust for DM of the different materials (sprouts and forage). You also forgot to include the water to grow the seed initially. Need to re-calculate.  
 
On the economics, Let's see, according to your calculations, if sprouts cost around $100/ wet ton to produce, and the dry matter is about 12% (to be generous, see above data), you'd get 240 lbs of DM in a ton with the sprouts, and hay is about 90% DM (very standard), you would get 1800 lbs of DM in a ton. The 'hay equivalent' cost of sprouts then would be $750/ton on a hay-equivalent basis.  
 
Thanks for confirming my calculations. Sprouts are very expensive compared with purchased hay.  
 
Cheers,  
 
 
Dan
by Kyle Chittock
on February 3, 2014 at 7:41 AM
"Thanks for confirming my calculations. Sprouts are very expensive compared with purchased hay."  
 
- On a dry matter basis, yes. Sprouts are not fed on a dry matter basis though!  
 
Let's crunch the numbers with an average, 1,000lb horse. Let's say the normal ration is about 20lbs of alfalfa hay each day, or 2% of body weight. It think we can agree this is "normal".  
 
Now introduce 20lbs of fodder to the horse's diet, and free choice hay. On it's own, the horse will naturally start eating less hay. In our experience, it would cut back to about 10lbs of hay while eating 20lbs of fodder.  
 
20lbs of wet sprouts would only be around 2.75lbs of dry grain. So on a dry matter basis, the horse that was eating 20lbs of dry matter per day, is now only eating 12.75lbs of dry matter per day.  
You will say this is impossible, the horse cannot be healthy - but it is being done right now, with thousands of fodder systems around the world. Tell Clayton Fredericks (who has olympic level horses) that the fodder he's feeding cannot sustain a healthy horse.  
 
I'm not disagreeing that there is a dry matter loss during sprouting, or that sprouts appear to be more expensive on a dry matter basis. But if it's not fed on a dry matter basis - Dry matter doesn't matter.  
 
I suppose this is a difference between UC Davis and Chico State University. UC Davis has specialists in a classroom discussing how fodder can't work. Chico State University has a dairy operation on the university farm using fodder for their cows to actually understand it.  
 
That said, anyone who REALLY wants to know, can contact Cindy Daley at Chico State University. http://www.csuchico.edu/ag/faculty-staff/college-faculty/daley-cindy.shtml  
 
Daniel, the only further advice I can offer at this point is to get out of your office and speak with some ranches and farms that are actually using this as a way of sustaining their animals. Here are a few within driving distance. Anyone else reading this is welcome to contact them too.  
 
Chico State University  
http://www.srequestrian.com/  
http://www.ghswest.com/gypsyhorses/  
Darrell Wood (President of Panorama Meats) http://www.panoramameats.com/  
 
It's never easy to implement something deemed impossible by the experts.
by Daniel H Putnam
on February 3, 2014 at 10:56 AM
Kyle;  
What?? get out of my office?? Like I do each day??? Peter Robinson and myself are Extension Agronomists and regularly are in the field.  
 
It's only BECAUSE I"ve milked (and fed) cows myself for many years, and have research plots all over the state, and regularly visit farmers and ranches that I can unequivocally say that:  
 
DRY MATTER in rations MATTERS!! Any qualified nutritionists will tell you so. Rations are considered on a dry basis - Now sprouts may be something interesting nutritionally, but to say dry matter doesn't count is nonsense, so stop saying it.  
 
DRY MATTER in estimating yields MATTERS!!! If someone says 'my variety yields 25 tons per acre" - that would be amazing for alfalfa (yields from 5-12 tons dry hay at 90%DM) but not so much for corn silage (yields from 22 to 35 t/acre silage at 30% DM).  
 
DRY MATTER MATTERS!  
 
Suggest: stop being insulting in your comments, and address the facts.  
 
Dan
by Kyle Chittock
on February 3, 2014 at 2:23 PM
No offense or insults intended.  
 
I look forward to hearing about your visits then.
by Kyle Chittock
on February 4, 2014 at 10:11 AM
I just heard some numbers from a dairymen in Indiana using fodder. (His name is Alvin Beechy, and yes, he has a Fodder Solutions system. The information was volunteered to us and he'll be at the grazing conference coming up in Indiana for anyone that would like the numbers straight from the source.)  
 
Over the past year his milk production increased 21%. Milk fats increased from 3.6 to 3.7 to over 5. His increase in profit for the milk alone was 22%.  
 
He stated that the profit from feeding fodder last year paid for his fodder machine.
by Glenn Shewmaker
on February 4, 2014 at 3:34 PM
Every forage agronomist and nutritionist that I have discussed the fodder system agrees with the points that Dr. Putnam has made.  
Dry matter is import in ruminant nutrition! Kyle's argument that fodder can't be compared on a dry matter basis is wrong. Corn and grass silages and pasture forage can be compared to hay and grains on a dry matter basis. It is done every day by nutritionists, and to try to publish a scientific paper without converting to dry matter would cause rejection by the peer-reviewers.  
I have no doubts that fodder produced with these systems is highly palatable and readily eaten, but to claim that it doesn't take as much dry matter to produce the same milk as hay or grain is illogical.  
 
See the following link for an article that I wrote:  
http://www.progressivecattle.com/focus-topics/nutrition/6025-hydroponic-forage-system-too-good-to-  
be-true  
 
Glenn Shewmaker, Ph.D.  
Professor and Extension Forage Specialist  
University of Idaho
by Brandy Nelson
on February 4, 2014 at 6:01 PM
Hello everyone and thanks for all comments. I am feeding 800lb angus replacement heifers. I am feeding free choice 44%tdn crop residue and supplementing soybean/corn to compensate for cp and tdn. I have access to very inexpensive raw soybeans. I have fed them whole as well as finely ground. My problem: too many beans in the manure (even after finely grinding). I have a few questions:  
 
1. Will soaking grain (soybeans) overnight make them more digestible or do they need to actually sprout (from enzyme action)? I definitely do not want to lose too much DM and CP.  
 
2. 800lb steers on wheat pasture surely dont eat 60lbs of wheat per day to get the equivalent 20-25lbs of tmr. Does this support the fodder theory of DM doesnt matter.. Im not for or against the fodder. But i really do think that something for nothing is a waste.  
 
Any thoughts are appreciated.
by Kyle Chittock
on February 4, 2014 at 10:01 PM
"Every forage agronomist and nutritionist that I have discussed the fodder system agrees with the points that Dr. Putnam has made."  
 
That doesn't surprise me one bit. Talk to someone like Sylvia Abel-Cain who is a nutritionist for Organic Valley and your statement will change.  
 
"...but to claim that it doesn't take as much dry matter to produce the same milk as hay or grain is illogical. "  
 
I'm sure the Wright brothers were deemed illogical. After the first flight there were many that did not believe it had happened, and that it was a hoax or a scam. That did not change the fact that it did happen.  
 
Funny that you should post the article above, I've already read it. It comes to the same conclusion - that fodder on a dry matter basis is more expensive. So I offer the following. Since you're in Idaho, this seems applicable.  
 
Anyone who has spent time around Idaho Falls has probably heard of Reed's Dairy. His ice cream is quite famous. What you may not know is that he has a small fodder system. On his own, he devised a test to see what fodder would do for his dairy cows. The original post for this text is here: http://foddersolutions.net/fodderforums/?topic=fodder-for-dairy  
 
"We milk 160 Holstein cows on our dairy. In the spring we purchased a unit that produces 300 pounds of fodder per day. We put 12 cows in a separate corral and tested the fodder on them.  
Our goals were:  
1. To see if we can replace the flaked corn pound for pound with fodder  
2. Determine if it changed the flavor of the milk.  
3. Determine the health of the cows on fodder.  
4. Find out what happens to the milk production and fat content of the milk.  
 
Here is what happened and hopefully it will help answer your question/  
We gradually (over a four week time frame) changed from 20 pounds of corn per day per cow to 20 pounds of fodder. Replacing all of the grain with fodder, pound for pound.  
 
The milk flavor was as good or even a little cleaner.  
 
Health of the cows stayed really good.  
 
Milk production never dropped. We were running this test on 12 of our highest producers. So far we have not seen an increase in milk production but the fat test increased from 3.2% to 3.9%  
 
Hope this helps.  
 
Alan  
Reed’s Dairy  
Idaho Falls, ID"  
 
 
Mind you, this is "wet" lbs for "dry" lbs. Alan is a reputable source and well known in that part of the country. So there are two possible explanations to this story. 1 - He made the whole thing up. 2 - Reducing dry matter in a ration while maintaining, or even improving health, is possible.  
 
Possibility #1 seems highly illogical.  
 
 
Kyle Chittock  
Ordinary Guy
by Abe Connally
on February 5, 2014 at 9:48 AM
Dan,  
 
Thanks for the reply. Happy New Year to you as well.  
 
As to your request for information that shows net benefit in digestibility, look at this document: http://www.qcl.farmonline.com.au/files/48/20/01/000012048/Hydroponicfodder.pdf  
 
It brings up some really good points about fodder and sprouts. Fodder at 8 days is 10-15% dry matter, 85% water. So, if you took 1 lb of grain and grew fodder with it, you get 6 lbs of fodder. But, that 6 lbs of fodder has only .9 lbs of actual feed, the rest is water. I thnk we all agree on the dry matter loss with fodder.  
 
The original grain is 90% DM, so about .9lbs of feed. Whole grain is 40% digestible, but ground grain is close to 75% digestible. Ground grains do lose nutrients the longer they sit, so it is best to grind the grains right before feeding to get the most nutrients (and most of these tests use freshly ground grains for measurements).  
 
Sprouts at 4 days have 80% dry matter, and usually about 2.5-3 lbs per pound of original grain. So, at 2.5 lbs, that is 2 lbs of feed (more than fodder and the original grain). This is a net increase of DM!  
 
So, at first glance, fodder doesn't seem to add anything. But, then digestibility comes into it. Whole grain is about 40% digestible, Ground grain is about 75%, Fodder is 80%, and 4 day sprouts is 85%.  
 
From the figures above, that gives us the actual feed digested by the animal out of 1 lb of grain (including the DM figures):  
Whole grain: 1 x .9 (DM) x .4 (digestibility) = .36 lbs feed value  
Ground grain: 1 x .9 (DM) x .75 (digestibility) = .68 lbs feed value  
4 Day Sprouts: 1 x 2.5 (sprouts) x .8 (DM) x .85 (digestibility) = 1.7 lbs feed value  
Fodder: 1 x 6 (sprout) x .15 (DM) x .8 (digestibility) = .7 lbs feed value  
 
This doesn't take into account enzymes, vitamin content, unmeasurables, etc, that can play a role in the feed value of a particular method. But, I think the data is interesting and may account for the numerous people that seem to have beneficial results with fodder.  
 
Personally, I'd like to see feed trials of fodder vs sprouts, ground grain vs sprouts, ground grain vs fodder.
by Glenn Shewmaker
on February 6, 2014 at 1:10 PM
Abe,  
 
Thanks for contributing to the discussion. However your assumptions in your calculations above are not practical. It is not possible to create more dry matter than is present in the 4 or 8 day period. So if you have 2.5 lbs of 4-day sprouts it cannot be more than 0.4 dry matter (2.5 x 0.4 = 1.0).  
 
Glenn
by Daniel H Putnam
on February 6, 2014 at 3:40 PM
Abe;  
I think you're quite right to identify digestibility as an important factor. I'd like to see more digestibility data from the promoters. IVDDM (IN vitro digestible dry matter) and NDFd (digestibility of the NDF fraction), as well as gas production would be helpful. Note: these are all both based upon a DM basis (except gas).  
 
However, Fazaeli et al. (2012) found a decrease in Organic matter digestibility, decrease carbohydrate and energy in the fodder after sprouting compared with the seed, so your assumption that sprouts would be superior may not be true.  
 
Glenn is right to question the DM calculation - note that 1 lb of ground grain effectively turns into about 0.75 lbs of grain after sprouting (Dry basis), so the digestibility would have to be a LOT greater to make up for this difference.  
 
Dan
by Abe Connally
on February 8, 2014 at 12:04 PM
Glenn, I appreciate what you are saying, but those results are from tested DM levels from the paper I linked to.
by Abe Connally
on February 8, 2014 at 12:14 PM
Dan,  
 
What sprouts were tested in the Fazaeli study? Sprouts or fodder? The tested digestibility of Fodder in the studies referenced in that paper show an increase in digestion of fodder vs whole grain. Fodder vs ground grain shows a slight increase in digestibility.  
 
Sprouting to 3-4 days shows the largest increase in digestibility.  
 
The DM calculation is from the studies in the paper I linked to. The .75lb of DM you reference is after growing to fodder, not in the initial sprout stage that I am referencing (sprouts younger than 4 days). Numerous studies (also referenced in that link) show less of a DM loss than 25%, and more in the range of 10-15%.  
 
Ground grain does not sprout. Whole grain suffers from low digestibility. Grinding and/or sprouting increases that digestibility by a large margin (doubling it or more).  
 
I would love to see some data, especially feeding trials on sprouts vs ground grain vs fodder. If you know of feeding trials or studies that specifically look at sprouts vs fodder, please share them.
by Abe Connally
on February 8, 2014 at 12:42 PM
Here's the relevant references from the report regarding 4 day sprouts vs fodder: http://imgur.com/a/X3V72
by Daniel H Putnam
on February 9, 2014 at 1:10 AM
Abe;  
The Fazhaeli study was on sprouts 6-8 days old.  
 
It looks like from what you've shown, there is a slight increase in digestibility with sprouts at 4 days, but it goes down after that. The big issue is that annoying loss in DM. Although the digestibility goes up a little, the actually quantity of DM goes down a lot.  
 
Your reference to the Australian study was very helpful:  
http://www.qcl.farmonline.com.au/files/48/20/01/000012048/Hydroponicfodder.pdf  
 
It's a detailed review. Note that they said in their summary: "Profitable use of sprouted grain as a feed source for commercial cattle production appears unlikely " They note that the failure to account for DM was a major problem, and later state that "Sprouts have been found to cost from two to five times the cost of dry matter compared with the original grain."  
 
Confirms our critique.  
 
I think the earlier analogy to dog treats is appropriate here - the sprouts appear palatable and digestible, and probably interesting to the animals, but don't really survive an economic analysis. Just like my dog treats for my worthless "refuse to get a job' dogs.
by Abe Connally
on February 9, 2014 at 11:58 AM
Daniel,  
 
Thanks for the clarification on the Fazhaeli study.  
 
The conclusion in the Australian Report is also based on a system that cost $76,000, which is typically more expensive than systems available now or owner-built. So, any conclusion about profitability needs to take that into account. This line is very important:  
 
"The sprouts option has the highest income but also much higher variable and fixed costs resulting in a loss of $2,215 and being $7,338 worse than the ‘no change’ option. In this case $76,000 was spent on a shed and associated equipment and grain was priced at $250/t."  
 
So, without that $73K expenditure, it would have been profitable.  
 
It is interesting to note that several analyses in that study show a variance of DM loss from 7% up to 40%. If the digestibility figures are reliable (the majority showing higher digestibility with fodder vs raw grain), and DM only drops by 7%, then there could be an overall benefit to fodder production, because gains in digestibility could make up for small DM losses. This particular area needs further study, in my opinion.  
 
The majority of feed studies in that report don't show an advantage to fodder, but some do:  
"Tudor et al. (2003) measured intake and liveweight change in 17 Droughtmaster steers that received low quality hay and barley sprouts over 70 days. During the first 48 days cattle ate 1.9 kgDM/head/day of sprouts (15.4 kg wet weight) and 3.1 kgDM/head/day of poor quality hay and gained 1.01 kg/head/day. Energy intake was 47 MJME/head/day, which was considered by nutrition standards to only be sufficient for low weight gains of up to 200g/head/day. This high performance could not be explained by energy and protein intakes."  
 
I think there's a lot going on here that may not be easily explained through the data we currently have. More feed trials and studies are needed for definitive conclusions.
by Mike Zabel
on February 14, 2014 at 8:11 AM
This article and the lively comments following are all very interesting. I would simply like to provide some additional "fodder" (sorry for the pun) for the discussion.  
 
To start with, I am a seed producer (barley included). As well, my business partner operates a 140-cow dairy, and we, together, are crop producers. In the recent past couple of years, I have had a number of customer inquiries for barley seed for the purpose of producing fodder, mostly from hobbyists, but also from some larger dairy producers.  
 
To begin with, I believe that there are several discussions contained within the broader debate. The economics of the dry matter comparison are pretty hard to argue against. After all, these are simple and straight-forward calculations. My experience is that, when mixing feed in a TMR dairy ration, as the DM content of an ingredient decreases, the as-fed pounds increase within the ration.  
 
Another aspect within this discussion may be that some of the economics of fodder production must be calculated using geographical implications. For example, in the northern U.S. climate where I'm from, the cost and type of structure needed to maintain a consistently narrow temperature range for fodder production would have a high initial cost, given the robust construction design, insulation, lighting, etc., and a subsequently higher maintenance cost, mostly due to heating costs. There are probably additional considerations that I have not listed that could alos be important.  
 
Along with geography, comes macro and micro climate conditions. So, aside from dictating the type of structure needed for fodder production, climate conditions play a major role in the resources needed for feed production. For example, in our region, annual rainfall amounts are seldom, if ever a problem (although timing can be). So, water use savings (not water use efficiency), would be difficult to calculate, as rainfall (a paycheck), soil moisture (a bank), and dew (a bonus)require no additional expense.  
 
Land is also an important consideration, with which there are numerous questions attached. What is your land worth, and /or what is its market price? How productive is your land? Do you own land, or not, or is it rented? Can you purchase more land in close proximity to your feeding operation? Can you afford to buy land? And there are certainly more questions.  
 
With land, you have an investment that increases in value over time. A building depreciates over time and will likely never be worth the cost of construction, but it will retain some residual value.  
 
Some people have cited land costs and lack of nearby, available land as the impetus for fodder production. For example, Mr. Chittock has stated in an earlier post that fodder production yield can exceed one wet ton per square foot per year. He further sites examples of people who are replacing wet pounds of fodder for dry pounds of feed ingredients at a one to one ratio. Everyone will have to make financial decisions based on market conditions for land in their own area, so this is just one example.  
 
Let's say one invests $200,000.00 to build a building for fodder production on land they already own. Let's compare that to purchasing land at $7,000.00 per acre that can produce 5 tons (dry matter) of alfalfa per acre per year. Using Mr. Chittock's fodder production claims, one would need 40 acres to produce 200 tons of dry matter alfalfa. With this example, it would cost $280,000.00 for the land. Land appreciates, on average and over time at about 7 percent per year, and buildings depreciate at about 10 to 15 percent per year. What will the net worth of each system's owner be in ten years?  
 
Now, let's compare production costs. If fodder production yields 6 pounds of feed per 1 pound of seed, using previously stated seed prices ($15/bu), fodder would cost approximately ($15 bus. / 48 lbs. / 6 lbs. yield) $0.05/lb., excluding labor, water, heat, building costs, etc. Alfalfa seed is more costly, perhaps around $65.00 per acre, plus seeding and tillage, perhaps totaling $90.00 per acre but this cost can be spread over a three year stand life. Harvesting costs also vary greatly, but using Iowa average custom rates (give or take): $13 to cut/mow per acre; $3 rake per acre; $9 per 950 pound (3x3x8)bale. So, seed plus establishment is $90/acre / 3 year stand life / 5 tons per acre = $6/ton. In a three cut system yielding 5 tons/acre/per, cut/mow = $39 per acre/5 tons per acre = $7.80/ton; Rake = $9 per acre/5 tons per acre = $1.80 per ton; Baling = 10.5 bales/ per acre x $9 per bale / 5 tons per acre = $18.90 per ton. Added together, production costs per ton would equal about $34.50, or a bit less than $0.02/lb. Even with $200/acre/year in fertilizer costs ($200/ 5 tons/ 2000 lbs = $0.02/lb) So, even using a one to one comparison between wet fodder and dry alfalfa (which I remain extremely skeptical about), it would appear that dry alfalfa still would be the better economic feed choice.  
 
The number of variables are limitless, so everyone's cost calculations will likely be different, but this is just a quick and dirty way to calculate cost differences in feed costs that I'm familiar with. I would be interested in what other folks would have for cost comparisons. I am able to take criticism, if been wrong before.
Reply by Daniel H Putnam
on February 14, 2014 at 9:22 AM
Mike:  
Thanks for your comments. Your calculations were somewhat more involved than mine. Producing one's own hay is almost always (if you have the land and equipment) cheaper than buying, but for people with animals without land, the calculations may be simpler:  
 
Is it cheaper just to buy fodder? Cheaper to buy hay or grain vs. 'grow ones own' fodder in a hydroponic system? The answer is an unequivical YES. Your calculations confirm this, as do mine.  
 
Take a look at last week's prices for hay delivered in California:  
 
California – Dlvd to Tulare/Hanford Dairies  
(# Tons in survey, and price)  
Supreme 1,025 $/Ton $297-$315  
Premium 1,545 $/Ton $280-$310  
Good 550 $/Ton $265-$285  
Fair 350 $/Ton $265-$270  
 
These are prices during a drought and low hay supply!!! (quote from Seth Hoyt's 'The Hoyt Report')  
 
Compare this to the calculation of hydroponic fodder at $750/ton on a hay equivalent basis (this is Fodder Solution's $100/wet ton cost estimate, not mine). Now, intake may be a little higher for sprouts vs. high quality hay (data is not clear about this), but it must be MUCH higher in performance to justify these differences.  
 
Dan
by Jim Giles
on February 18, 2014 at 5:53 PM
I've been conducting research on hydroponic fodder systems for less than one week and come to this very rich analysis which I've not yet had time to fully digest but can't resist asking whether you believe fodder can replace the grain I'm currently feeding my Jersey cows and maintain their relative milk production?
by Jim Giles
on February 18, 2014 at 7:23 PM
"I think you're quite right to identify digestibility as an important factor. I'd like to see more digestibility data from the promoters."  
 
See http://www.rebelarmy.com/pdfs/Barley.pdf  
 
And is there a way for me to join this discussion, i.e., have a user account and password?
Reply by Daniel H Putnam
on February 18, 2014 at 7:45 PM
Jim;  
You just did join- it's a moderated discussion.  
 
Thanks for the digestibility data - it would be relevant to have the barley before and after sprouting to compare the raw seed with sprouts - along with the dry matter changes over 7 days to see what was lost during sprouting, both energy and DM.  
 
Dan
by Bill Brandon
on February 18, 2014 at 10:02 PM
This article and particularly the thread that followed are very interesting. I stumbled on it while looking for information on ‘hydroponic fodder’. I feel that I am certainly atypical from those who post here, as I am not directly involved in anything involving feed rations. I grew up in Ohio farm communities and have several cousins and classmates that are or were farmers ranging from row crops to cattle to dairy to hogs etc. I approach this from an environmental interest and rooted in 30 years involvement in bioenergy and in the last eight years more specifically biofuels. I am particularly interested in the inter-relation of different components in what could be called a bio-industrial ecology system. The oldest inter-relation is the corn ethanol/feed debate. Some of the posts to this thread remind me of the antidotal stories that emerged when increasing amounts of Dried Distiller Grains (DDGs) became available to feed lot operations. Data is now being accumulated and new technologies for removing the oil or removing the cellulosic hull from the kernel or using different yeasts and enzymes results in different qualities of DDG. Establishing standards for these qualities is still a work in progress. The short story is that the USDA has now established a ratio for replacing corn with DDGs at 1.22 (corn) to 1 (DDG) on a ‘dry weight’ basis, which is really probably 10% or less moisture content. I do not know exactly what went into these calculations but they are consistent with early antidotal stories. This seems to bear on the question of DM comparisons.  
 
The Federal Drug Administration (FDA) recently released voluntary guidelines for reduced antibiotic use in animals. In the background data supporting these guidelines, the FDA clearly pointed their finger at “high energy (i.e. starch) feeds like corn that require increased antibiotic use” as needing to be changed. I find it interesting that much of the comments here were related to horses. It is my understanding that ‘hindgrindeers’ like horses and mules can use high starch corn diets well, and indeed was an early driver for growing corn in the late 19th century to ‘fuel’ our means of motive power. Ruminant animals and hogs however will naturally pass a large amount of starch through their digestive tract. The emerging data is revealing that using high protein rations like DDGs lowers the need for pharma inputs actually results in quicker weight gain. There is of course the on going dispute as to whether corn fed or grass fed cattle make better steaks, but using a ‘high energy’ ration at the end of ‘finishing’ seems to result in good marbling. The increased use of grain in feedlots starting 40 or 50 years ago coincides with the increased use of probiotic enzymes and antibiotics provided by our friends in Big Pharma. The primary indication used for determining probiotics needs is to test for fecal starch. A ‘high energy’ grain diet has been the standard for many years but it may be time to question this.  
 
To get good answers, one needs to ask good questions. That DM will decrease with germination is to be expected because that is the nature of a seed. It stores energy in the form of starch that it uses in germination prior to photosynthesis taking place. My question is what is happening with that germination? I am fairly sure that the loss of DM isn’t just disappearing as heat. It is changing the molecular composition of the seed into enzymes or proteins or something. The hull of any seed is a form of cellulose and unless it is broken down mechanically, there needs to be some sort of cellulase enzyme to break it down, which is generally lacking in animals. In digestion, just like in fermentation, the starch needs to be exposed to enzymes to produce sugar for final digestive absorption and small pieces are better than big pieces.  
 
Some of the more recent posts in this thread are getting at good questions. Improved digestibility, how it affects growth and weight gain etc. and its relation to other feed rations are more important questions than the fact that a seed will have more ‘energy’ (starch or DM) than a sprout.  
 
Some have questioned the CAPEX and OPEX or running a hydroponic sprout facility. From my experience, some of the CAPEX estimates here seem significantly high and co-locating with an ethanol facility would make heating requirements basically free as there is plenty of excess, low-level heat waste. Feedlot operations are finding co-location with an ethanol refinery efficient as they benefit from the ability to receive a continuous supply of WET distillers grain. Would they also benefit from a continuous supply of hydroponic sprouts? You may see where I am coming from in a ‘bio-industrial ecology system’ context. I hope to see additional comments on this.
by Jim Giles
on February 19, 2014 at 3:55 PM
My research has led me to various fodder sources who I have asked to comment on Dan's article here in simple English and I cobbled together their reply as follows:  
 
"Yes, DM stands for dry matter. This is the standard unit of measure in current dairy cow feed rations. The DM mindset is what we need to get away from when looking at fodder. DM rations do not capitalize on the digestive design of the animal; grain is not a natural feed for ruminants. The article is correct that, when reviewed for DM fodder is not cost effective. What nutritionists don’t say is the next step, that the increased moisture of fodder carries additional digestive enzymes, amino acids, nutrients etc. This is hugely beneficial to the animal."  
 
"Dan Putnam’s opinions on grain vs. sprouts. On average a barley seed is approximately 13% protein, maybe 30% digestible to a cow. By sprouting it you’re taking the starches that create the DM and transforming them to a more simple sugar. You’re activating the proteins during this stage as well. This lends to the barley sprout testing at least 18% protein with a 70%+ digestibility."  
 
Dan, I would greatly appreciate your reply to the above and would also appreciate a simplified version of your argument that a milk consumer could understand.  
 
Lastly, I don't understand how it can be that a hydroponic fodder system which maintains my cows' current milk production and allows me to eliminate all grain from my cows' diet and the cost of the feed is not economically viable and a financially prudent investment?  
 
There is also the issue of GMOs in grain which a hydroponic fodder system eliminates. What's the value of GMO Free milk when compared with GMO milk?  
 
Thank you.
by Daniel H Putnam
on February 20, 2014 at 11:47 AM
Jim;  
I think your estimate of digestibility of grain is low, if the grain is processed. Ruminants can digest many of the starches in grains (this can be measured), especially barley.  
 
Published data shows decline in true protein, although some increase in CP.  
 
The big issue is the loss in total feed tonnage due to DM losses, so whatever supposed increases in digestiblity (or enzymes) that some claim has to overcome that 25-25% decline in total feed tonnage due to sprouting. So far, I haven't seen any data which would support that.  
 
Barley doesn't have GMOs so it's not an issue - neither does small grain hay. It's a separate issue.  
 
Dan
by Richard J Norell
on February 21, 2014 at 8:57 AM
Dry matter does matter in formulating diets! Replacement rate of fodder for barley grain was studied in a recent Iranian feedlot trial. On a dry matter basis, they replaced 22% of the barley in the diet with barley fodder. Corn was increased slightly in the fodder diet and protein supplement was decreased slightly. Crossbred steers averaged 425 pounds (193 kilograms) at the start of the 90 day feeding trial. Calves on the fodder diet consumed significantly less mixed ration (6.6 kg or 14.5 lbs of dry matter) than calves on the control diet (7.2 kg or 15.8 lbs of dry matter). Average daily gain was not statistically different between the two diets (2.85 lbs/day on fodder and 2.77 lbs/day on control). Feed conversion efficiency was also not statistically different between diets (5.3 lbs of feed/lb of gain on fodder and 5.5 lbs of feed/lb of gain on control). The researchers concluded that “green fodder has no advantage over barley grain in feedlot calves, while it increased the cost of feed”. In the article text, the authors state that on a per head basis, the fodder diet was 24% more expensive than the control diet. Based on this study, the energy value of fodder barley is about the same as processed barley grain ON A DRY MATTER BASIS for growing cattle. Replacement rate (fodder to processed grain) is approximately 1:1 on a dry matter basis or 5.9:1 on an as fed basis for feedlot calves. Income over feed cost was less for the fodder diet due to similar gains but 24% higher feed cost.  
 
This Iranian study is available online here: http://jast.modares.ac.ir/?_action=showPDF&article=4708&_ob...%E2%80%8E  
 
In the above trial, the calves fed the fodder diet consumed 14.5 pounds of dry matter per day. Of this, 22% was fodder barley which equals 3.19 lbs of fodder dry matter. Their fodder was 19.3 percent dry matter and the as fed feeding rate was 16.5 lbs of fodder per head per day (3.19/0.193 = 16.5 pounds as fed).
Reply by Daniel H Putnam
on February 21, 2014 at 11:49 AM
Thanks Richard, for the good information.  
 
Any thoughts about the relative digestibility of barley grain vs sprouts and potential quality differences?  
 
The 30% that some have stated seems very low for rolled barley  
 
Dan
by Richard J Norell
on February 21, 2014 at 9:12 AM
Dan,  
 
There were two dairy producers in eastern Idaho that grew barley fodder on their dairies in 2013. They quoted production costs of $100/T (Nash Dairy) and $140/T (Reed Dairy). At the time of these quotes, cost per pound of dry matter was $0.17 per pound of flaked barley and fodder prices per pound of dry matter were $0.33 at Nash Dairy and $0.47 at Reed Dairy. Neither dairy is currently fodder barley. Nash dairy went out of business and Reed dairy decided to use corn silage in their cattle diets due to better economics: lower feed cost and less labor over a fodder system.
by Kyle Chittock
on February 21, 2014 at 12:41 PM
Do you have any cost numbers from the Iranian study? Perhaps I missed them, but skimming through I couldn't find it. They said the cost was higher, but didn't say what the seed and production cost actually was.  
 
The only thing useful I gained out of it was this statement, "As shown in Table 4, the total means of  
dry mater intake was significantly (P< 0.05)  
lower (6.6 vs. 7.2 kg d-1), in calves fed green  
fodder than those fed the control diet."  
 
No noticeable difference in health, but they DID feed less dry matter when using fodder. Now we're getting somwhere... So the question is then, where's the cost breakdown?
by Richard J Norell
on February 24, 2014 at 9:31 AM
Kyle,  
 
The Iranians did not provide feed prices in their study but they did provide the composition of their diets on a 100% dry matter basis (see Table 1). If you multiply the percentage times the price per pound of DM for each feed, then sum all the costs, you will have calculated the cost per 100 pounds of feed dry matter for each diet. Cost of the ration equals dry matter intake times feed cost per pound of dry matter. Use your local prices, do the math, and report back.  
 
This trial directly conflicts with your earlier comment that 1 pound of barley fodder (as fed) replaces 1 pound of grain as fed. The replacement rate on an as fed basis is closer to 6:1 (fodder to barley grain). It also partially addresses the issue of digestibility. Barley fodder was included in the diet at a relatively high percentage (22% of DM). If fodder had higher digestibility (and energy) than barley grain, one would expect a higher daily gain on the fodder diet or lower pounds of feed per pound of gain but diets did not differ in gain nor feed conversion efficiency. Barley fodder is a good feed that cattle relish but must be evaluated on its economic merits. Based on their Iranian feed prices, barley fodder is not an economically viable feed source. I'll be interested in seeing your prices and your calculated feed costs.
by Richard J Norell
on February 24, 2014 at 10:30 AM
As a followup to my earlier post, I was curious and ran a quick calculation using assumed feed prices for eastern Idaho. These prices were from summer 2013 when I received quotes from two Idaho producers producing fodder barley (Avg price $120/ton, 15% DM). Prices were as follows:  
 
Alfalfa hay, $180/ton, $0.102/lb DM  
Wheat straw, $60/ton, $0.034/lb DM  
Corn silage, $40/ton, $0.057/lb DM  
Fodder, $120/ton, $0.40/lb DM  
Barley grain, $300/ton, $0.169/lb DM  
Corn grain, $315/ton, $0.177/lb DM  
Wheat bran, $270/ton, $0.152/lb DM  
Cottonseed meal, $440/ton, $0.25/lb DM  
Canola meal, $420/ton, $0.239/lb DM  
urea, $200/ton, $0.10/lb DM  
limestone, $120/ton, $0.060/lb DM  
salt, $60/ton, $0.030/lb DM  
 
Price for Control diet = $11.86 per 100 lbs DM  
Price for Fodder diet = $16.59 per 100 lbs DM  
 
Daily feed cost on control diet = $1.88 per head  
Daily feed cost on fodder diet = $2.41 per head  
 
Using these feed costs and 15% DM fodder, the fodder diet was 28% more expensive than the control diet. If we use 19% DM fodder, then the fodder diet is 14% more expensive than the control diet ($0.26 more per head per day). The lower % DM is the appropriate number to use for fodder barley on our eastern Idaho dairy operations.
by Steve
on February 24, 2014 at 10:53 AM
Wonderful discussions. Beliefs versus science?  
I'd like to add anecdotal stories to this. My friend has elephants who fed sprouts at a zoo. He said that the elephants took about a week to adjust to them as they were bitter to the taste and they still had to have dry feed for the fiber issue. 2nd, Neighbor worked a dairy in England that tried sprouts. They went to straight run barley as the cost of labor and sprouting was too much and there was no difference in the production.  
I'd listen to Dr. Putnam as he has offered very good scientific advice to me over the years.
by Richard J Norell
on February 24, 2014 at 1:49 PM
Dan, last week you asked me to comment on digestibility differences between unprocessed and processed barley plus compare processed barley versus barley fodder.  
 
I could not find digestibility data comparing unprocessed vs processed barley. I'm sure there is some out there somewhere but the comparison is not important for commercial agriculture. As you know, much of the unprocessed grain will go through the cow and be readily visible in the feces. Some digestion of the whole grain has occurred but it is far below that of processed grain. This fact is well known and no one intentionally feeds their cattle unprocessed barley.  
 
Nutrition researchers evaluate digestibility differences within the rumen for individual feeds and for the mixed diet in both the rumen and total digestive tract. Digestibility of the mixed diet is most important and I would like to illustrate this with a Canadian study from 2000 (Yang etal, J Dairy Science 83:554-568). They compared barley that was steam rolled with four different levels of processing and then fed them to cows in a Total Mixed Ration. The effects of processing on diet DM (DMD), starch (STD), and fiber (NDFD) digestibility are shown below for the least processed and best processed barley grain diets.  
 
Grain DMD STD NDFD  
Least 62.4 78.0 56.6  
Best 70.3 93.6 58.4  
 
Properly processed barley increased overall DM digestibility by 8 percentage units and starch digestibility by 15.6 percentage units. Cows on the best processed grain diet produced 11.4 pounds more milk per day and consumed 6.6 pounds more feed per day. Improving diet DM digestibility typically is going to result in more milk and higher feed intakes. Dairy producers and consultants do their best to ensure cows receive properly processed grains in their diets.  
 
I found four trials that compared hydroponically grown grains versus processed cereal grains. Digestibility either did not differ between diets or was better for processed grain than fodder. You already discussed the data from Fazaeli's 2012 study earlier. Well done and appropriate study.  
 
Reddy etal (1991, Indian Journal of Animal Nutrition 8(4):274-277) evaluated 8 day old barley fodder as a replacement for cereal grains in dairy diets. In trial 1, fodder replaced 50% of the concentrate on a dry matter basis and in trial 2, fodder replaced 25% of the concentrate on a dry matter basis. Dry matter intake, milk yield, and nutrient digestibility (DM, protein, energy) did not differ between diets.  
 
Hillier and Perry (1969, Journal of Animal Science 29:783-785) evaluated high and low energy diets supplemented with 8 day sprouted oats with growing steers. Adding varying levels of sprouted oats did not change digestibility of dry matter, protein, fat, and energy on the low or high energy diet.  
 
Thomas and Reddy (1962, Michigan State University) compared 8 day sprouted oats against whole or crimped oat grain when fed to dairy heifers. Digestibility of dry matter, protein, and energy were significantly higher on the processed grain diet than on sprouted oat diet. Daily urine production increased from 4 liters on the control diet to 13 liters per day on the sprouted oats diet. Bedding needs would increase significantly to keep cattle clean and dry on the sprouted oat diet.
Reply by Daniel H Putnam
on February 24, 2014 at 7:54 PM
Richard:  
This is very helpful. Nothing like data to guide us!  
 
Your data showing dry matter digestibilities of 62-70% for processed grain is in line with what I had thought.  
 
Dan
by Kyle Chittock
on February 25, 2014 at 7:27 AM
I offer a simple challenge to Daniel Putnam, Glenn Shewmaker, and Richard Norell.  
 
Watch this video: http://abclocal.go.com/kgo/video?id=9385462  
 
Explain to me what's going on. In particular, please explain the "savings of $200/day". Based on your comments above, this should not be possible.  
 
If you need more info, contact Tracy Underwood at the Santa Rosa Equestrian Facility. Her nutritionist and veterinarian are both on board with the fodder and may be helpful as well.
Reply by Daniel H Putnam
on February 27, 2014 at 4:01 PM
I would question the $200/day savings - that might be the saved hay purchase, but they didn't talk about their costs of doing the sprouts. Your calculations of $100/ton costs of producing sprouts, Kyle, equals about $750/ton hay cost equivalent. One can ship hay into Santa Rosa for about half this amount or less, even in a drought year.  
 
Also, the water savings is incorrect, as previously discussed. Seeds take water to produce, it's not just the sprouts.  
 
However, it is certainly satisfying to be self-sufficient, which I think is one of the major incentives for this horse farm. Just don't think about the costs too much.
by vardhan reddy
on February 25, 2014 at 3:36 PM
hello!  
people in east india and bangladesh(most of the people live in poverty) used to eat sprouted food from the long time.  
the logic is they won't do it unless they gain something.(economics or health)  
infact,japanese use alot of sprouted food and mushrooms.so  
the average life span is much high.
by Richard J Norell
on February 26, 2014 at 8:34 AM
Insufficient data was provided in the clip to answer your question. How many horses? What feeds were fed before and after? At what amounts and at what price?  
 
I'm a dairy scientist not an equine specialist. I'm more interested in stories related to dairy. The fact that two eastern Idaho dairy producers started barley fodder systems in the last two years and both ceased fodder production tells me an important story. It is not economically viable relative to our other feeds.  
 
Based on the above dairy studies, fodder feeds about the same as processed barley grain on a dry matter basis. For fodder to work economically, one must be able to produce fodder for a lower price per pound of dry matter than processed barley. Here in eastern Idaho, we pay $15 to $20 per ton to have barley steam rolled or steam flaked. Can you produce fodder barley for $0.011 per pound of dry matter over the purchase price of the grain?  
 
Richard J Norell, PhD  
Extension Dairy Specialist  
University of Idaho
by Matthew Sampson
on February 26, 2014 at 12:53 PM
I encourage all interested parties - particularly the doubting Professors and PhDs who claim fodder is "too good to be true" - to visit our farm here in Burlington, Washington.  
 
We are Organic Valley producers and replaced our $40,000 per month grain bill with a fodder system that cost us approximately $50,000 to build and $15,000 a month to operate. We have been producing 4,000 pounds of fodder per day(in a 39'x39' section of one of our barns) for almost two full years now.  
 
Andrew Dykstra, who is the patriarch of our family farm, is also President of WODPA and is a member Organic Valley's regional executive committee. We will open our books and our barns to anyone interested in actually presenting hard data from a real working farm in their next article about fodder.
Reply by Daniel H Putnam
on February 26, 2014 at 7:00 PM
Thanks for the comment, Matthew. Did you analyses and see the same losses in DM that we saw??  
 
Dan
by Richard J Norell
on February 26, 2014 at 10:30 PM
Matthew,  
 
I'd love to visit your dairy if you were closer. Unfortunately, I only have travel dollars for two out of state trips per year and already have plans made for this year. Tell us more about your feeding program. How many pounds of fodder do you feed per day? Fodder was used to replace which feed(s) and at what rate of substitution? Do you grow your own organic feeds or purchase some/all on the open market? How many years have you fed fodder? Do have production records (DHI or others) with routine monthly testing?  
 
Based on your post, your operating costs are $15,000 per month or $500 per day and your production is 4000 pounds (or 2 tons) of fodder per day. Were you reporting production as pounds of dry matter or pounds of as fed fodder? If its as fed, your operating costs are $250 per ton of fodder ($500/2) which is double the average cost in eastern Idaho.
by Kyle Chittock
on February 27, 2014 at 7:34 AM
Dan & Richard - I'll consider that as a challenge declined.  
 
I'll give you a second opportunity though. Explain to me how Alvin Beechy's feeding of fodder is not practical after speaking with him. Or take Matthew up on his offer and report back.
by Reed Mathews
on February 27, 2014 at 8:29 PM
I think everyone is missing the most critical point: by eliminating the supply chain, fuels for trucking, fertilizers, irrigation, mortgage, insurance, etc input costs, loading, storage, and most importantly the PROFITS of all those involved in said grain/hay supply chain, fodder is far superior.  
 
I have read for the last hour and all I see are scientific explanations. Where's the reality? In South Carolina we truck hay from Ohio, New York, etc just to feed horses something with more than 10-12% protein, AND that doesn't lead to an impaction. Our grains come from nearly as far away.  
 
The institutionalized propaganda put forth by this original article and supporting cast is telling of the world in which we now live. Assuming that DM calculations or laboratory inspired calculus on water consumption are important is down right laughable.  
 
Here's something for you: We buy hay from suppliers in Ohio/NewYork. They pay a mortgage and insurance. They fertilize and irrigate. They own tractors and implements which make hay. They hire people. Hay/Grains are loaded and stored in a barn/elevator, which takes people, lighting, equipment, energy. Then the hay is loaded into semi's and trucked 700+ miles (diesel, rubber, insurance, driver, profits) to South Carolina. At that point labor is required to unload hay into storage building (lights, insurance, mortgage).  
 
Oh, please don't forget all the permits, licenses and taxes required just to accomplish said supply chain.  
 
We grow fodder, replacing 30% of our hay requirements (thanks to better protein digestion) and 75% of our grain. We have INTERNALIZED the entire supply chain. The money we used to spend on that supply chain now remains within the business.  
 
Sigh... and we wonder why our economy and country are being run into the ground.  
 
- RM
Reply by Daniel H Putnam
on February 27, 2014 at 9:14 PM
Obviously better to obtain forages from close at hand, preferably raised on-farm, and grazed or hayed or chopped, but I would guess that the grains used for hydroponic sprouts are shipped some substantial distance as well.
by Richard J Norell
on February 28, 2014 at 12:15 PM
Kyle,  
 
I've been in Extension for 31 years and thoroughly enjoy working with Idaho dairy producers. Salt of the earth people and some of my very best friends are dairymen! I have never discussed my opinions about a particular dairy operation and their management decisions in public. I'll discuss research trials in public till the cows come home and go back to pasture but not an individual dairy... IMO, that is personal and confidential information.  
 
I'm getting ready for a conference next week and won't have time to call Alvin till later next week. I am curious what he has done. For those who may be interested, here is a short bio on his operation here: http://www.lagrangeswcd.org/attachments/Northern_Indiana_Grazing_Conference_brochure.pdf  
 
Sorting through an on-farm anecdotal story is time consuming and not always illuminating. One needs to know what was fed before and what was fed after the change. Specific feeding amounts are needed plus feed test results and ration sheets (if available). Evidence of improved performance are best identified by reviewing DHI production records (or similar software) for the whole herd and for individual cows. Body condition scoring and manure evaluation are also helpful (depending on situation).
by Shane Gorter
on March 2, 2014 at 9:27 PM
Thank you Daniel for giving us the forum to discuss this subject matter and also for being so responsive. I am an organic, pasture based livestock farmer in NW Washington and have limited experience with barely fodder with my rabbitry. One issue I see with using DM as a measurement is that it leaves out so many variables that play a role in the performance of your livestock.  
 
When a seed is germinated many biochemical reactions take place that dramatically alter the properties of what is now a sprout. I suspect that if you looked at the protein in the grain vs the protein in a sprout you will find a dramatically different molecule. I also suspect the nature of the fat compounds will also dramatically change as well, which will play a major role in the metabolic reaction of the animal.  
 
The first example I thought of when reading the discussions was my pastured poultry eggs. I do not feed them fodder, but I keep them on green pasture and the difference in egg quality is night and day. I have been able to observe the difference of fresh greens vs winter brown forage in the egg yolks which is dramatic. Studies on the nutrition of pastured eggs shows as much as a two thirds increase in many nutrients vs the grain fed. You can see the difference in the color, taste, and consistency; it is almost like it came from a different species of animal. An interesting test would be to see if these attributes hold true using green fodder vs grain.  
 
I feel these studies using DM leave out variables that play a role in the performance of grain vs fodder, such as the structures of the nutrients, the profiles of the amino acids, and the nature of the different livestocks digestive systems. The function of a ruminant is not very comparable to a chicken or hog. I know if I eat a lot of grains I will fatten up fast and I doubt I could put on fat with sprouts at all, however, I would imagine that the proteins in sprouts would be more useful in generating muscle than grains. These are just some considerations and I will definately be doing some case studies on my livestock this year.
by Andika
on March 5, 2014 at 6:14 PM
The only thing that the nutritionist and PHDs arguments is about a DM. And the only thing that make the Fodder looks silly is a DM. So if they talk about DM, then fodder will always lose.  
 
So lets the animal speak.. see how their improvement.
by Glenn Shewmaker
on March 6, 2014 at 4:12 PM
Matthew,  
 
I might take you up on the offer to visit in April.  
I think some of you mistakenly think we spend all of our time in a laboratory or with our nose in a text book. I have lived and still live on our family farm for 50 + years and routinely help with summer pasture and help feed alfalfa hay and corn silage to beef cattle. We don't have milk cows anymore but I am very familiar with dairy rations in confined operations as well as organic grazing dairies.  
 
As I stated before, I don't doubt that cows will readily eat the fodder. I have done grazing preference trials and was involved in the studies that documented the benefits of afternoon-harvesting or grazing compared to morning harvesting. In these studies we found that a 1-2% increase in nonstructural carbohydrates increased dry matter intake, digestibility, and milk production. So I appreciate the animals ability to select high quality forages, as good as our best laboratory instruments can determine.  
Since we measured nonstructural carbohydrates every 2 hr during a 24-hr period, I know what happens to nonstructural carbohydrate levels at night when plant respiration continues and photosynthesis stops, they decline rapidly. Since the fodder sprouts don't reach a net positive photosynthesis in that short a time period of 6 days, the energy levels have to be depleted.  
Dan has also studied the diurnal effects of forage quality and has monitored the changes in non-structural carbohydrates.  
Rick has much experience in working with eastern Idaho dairies and balancing rations. None of us just fell off a turnip truck.  
 
I agree with Kyle that the Reed dairy milk is good! My son lived in Idaho Falls and shared some the milk with me. I buy milk from our local Cloverleaf Creamery in Buhl. The Stolzfus dairy is not organic because he uses antibiotics, but his grazing dairy has some 15 year old cows that still look great.
by Matthew Sampson
on March 8, 2014 at 5:34 PM
Glenn,  
 
I look forward to your visit in April if you can make that happen.  
 
Just out of curiosity, have you ever eaten a vine-ripened tomato out of your garden in the dead of winter? Have you ever walked into your garage and harvested fresh lettuce when there is snow on the ground?  
 
Many people who have spent 50+ years doing things a certain way have a hard time wrapping their brain around concepts that are foreign to them, no matter how intelligent or educated they may be.  
 
How familiar are you with controlled-environment agriculture? Do you have any experience designing or operating hydroponic systems? How about vertical farming?  
 
How can you claim in the conclusion of your article that "the labor requirements are very high" without backing up that statement with hard numbers from someone who is actually running a system? By the way, it takes two small women two hours everyday to perform every task in our fodder room and we are harvesting 4,000 pounds per day. Less than a day's drive from where you are, you can actually watch this happen.  
 
If I was going to write an article in a magazine for farmers about a certain feed production strategy, I would make sure my article was substantiated with facts from working farms that have actually incorporated the concepts you are so matter-of-factly claiming are "too good to be true."  
 
It seems fitting that you end your article with a recommendation for farmers to "search for science-based studies from land-grant universities to verify product claims." Of course that would be your recommendation.  
 
Here is my recommendation to you before you write your next scholarly article for farmers: talk to some farmers who actually have experience with the farming techniques that make up the subject of your article. I can give you the names and phone numbers of quite a few from Washington to Wisconsin to New York and many states in between. Either all these people are liars or just bad at math, or your assessment of hydroponic forage systems is just flat out wrong.  
 
I will be in Pennsylvania next week, March 13-15th, visiting farms that have been producing over 1,000 pounds per day of fodder for over a year. You are cordially invited to travel with me and meet face to face these farmers who have a very different perspective than you do regarding the economics of incorporating a fodder system on their farm.
by Jim Anderson
on March 17, 2014 at 1:12 PM
Good article Dr. Putnam. Some very good data.  
 
I have no doubt that there is a niche for hydroponic fodder but I doubt it will be a process that will be used on a large scale for sometime. We grow organic feed grains in the Tulelake basin and it is also a niche market. Nothing wrong with niche markets (they definitely have a place) but it is misleading to say such processes are on the edge of being able to supply much of the feed needs of the cattle and dairy industry at large. Maybe horses may be someplace where it can be used (but not for our horses).  
 
Also, aside from the solid data you have given, it just doesn't make sense to this grain grower that using the energy in a seed of grain to make the sprout and root is an inefficient use of that energy. If we plant barley that is subsequently frozen it will usually only recover if there is some energy left in the seed or the roots are sufficiently drawing energy from the soil. The plant itself relies on energy and converts it but doesn't produce it. But that is just this farmers intuitive reasoning.  
 
We also grow organic and conventional alfalfa, cattle, and sell to dairies in Central Valley and know that DM is absolutely necessary in balancing rations. Anyone who says dry matter is not necessary in calculating feed rations is wrong in my opinion.  
 
Finally I'd like to say as a California farmer that UC Davis and it's extension agents and scientists are world class. We farm close to the Tulelake field station and rely on their research continually. We have never been let down. And as far as the agents and scientists being desk sitters; that's just plain bunk. Further, in 50 years of studying and using their research I have never found it biased. They are absolutely open to whatever the findings suggest. As Dan said "they have no dog in the hunt" except accurate data.  
 
Anyone who would suggest they are office bound scientists set on manipulating data to fit the "institutions" needs have, in my opinion, a significant lack of agricultural knowledge and invalidated their own claims. The future for them will be bleak if they continue to whine about the empirical findings that don't support their work, proceed solely on anecdotal stories, and refuse to work with university scientists and agronomists (and the connected farmers).
by Daniel H Putnam
on March 17, 2014 at 1:52 PM
Thanks for the comments, Jim, and vote of confidence.  
 
I agree this type of thing is an interesting niche type of application. However, it's important not to apply economics to it, or too much analysis - it's likely to be disappointing!  
Cheers,  
Dan
by Jim Anderson
on March 17, 2014 at 9:20 PM
Correction: I stated in my post "it just doesn't make sense to this grain grower that using the energy in a seed of grain to make the sprout and root is an inefficient use of that energy"  
 
I meant: it just doesn't make sense to this grain grower that using the energy in a seed of grain to make the sprout and root (for feed) is an EFFICIENT use of that energy.
by Jesper Andersen
on March 31, 2014 at 5:26 AM
Most of you seem to forget that a high grain diet in cattle and other animals have a negative effect on the animal which grass/fodder doesn't have.  
 
Ulcers, abscesses on their livers and other things that negatively impact the animal as they were not meant to live on a high grain diet.  
 
Which is also why a grass fed steers meat is nutritionally better then grain fed feedlot cattle. Same goes for naturally fed foraging chickens vs. commercially fed "grocery store eggs".  
 
So I haven't tested the fodder myself but from the knowledge I have in animal digestion, then I can see why it could work better then pure grain with hay added.
Reply by Daniel H Putnam
on March 31, 2014 at 5:38 AM
Jesper:  
The hydroponic 'forage' has been mostly proposed as a replacement for hay or other fodder crops, not as a replacement for grain. However,as we've pointed out above, it mostly has characteristics similar to grains, since it is low in fiber.  
Dan
by Saifuddin A Kalyanwala
on April 3, 2014 at 10:26 PM
These days most of the farmers and dairy are facing the problem of Fresh Green Fodder. Fodder available in the market are full of pesticides and are not even fresh, and all it contains is green grass which has 90% of water which is just to fill the food need of cattle. But Fodder Machine is the solution to the fodder problem, With the help of Fodder Machine we can now grow fresh green fodder in our own backyard and the total cost of growing the fresh fodder is less then Rs 3/- plus the best part of the fodder machine is that it gives us a daily out of fresh green fodder 365 days a year. this machine are completely automated and no matter what will be the weather condition outside the quality of fodder remains same throughout the year. there are various sizes of the machines from 100kg out to 30 TN output machines.  
XXXX is leading manufacturer of the fodder machine, they have vast experience in making fodder machines. they have there machine across india working efficiently throughout the year.  
the best part of the fodder grown is machines are:  
Can grow fodder in 8 days (55kg -30 K per day)  
It takes less space (1200 kgs/sq.feet)  
Less water consumption (1-2 ltrs/day per kg of seeds)  
Less electricity (7-30 units /day depending on machine)  
Outside environment doesn’t affect the inside fodder  
365 day production throughout the year  
Highly low cost production, significant savings can be made in the cost of feeding livestock  
No fungal/bacterial /microbial growth due to sanitization of water & air by U.V light & Ozoniser  
Unskilled labourers can operate the system, no need for highly skilled labour. System is not labour intensive – A single person can operate the 365 tonne machine for 2 hrs a day  
No need for tractors and expensive equipments  
System is not labour intensive – A single person can handle a 365 tonne output machine for just 2 hrs in a day  
You can grow Doctor’s recommended grain green feed & any kind of vegetables
Reply by Daniel H Putnam
on April 4, 2014 at 1:04 AM
Dear Mr. Kalyanwala;  
We've removed the references to specific products in your comments.  
 
Your comments are mostly promotional, and don't address the negatives which we've clearly pointed out above.  
If you have data to contradict our points, please provide it, especially the points about high cost and loss of dry matter in hydroponics.  
 
Dan
by Ron Doore
on April 8, 2014 at 5:19 PM
Dan, Thank you for your time and investigation on this subject matter, but beyond looking at just dry matter content and not evaluating sprouts from a ration that helps balance and promote proper digestion of other dry matter feed during real world applications is somewhat one sided point of view.  
 
We are a manufacture of hydroponic sprouting systems for livestock. I have been working on this process for almost 20 years. And Yes sprouts do have benefits far beyond what your article states. I would like to point out that in the study you are comparing sprouts as a 100% replacement feed for the most part. And once again, you fall short on demonstrating a long term real world application. I personally do not believe in feeding my animals or myself for that matter 100% of one type of ration every single day. Ourselves as livestock owners and our customers all over the US/Canada have seen benefits economically and nutritionally that these short term testings in the lab and field studies have not spent or neglect for the most part to take the time and go out and get a general consensus as to if there is true benefit to feeding sprouts from people that have been doing it for years. I have found out over the years that most of these studies are backed by companies that are behind other supplemental rations and do not like to see sprouting as a benefit as it cuts into their bottom line. So they would prefer to discredit any claims to the true benefits of sprouts and yes they all focus on dry matter as the defense. When I have customers that have demonstrated up to 50% reduction in overall operational and feed costs with increased health benefits to their animals. I have a tough time ignoring one sided articles like this one. Just providing a factual point from my side of the industry. By the way I am also a hay farmer and rancher and fully understand the importance of DM, but it is also important to focus on overall quality of the feed as well. A person told me awhile back that yes you can stuff an animal with 40-55 lbs of dry matter "Junk" and your animals will survive, but if you put 30-40 lbs of quality DM into an animal, that animal will thrive with less.
by Daniel H Putnam
on April 8, 2014 at 6:27 PM
Ron;  
Thanks for your comments. Agree with you that no one should feed just one type of feed - and we're not suggesting that.  
 
I don't think our article was one sided - we should point out that none of us has any 'dog in this race' - no vested interest by Peter Robinson, Eric, or myself, so we're not out to do anything but report what we've found. We'd be glad to report positive features.  
 
You've talked about real benefits beyond what this article states. Please point to data that would support this. Keep in mind that the benefits should overcome the 25% loss in DM and losses in energy which have been observed.  
 
Dan
by Dorn Hetzel
on April 15, 2014 at 10:24 AM
I am evaluating the suitability of fodder as a partial replacement for hay fed to our horses. We are in Georgia and hay availability and prices can vary pretty wildly, but overall the cost has more than doubled in the last ten years. Also, we feed square bales and they take a lot of handling and storage space. So, if fodder could replace some substantial percentage of the hay we feed, and do it on a reliable basis, that might be a benefit. We have definitely observed over the years that the less grain and more hay/grass we feed our horses, the better off they generally seem to be. I have no idea what Barley or other grain suitable for sprouting would cost in our area, and how reliable the supply would be, but I suppose it is likely to be easier to store than hay. Thoughts?
Reply by Daniel H Putnam
on April 15, 2014 at 10:38 AM
Dorn;  
Sounds interesting. Keep in mind that sprouted barley or other sprouted 'fodder' is likely closer in nutritional characteristics to grain than it is to hay, since it's typically much lower in NDF content. (only about 15% of the mass of sprouts is in the leafy portion, the rest in residual seed and roots). So not sure if it would replace the hay vs. the grain - that's worth a discussion with a nutritionist.  
 
Dan
by Andrew Ross
on April 22, 2014 at 9:31 PM
All this debate seems to be all about the feed and not about the beast, and it feels like all the evidence given thus far is either paper based academic or anecdotal only.  
 
Why not have a trial set up as follows;  
• 10 of Dairy Cows , 10 of beef steers, 10 of lambs, fed a conventional feed ration that suits  
• 10 of Dairy Cows , 10 of beef steers, 10 of lambs, fed a hydroponic fodder ration that suits  
• 100 day trail, separate pens,  
• Measure for weight gain (beef cattle and lambs), milk fats (dairy cows), milk production (dairy cows)  
• Document all the costs for each system.  
• Compare the differences  
 
Have the trial moderated by an independent body with “no dog in the race” publish the results in plain layman terms that anyone can understand.  
 
Any takers ?
Reply by Daniel H Putnam
on April 23, 2014 at 7:46 AM
Good idea, Andrew.  
Such a trial is possible, not sure who would fund it.  
 
Keep in mind, that when designing such a trial, one MUST wrestle with the dry matter issue since rations are designed that way, especially for research trials if it is to be valid. In feeding studies such as this, rations are balanced for protein, energy, etc., on a DM basis, to fairly compare feeds.  
 
Dan
by Andrew Ross
on April 23, 2014 at 3:21 PM
Dan,  
Thanks for your response, i can understand that from your point of view and your profession you would always be focused on the DM and feed values ect ect. but from a farmers POV they are not selling the feed ! they sell the meat/milk ect. Hydroponic forage will only make sense if it means more profits at the end of the day.  
Hydroponic system manufacturers should be game enough to fund such a trial if they believe it makes so much sense.
by jawain
on April 27, 2014 at 10:12 PM
Am from Kenya,east Africa and I have dairy cows and pigs.  
After making my hydroponic unit last year,am saving 34% on feeds with pigs and 12% on dairy cows.The quality of the milk is improved but unfortunately we sell our milk by litres not by butter fat.  
This demonstrates that too much research is not beneficial.If sprouts are not economically viable,could they still be here after so many years?
by Richard
on May 16, 2014 at 10:58 AM
The problem with your analysis is that it left out the fact that ruminants are not intended to eat whole grain. They are herbivores, not "grainivores", consequently their digestive systems are better suited to grass, or in the case of it not being available, hydroponically grown fodder. Until the health of the animal and it's overall condition is part of the analysis, and not just dry matter and how much milk you can force a cow to put in the bucket, that analysis will be incomplete.
Reply by Daniel H Putnam
on May 16, 2014 at 1:22 PM
Agree - bovines are fundamentally grazing/forage-consuming type creatures, but of course in modern times we've fed increasingly amounts of high energy grain to increase growth and milk yield, but they still require lots of forage-it's good for their health. However, in this case the sprouted grain likely more resembles grain in its nutritional characteristics-not forage, since it is so low in NDF (and rumen functional Fiber), so I'm not sure if it does the trick there. Nutritionally, hay or grazed pasture is likely to provide more functional fiber than sprouted grain in a ration.
by John D
on May 17, 2014 at 6:10 PM
Sprouted barley fodder  
This has been interesting.. I truly have no dog in this hunt. A former high school science teacher whose education is centered in physical not biological sciences. Never dealt with cows, limited horse experience as a stable hand a few decades ago. If I speak from ignorance I ask for tolerance, I am not trying to troll.  
 
1) this articles experiments. 4 trials seems small. While I expect more variance in biological systems than the accuracy measuring elasticity or titrating a fluid... From <2%- 50%. Is what seems very large swing on DM loss. If I had that variance I'd be focused on procedures and methods used, looking for what I need to improve upon. At 13,600 seeds to the pound, I'd expect individual seed variances to average out to a much tighter range. If you could identify and reproduce methods of sprouting with only 5% - 10% DM loss, wouldn't that be of value? Instead it almost seems you found wanted and moved on.  
 
 
2) the Iranian experiment.. It took me a while to get though it, being new to the field and all.  
2a) The sample size was relatively small. This lead to higher standard deviation allowing them to disregard the extra three pounds gained by the fodder cattle as statistically insignificant in this study. By tossing it out as insignificant there is no need to compare the extra 3 pounds of resale to the unspecified increased cost. Also given the large variance there better than 1 in 4 chance there is a greater than three pound difference.  
2b) why not keep the concentrates the same? Allow the sprouted barly differences to stand on thier own. By adjusting out the main differences it feels like intentional masking of sprouting effects to me. I assume the control diet to be one held in high regard for finishing calves on a feedlot.  
2c) my first reading I thought the concentrates for the fodder diet were mixed daily, but subsequent rereading. Was unclear if fodder was chopped daily like roughage. If They mixed the entire concentrate batch daily for green-fodder then this too seems like extra work to maximize labor.  
2d). Detail was given on the lighting... I was under the impression that very little photosynthesis occurred in this first week. Elsewhere I've read that ambient light would suffice. Was lighting level in line with what companies marketing fodder systems recommend or academic studies of one week sprouts that have shown yield or nutritional benefits? Was this why they had 5% instead of 25%. Was your 2% tray top and your 50% deeply shadowed on bottom?  
2e) labor, were labor costs calculated based on realistic farm implementation or time grad students spent trying to scientifically measure and proportion? I imagine farmers Time as fairly efficient, though I don't know the level of tray cleaning needed between uses. On a family operation labor costs are less of a factor, yes it requires the farmers time... And that time has been fairly prominently highlighted in the websites I looked at trying to sell systems if accurate.  
2f). 5% refusal, Was this the same on both diets? Or was it just the green fodder diet which was bulkier due to the sprouting and identical roughage amounts?  
2g) hand shredding, labor intensive, time well spent? Why not chop with hay and straw which I assume wasn't chopped by hand. Or mix in mats? Could mixer for the TMR not break it up?  
 
3) DM. Protein, carbohydrate, etc.. Quit trying to force them to you preconceived diet ideas. Test diet versus diet. Put forward your best diet for feedlot, dairy, what have you as champion. Let the sprout-fodder industry put forward their challenger(s) based on claimed real world success. Send a grad student in need of a thesis to evaluate if those operation are as billed. If it looks legitimate... Divide a new lot of cattle. Farmers fund the cattle and feed just like they normally would as well as operate the fodder system, student provides labor of mixing/feeding/testing the cows. Then you can address why the fodder system falls short, or scratch your head and try to understand why their performance defies your predictions if it doesn't. I don't think the growers care if crude protein or carbohydrates differ, they want healthy cattle produced economically. Report labor costs of fodder separately specifying the time the professional, experienced farmer spent each day to work the system. Study and accurately report existing installed fodder system with operating costs. Maybe peer reviewed journals wouldn't touch it, I don't know.... Hayandfodder.com might publish it. But if you scientifically documented a dietary surprise, that would probably be worth agricultural funding for a more extensive follow up and a real thesis or dissertation for some grad student.  
 
So if DM is consistent at 5% loss the Iranians reported that feeds an extra 26 cattle fed per hundred compared to your 25%. $750 hay is now $600 If their claims of pound per pound replacement are just a little optomistic and it takes 2-3 pounds instead of the 7 you claimed caused hay equivalent of $750, becomes $250 to $375.... A more competitive price range to those listed hay prices. With increasing Chinese fodder imports as they seek to double milk production of their current 15 million head dairy herd, I doubt hay prices are dropping near term.  
 
You will never defeat them, if you refuse to give them an honest assessment. Assuming the anecdotal evidence is truthful, at least some farmers are finding the sprouted barley diets more beneficial and economical to the ones they used before. They have proved to be open minded and willing to change... If they are shown a better way.... What you have shown is an unwillingness to consider head to head comparisons of diets that vary DM, CP, starch, ...  
 
My advice, Forget fairness, publicly kick their buts and risk them doing the same to you. They might be charlatans, or they might be an agricultural Faraday in need of a new Maxwell to put the legitimacy of scientific analysis and math to their fodder revolution. Till someone bothers to seriously analyze their leading success stories and the disparate diets go head to head, neither side can win. Certainly all major physical science revolutions met with established scientists who refused to seriously evaluate and adopt things now accepted as fundamental. By the same token, many a claim has been proved spurious when seriously evaluated.  
 
Just my uninformed opinions. Excuse how long Winded It became, it's hard to edit long posts on my iPad mini.  
Safari crashed when I submitted. Hope this isn't a double post
by Daniel H Putnam
on May 17, 2014 at 6:34 PM
Good, if somewhat lengthy comments, comments, John.  
Leave it to a HS science teach to do some science! Good catch on the variation in results in our DM measurements. However, it has a rather simple explanation. We were given the sprouted barley trays from our friend, and couldn't dry down the entire trays - thus we took subsamples - about 1/4 of the tray (a large sample actually)-- it looks like there was probably a random effect of high moisture on one side of the tray vs. the other. Makes sense, if you think about it - water may have gravitated to one side soaking one side. If I were to repeat it, I would try to do more samples, or dry the whole thing.  
 
However, all the data I've seen so far has documented losses in DM, so it's a result I believe (ours and published). The Sandia study showed 35% DM losses, I think.  
 
I'm open minded, and don't really want to kick anyone's butt or win an argument. However, I'd have to be convinced that this was a highly promising technique to do more work on it. The potential for losses in DM as well as feed value should be disturbing, since it requires water, and we need to think as water-use-efficient as possible for crops these days.  
 
Dan
by John d
on May 18, 2014 at 6:11 PM
I haven't read the Sandia study yet. I found a very interesting review of related research.  
I can be found at  
http://www.qcl.farmonline.com.au/files/48/20/01/000012048/Hydroponicfodder.pdf  
In short it would seem most of your DM loss for 6 day sprouts was washed away, as opposed to consumed by the growth. Research studies found a 4 hour limit on germinating soak unless water is being aerated. And that the tray needs to be watered with frequency and depth control and then drained in a manner that sprouts are wet for 15 minutes only at each watering. Light playing nearly no role in first 4 days. A very interesting read for those wanting to optimize a system they are using.  
 
Following those water control regimens reportedly put you close to 6% DM loss on day 6. I wonder how much DM loss might be recovered merely by pumping a fodder machine sump into the watering trough? Algae and such would probably be the beneficiaries is my guess, might work for filling buckets in stalls?  
 
Given that you were testing gift sprouts it is understandable why the variance wasn't followed up on, but if your friend is making, or was making a serious attempt at sprout fodder, passing along the optimization information might be helpful in their efforts. I figure once you build the machine the depreciation expense is there weather you use it or not, as well as opportunity/interest cost incurred when the capital was invested in it.  
It might still not be worth it to them to use, but having the system in place does change the analysis, as does the amount of DML.
by Daniel H Putnam
on May 18, 2014 at 6:33 PM
John;  
Thanks for the great reference - I hadn't seen this one. Lots of info, including lots on quality. For those of you interested, this is a must read since they review a lot of studies and web claims.  
 
However, I'm not sure if you're interpreting their review correctly. They do a great lit review - showing a 7 to 47% loss in DM with sprouting grains (not 6%). Similar to our data. Also, losses in energy - which is consistent with losses in carbohydrates during sprouting (not so much mineral losses).  
 
They also do a good job of pointing out the economic problems and higher costs of sprouting grains.  
 
Dan
by Mujibur R.
on May 21, 2014 at 12:34 PM
This discussion is quite warm up. I am very sorry to say that scientific studies not always right. Scientific studies too much depend on many variables and some times variable are wrongly explained for a period of times. This is clear that if I do not fertilizes the grain then how it’s possible to get more nutrients, its like get something out of nothing. And it is obvious; lose some energy for converting its nutrients values. In this perspective this is not make any sense. But there is also a very important fact that there is change composition of nutrients values in fodder process. I don't think 100% of grain nutrient are absorbed by livestock. May be there is nominal amount nutrient variety do not needs at all for livestock. So they are totally wasted. May be in folder process after re-composition of nutrients values they are more suitable for livestock and there is much less are wasted. So after total consideration (consider dry matter loses) it is may be right fodder is much economical then grain for certain times. So its needs more research, I mean complete research not a part.  
I am totally third party here and have no gain in there truly. Because I am not a livestock or grain farmer and fodder machine or livestock food suppler promoters.  
There is so many admitted there is no race in here, but I feel some hard race between groups of people. There is two group of people in here argue over hydroponics fodders and gains. First group of people are large grain farmer and some scientist (may be there are also promote some livestock food supplier) who are heavily opposed fodder advantage for reasons. If fodder comes with great result then total grain demand are decreased, so there is good possibility grain price graph downward. So this is really caused of worries for grain producer and supplier.  
On the other hand there is group of people are very optimistic about hydroponics fodder. May be they maximum are fodder machine or tech promoter. May be there is some real farmer also defend for there approach. There is no need to know rocket science why some people try to draw good imprint around hydroponics fodder. May be there are very good business prospects out of virtually nothing. Why I think like that? I am very interested in hydroponics fodder so I do little bit research around hydroponics fodders. There so many videos in youtube to explain fodder tech and there is so many success story also. But I am very disappointed after I find virtually all/maximum video create by hydroponics fodder machine or tech company promoters. So there is no ways I believe all things blindly. There is some farmer interview also available but who knows they are real or fakes or not considering all thinks. But I think there is huge possibilities there is some think better happen when grain process to fodder. May be it is not so fancy thats claims by fodder promoters, but may be its increase economical benefits.  
I am very sorry if I insult or heart someone unintentionally. Lastly I expect my comment are not edited by authors.
by Mujibur R.
on May 21, 2014 at 1:31 PM
I am plan a dairy farm in near my capital city for high demand and price for fresh milk . So I am interested in fodder because in here land price is so high. Our average income are 1/10 compare to US but there is farmland price are greater. I own a land and consider it for my farm a 1.2 acre land price are $200000 (it is 50-55 km to city). And here fresh grass/equivalent price are much greater ($0.8-$0.10/kg without transport). So this is very good solution for me to produce hydroponics fodders in small space that I have. Because I know there is a percentage of diet need to green veg for milking cows. It is much more economical to produce fodder then brought its form others and some time it is not available. here is labor are much cheaper so it is good solution to some country who have limited land/land price so high and cheap labor are available.  
 
Lastly a question for scientist who only consider DM. As I know in bio-gas production cow dung produce very much lesser gas compare to pure-fat with same DM. SO WHY THATS HAPPEN? yes,easy answer it is for their chemical composition. So DM is not all to be considerable there is much more important is there chemical composition. If grain have a unit nutrients and may be there is lesser% are use by livestock and fodder nutrient are greater% use by livestock. So there is need very deep research conducted by very reputed organization. like UN based organization.
by Xpistos
on May 22, 2014 at 8:41 AM
Daniel, I found your article along with the comments section very interesting. I'd like to share a video that is completely "off topic" but interesting. Alan Savory of the Savory Institute speaking at TedTalks.  
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vpTHi7O66pI
Reply by Daniel H Putnam
on May 22, 2014 at 9:50 AM
Xpistos;  
You're right - it's definitely off topic.  
 
However, I did listen to part of this - which is an argument for cattle grazing as a solution to climate change and desertification. I don't know if he's right, but certainly Interesting!!  
 
Dan
by Tobias Ogada
on June 3, 2014 at 2:15 PM
I have read quite a bit of the arguments here. I think both those for and those against all have a point. But the one point missed here is that hydroponic fodder is most useful to those who have very limited space and have to feed their livestock even during unfavorable weather conditions. At such times and periods all the calculations above does not come as priority.
by John D
on June 9, 2014 at 2:06 PM
The Irish study (Morgan, J., Hunter, R.R., and O'Haire, R. (1992). Limiting factors in hydroponic barley grass production. 8th International congress on soilless culture, Hunter's Rest, South Africa.), not the easiest to get ahold of, Trying to get an inter library loan. This is probably why so many of its details are incorporated into the Australian report of prior research. A full page in the main report with a 4 page more detailed summary as appendix A. The team made numerous experiments on various variables, then tried to combine the favorable conditions together in subsequent rounds. To say they had DML of 6-47% is inaccurate. True. Early trials might have, when conditions were all over the spectrum. As the test progressed they greatly narrowed the range. At 7 days losses were 6-9% for three different temperatures. (Table 21 page 42, grow condition details on bottom Page 41)  
 
The Iranians used 6 day sprouts over 90 days with 5% DML. Results consistent with the Irish.  
The Sandia study was a quickly assembled proof of concept of lower water usage in greenhouse conditions based on Mexican fodder practices in drought areas. While proving this, they also had poor spray control and applied much more frequently (suggestive of excess DML loss demonstrated in the Irish study the trays took 30 minutes to drain instead of 15.). The fact that Sandia had 35% DML over 8-10 days isn't terribly surprising as it has been consistently shown it is easy to sprout fodder with high DML, but while it was measured, controlling DML was not the point of Sandia Labs.  
 
So... 6 -7 day sprouts, single digit DML ... Vitamins enriched, protein increased and more soluble, starch depleted from straight grain. Cattle are "grass fed" instead of grain finished potentially, if such is important. "Grass" grown with far less water and acerage use than fields. And while it may not be important we know at least some wild grazers preferentially eat new growth after a fire instead of unburned areas nearby.
by Daniel H Putnam
on June 9, 2014 at 3:42 PM
Thanks, John D. Interesting points. 90 days is almost a full field season, by the way (?)  
 
Disagree with you on the water issue - unless the grain was produced with zero water (not likely), the water used to produced the grain must be included in a calculation of water use impacts vs. field-grown grain or forage.  
 
Since there are DM losses with sprouting (our data and most of the studies say much greater than single digits!), the sprouting process itself has negative water use efficiencies (addition of water to grain reduces yield), not positive.
by John P
on June 13, 2014 at 1:01 PM
Thank you for the great article! I am not a farmer, but did stumble upon Hydroponic Fodder when watching Youtube videos on Hydroponic Gardens. Somehow I ended up here reading your article.  
 
Studies supporting DM loss, Milk quality, health of livestock, seem to support DM loss is real, increased Milk quality, and better livestock health. Overall, it seems like a win for Fodder.  
 
My Take:  
As the population and demand for dairy products increases, available land remains constant, thus driving up the availability and value of farm land. At some point, Fodder must become cost effective when you consider the opportunity cost of selling the land to a developer and investing your profits into a self sustaining system.  
 
Suppose you were considering starting a 7000+ cow dairy from scratch. In my naïve opinion, you should be able to purchase 40 acres or less and run your whole operation in a several story building consisting of ground floor milking station with several floors above containing the Hydroponic Farm. Combine this with a Methane Digester to fuel the Hydroponic Farm's electrical needs.  
 
Long story short, it seems completely cost prohibitive to start this dairy farm in a traditional sense whereby I purchase a farm, cows, machinery, buildings, grow my own crops, and all the associated costs compared to a Hydroponic Farm of a much smaller footprint.  
 
I would be interested in an overall cost comparison of 2 farms started side by side in a virtual world to see which one would win over the long run. Start up costs, on going costs, production revenue, and sale of business at a specific time say 25 years.  
 
Given all the factors, this study would be impossible to be one size fits all situation. Unfortunately this article only looks at a tiny aspect and is not looking at the overall picture I propose.  
 
I have a hard time believing Fodder does not have a place somewhere in this world which makes it cost effective while also being cost prohibitive in other parts of the world.
by Chad Marriott
on June 19, 2014 at 12:52 PM
Great discussion. I have a question. Does the DM (Dry Matter) give an account to the TDN (Total Digestible Nutrient)? I can see that there is a loss in the dry matter but does that mean there is a loss in the nutrients of the product? Thanks
by Daniel H Putnam
on June 19, 2014 at 2:02 PM
Chad;  
Yes, TDN (Total Digestible Nutrients)is always calculated on a 100% DM basis (although sometimes expressed on a 90% or 'as received' basis).  
 
TDN, Protein and other quality measurements are usually expressed as a % of DM.  
 
To answer your question, when you get a loss of DM you also get a loss in feed AMOUNTS (e.g. now you have 25% less protein or TDN based upon loss in weight), but the CONCENTRATION may or may not be lower after this loss (you would need to measure it). The literature mostly shows that sprouted barley and other sprouts are likely to have a lower TDN (energy) concentration due to a loss in soluble carbohydrates during the sprouting process (the seeds are using energy to grow). For those claiming improved quality of the sprouts vs (ground) grains, they'll need to support that with data.  
 
But the TDN and protein should be determined on a DM basis(without considering the water in the feed).  
 
Dan
by Mohammed Akhil
on June 26, 2014 at 4:23 AM
Hi,  
I am small dairy owner from India, Karnataka, Hubli. I own 40 cows and 5 buffaloes. Earlier our procedure was to send the cattle for grazing, and at the time of milking we use to put Feeds ( Cotton and Coconut remains).  
At that time i used to spend 22k INR for 1440 kgs of feeds.  
After shifting to "Hydroponic Forage" i have been getting same quantity of milk without such expensive Feeds, and with much more profits!!!  
So, i conclude this way  
Grazing + Feeds = Costlier affair.  
 
Grazing + Hydroponic Forage = Profitable affair.
by David Horton
on July 3, 2014 at 11:01 AM
Interesting article..  
after growing up in the beef industry the health of my animals will always be number #1..beef growers that try to get cattle to eat something that's not good for them in order to turn a profit, adding all sorts of different "filler" to grains, to make the grain go further. I worked at 1 feed lot in Blyth California that was mulching cow dung and grain and feeding it back to the cattle. Injecting steroids and pumping antibiotics for all the issues that arise from poor health. The hay growers use harsh insecticides, strong fertilizers and have more bugs dirt, trash. Very rarely do you get the same type or quality twice. Science like yours formulated most all of that industry. You can tell me your findings, but I will always trust what I see. My animals look and act healthier. Fodder is a better road for me. It's clean. It's alive. No pesticides no fertilizers..no wasted grain in there dung. 2 years ago I spent $7000. For stone removal in one of my horses..5 years old..15 pounds of stones..the since "vet hospital" told me it was alfalfa that caused it and how there is now a higher percent of younger horses getting them..who's findings do I follow. My animals energy levels are up..and it's not the same rolling eyes in the back of his head spooking at every little thing...like I said ..I trust the road I am on..no disrespect...but the absorption is higher with the barley and you can see it in their coats..
by David Horton
on July 3, 2014 at 12:50 PM
Also, for years now shedding has been the norm in the hay industry, multiple times over the years I have found tags on the hay I am buying showing a bailing date of 2 years prior..hay is $20.00 now , but if I go to the valley I can still pick out of the field for $9.00.. it's the greed game we are seeing...they throw it in sheds and wait...I have an uncle working for a horse rescue in new Mexico, "a good portion of the animals there are drop offs because of that greed game"...They have been feeding 15 to 30 horses for a year and cost is less than hay and the horses are healthier on the fodder.
by steve collins
on July 5, 2014 at 9:48 AM
This is an interesting article and discussion.  
 
I have a small suckler herd (65 dexter cattle) on a hill farm in south west Ireland. In the winter I feed the herd a combination of hydroponic barley sprouts and rough forage plus some powdered seaweed. My interest in the barley sprouts stems from my experiences spending the last 25 years treating adult and child starvation - this perhaps gives me a slightly different perspective.  
 
I moved to barley fodder because my cattle were not eating the rough grazing that was available on my very marginal farm and therefore to get through the winter, i had to buy in silage and some concentrates. Bought silage is often of poor quality especially in a bad year, is expensive and left me vulnerable to shortages (thank goodness i wash;t dependent on it in 2013!).  
 
I had wondered whether the my cattle's reluctance to eat the dried mountain grass was from mechanisms akin to the anorexia that you see in starving adults and children. The anorexia that is a feature of human starvation is in a large part due to essential nutrient deficiencies, especially type 2 nutrients (see Golden MH Acta Paediatr Scand Suppl. 1991;374:95-110.  
The nature of nutritional deficiency in relation to growth failure and poverty) . In grains many of these nutrients required for growth and appetite are "locked up" in storage compounds such as phytate that cannot be brocken down by mammalian enzymes. If these essential nutrients (which are not stored in the body) are missing in the diet appetite is suppressed. Sprouting barley grain breaks down these nutrients thereby greatly increasing their bio-availiabiliy (there are many other aspects to sprouting such as synthesis of certain vitamins and essential limiting amino acids, particularly lysine i believe which i haven;t time to go into.  
 
The key point is that when an animal eats a diet with bioavailiable nutrients they are healthy and have much greater appetites. This results in my cattle eating large quantity of rough mountain grass or, when that runs out, straw. Straw is devoid of most nutrients but it has a very high dry matter content (high energy) and is very cheap.  
 
So i believe that sprouted barley should not be seen as a fodder replacement (as Daniel points out it has many differences to fodder e.g. fibre content) it should be seen as a provider of essential nutrients that increase animal health and appetite thereby allowing the grow energy needs to be met by cheap rough forage.  
 
hope this is of interest.  
 
In haste  
 
Steve
by Daniel H Putnam
on July 5, 2014 at 10:15 AM
You raise a good point about phytate - it would be interesting to see data on that.  
Some of the forages that animals commonly receive are quite poor - thus your interest. These sprouted grains should be of much greater palatability than a lot of forages I've seen.  
 
It seems that sprouted barley should be seen as replacing perhaps the grain portion or as a supplement - not necessarily as a 'fodder' similar to hay or silage, due to its low fiber.  
Cost is still an issue, though.  
 
Dan
by steve collins
on July 6, 2014 at 3:34 PM
Yes that's the way i look at it - barley sprouts replace grain and other supplements / concentrates rather than fodder. Indeed barley sprouts shouldn't be fed by themselves to cattle as the fibre content is too low - they need additional roughage.  
 
When you look at it in that way, the cost comparison needs to be made between barley sprouts and grain/ supplements combinations that have a similar efficacy in promoting the intake of rough forage/straw.  
 
My Dexter cows eat approximately 10Kg of straw a day - a very large intake for such small cattle and a great deal of low cost energy. I have tried achieving the same with a protein supplement (rape seed expeller - about 30% crude protein) and seaweed for the minerals and although i haven't had time to run any trials i get the impression that the barley sprouts work better. I plan to run a trip on this in the near future.  
 
Another strategy is ot provide these essential nutrients through licks. However in Ireland the cost of highly bio-availiable chelated minerals licks with added essential amino acids is very high and you often have to buy a whole lot of molasses which you don't need or want.  
 
Dried fortified ration is another alternative but that is expensive and it is hard to keep the whole range of essential vitamins and essential fats stable in dried mixes. As a result i would guess that it will not drive appetite with the same efficacy. This needs a trial as well.  
 
i'll try to dig out some data on anti nutrient content of grains and sprouts.  
 
steve
by Kyle Chittock
on July 28, 2014 at 9:59 AM
Well what do you know, moisture does matter. And a UC extension is providing information. :)  
 
http://www.redbluffdailynews.com/rodeo/ci_26221604/rice-straw-new-method-get-through-drought  
 
Not surprised in the least bit by this.
by Amy Mikelson
on August 1, 2014 at 4:30 PM
Very fascinating discussion. Can't believe it's been going on do long. I'm not a scientist, but came across this when looking for information on these systems. I was looking at replacing hay costs, but seems more viable for grain replacement. One question, there was talk about going to visit a farm in April. I was curious if that happened and what was found?
by Jaco Olivier
on August 5, 2014 at 1:45 AM
Dear Daniel H Putman, I see you are against the use of green fodder production as a whole, I'm sorry, but I can not understand why.  
 
What are your concerns about DM loss on green feed vs. DM loss in extensive grazing?
by Daniel H Putnam
on August 5, 2014 at 8:37 AM
Jaco;  
I think you misunderstand me. It looks like the animals enjoy the sprouted grains quite nicely, so I'm not really against sprouted grain per se (as long as one understands the limitations). The main concerns are 1) High cost vs. buying hay or feeding grain (on the order of double - do the math!), 2)Loss of DM in the sprouting process (remembering that one can also feed ground barley itself successfully) 3) Loss in nutritional value (energy primarily) vs. grain. While proponents claim improvements in quality with sprouts, they must show that these improvements overcome these limitations. So far I haven't seen evidence for this.  
 
Also, sprouted grain isn't really 'fodder' in the same way as grass hay or alfalfa forage - it doesn't really have high fiber like true forages, so is probably more similar to a grain than a forage.  
 
Definitely all other types of forage production have their own limitations with losses in DM. Grazing and greenchop have probably the least losses in DM (at least pre-feeding) compared with haying or silage making, but those tend to be less than the 25-30% that we've seen with the sprouts. Highly managed intensive grazing with top forages can be very efficient, but that's a different subject.
by Johnny Stansell
on August 16, 2014 at 11:26 AM
If the only thing you look at is the value of any fodder compared to the grain it would appear that the thing to do is feed a 100% grain diet. Might not be a good idea. fodder/grain = apples/oranges
Reply by Daniel H Putnam
on August 16, 2014 at 4:03 PM
Agree, but if you read the above discussion, sprouted grain is not = fodder (fiber is too low). No one recommends feeding 100% grain.
by JOHN ISRAEL
on September 2, 2014 at 2:57 AM
ALLOW ME TO SHARE SIMPLE ENSIGHT - BEFORE COMMERCIALIZATION HAD COME UP, ANIMALS ARE USED TO EAT GREEN AND FRESH GRASSES OR LEGUMES AND ALL GOING WELL NO ISSUES OF DM ANALYSIS OR WHATEVER - I SEE YOUR POINT DAN, HOWEVER, IT SEEMS TO ME THAT YOU ARE DISCOURAGING FARMER TO UNDERTAKE A SIMPLE REPLICATED APPROACHED OF TREATING ANIMALS IN OLD WAYS. I HOPE THERE WERE NO INTERVENTION FROM A BIG MANUFACTURER OF FEEDS PRODUCT THAT LEADS YOU TO WRITE ON THIS ARTICLE ON THEIR BEHALF, OBVIOUSLY THIS HYDROPONIC ENOVATION WILL DRIVE THEM CRAZY AS IT DEFLATE THEIR BUSINESS IN THE LONG RUN SPECIALLY WHEN FARMERS EITHER SMALL TIME OR A BIGGER ONE WILL ADOPT THE METHOD OF GIVING FRESH FOOD TO ANIMALS RATHER THAN GIVING THEM WITH THIS NASTY PROCESSED FEEDS. SORRY I WAS JUST CARRIED AWAY BY THE FEELINGS HOW THE PEOPLE TREAT THE ANIMALS AT THIS POINT OF TIME - CAN WE NOT AT LEAST BE HUMAN IN TREATING THEM ON THE WAY THAT THEY DESERVED ALTHOUGH THEY ARE CREATED TO BE CONSUMED BY US HUMAN BEING - CHEERS
Reply by Daniel H Putnam
on September 13, 2014 at 7:25 PM
John;  
I sense your passion.  
 
No, nobody's bought me off, if that's what you're thinking.  
 
I have really nothing against sprouted barley as fodder - in fact it looks delicious.  
 
I just have the annoying habit of looking at things and asking questions, such as is it really beneficial (to the farmer or the animal), and is it economically sound?  
 
Be careful not to compare sprouted grain to whole grain. There is lots of evidence that grinding or rolling (other processing) makes grain more digestible - see comments above.  
 
Also, we shouldn't pretend that sprouted grain is equal to true forage (alfalfa or grass fresh or hay) - it's very different, and is closer to a grain than a forage.
by Bill Kelleher
on September 3, 2014 at 4:05 PM
I didn't see anything in your article addressing digestibility of seed vs sprout. The data I have seen shows the seed (barley, for instance) is 40% digestible, and the sprouts are 80% digestible. Could this perhaps make up for some of the calculated DM losses you report? Also, barley, from the data I have seen, has a crude protein percentage of 12.7 percent and a crude fiber percentage of 5.4 percent as a seed. These percentages jump to a crude protein percentage of 15.5 percent and a crude fiber percentage of 14.1 percent after an average of seven days of sprouting.  
 
Sprouting also reduces phytic acid content, making it easier for livestock, especially ruminants, to absorb nutrients from them.  
 
I'm interested in your thoughts on these points.
by Faydra T
on September 12, 2014 at 9:48 AM
First and for most I agree with JOHN ISRAEL... The digestibility is 80% compared to 30%- 40% in grains. Before all these big time manufactures came along cattle, horses, chickens, rabbits, all livestock was eating all natural greens. Also corn is NOT GOOD FOR YOUR LIVESTOCK!! They are NOT designed to eat it! Period!! I have lived in farm country MY WHOLE LIFE and you see the only reason corn is put in animal products is because it is a cheap filler. To be honest with you i didnt even read the whole article but it is common sense to know that greens are better than grains. Thats how God intended it!
by Yvonne Prescott
on September 13, 2014 at 10:21 AM
I am a total layman here so ex use me if my comments are not too scientific. We started experimenting with fodder last fall after our winter supply of hay was destroyed in a stack fire. We have a small farm with horses, range cows, 1 milk cow, and chickens. Our children have done 4H market beef for years, 11 to be exact. Our son just sold his steer at 1186 lbs completely fodder fed. The prior 10 steers were fed rolled corn oats and molasses. Those 10 also sold at about the same weight. The average cost of grain per lb of weight for those first 10 steers could always be estimated at a $1 per lb. And we always lamented the amount of grain that went straight through the animal to feed the crows. This last, fodder fed steer's grain cost total was $385. That is $.32 per lb! And, there was no evidence of undigested feed going to waste. We built our own system from diy videos online so have no ax to grind or product to sell, just money to save. Our horses have more energy than when they were on a strictly alfalfa or oat hay diet and we felt like our milk cow gave richer milk. Our chickens also laid eggs through a very cold winter which is unusual for us. Over all we have been impressed and are looking to expand.
by Jason Young
on September 15, 2014 at 8:08 AM
I read a large portion of the comments but not all of them so forgive me if this has already been asked. Wouldn't sprouted grains be a safer feed than unsprouted? Everyone knows that a large portion of whole grains (corn for me) just goes right through the animal and if you crush the grain you get a better feed conversion but for me with goats cracked corn would be too "hot" for them and could potentially kill them.  
 
For a large producer, 1 out of 100 death loss (or whatever number) may be acceptable but to someone like me who's herd is only 5, 1 animal is a 20% loss. It's one more part that should be put into the equation. There's really no science behind my thoughts but i just figured it was something to think about. I am not saying one way or the other is the best or that sprouted fodder actually is safer, but it seems like some people are getting good results from sprouted grains. It's just one of those things that needs more research but that takes time, money, and energy. I am going to try it on a small scale with my goats and chickens this fall/winter and see how it goes.
Reply by Daniel H Putnam
on September 21, 2014 at 10:02 AM
Jason;  
Not sure how one could demonstrate better animal survival with various types of feeding strategies - since there are so many, and so many reasons that animals die.  
 
Let us know how it turns out.  
 
Dan
by Nkunja Matu
on September 19, 2014 at 5:11 AM
I am from Kenya and am new to dairy farming... just 2 years now. And for the past two years I have been using convectional feeds until I was introduced to hydroponics fodder farming.  
 
Two weeks ago I set up my hydroponics "farm", DIY style and I am already feeding my cows with the fodder.....  
 
I will come back to the forum in a month's time with some observations on  
 
1. general health of the animals  
2. labor requirements as compared to the convectional feeding programs  
3. Savings / loss  
4. Production  
 
I will not comment on DM because  
1. I am no scientist / nutritionist and I am doing no research  
2. It does not bother me what its quantity (%) is in the sprouts as long as the animals do well, health/production wise  
 
Lastly I wish to propose to the scientists to try and figure out what is it in the sprouts that make them match or better the conventional feeding programs (in terms of animal performance) albeit with very little DM, instead of persistently repeating to us what they have scientifically proven and we are not disputing (that spouts loss DM in the process).... I believe if they can tell us that this forum will have achieved a milestone..... over to you @Daniel and company
Reply by Daniel H Putnam
on September 19, 2014 at 10:37 AM
Thanks, Nkunja;  
Let us know how it turns out.  
 
Dan
by Remy Cline
on September 21, 2014 at 6:06 AM
Comments;  
 
1. It is a bit arrogant of you to dismiss these producers who are claiming real world results based on your minds eye and interpretation of others research. To insist the posters producer research that proves their efficacy claims is counter productive as you know there is not such research out there because big Ag has not and is not going to fund it. Even if they produced it you would dismiss it as not peer review. The criticism that you are an arm chair scientist is accurate as it pertains to this subject as you apparently have not or are not out visiting any dairies or ranches “successfully” using fodder as a feed substitute since you have dismissed it in your minds eye.  
 
2. Much AG research and indeed new Ag product (drugs, feed supplements, fertilizers, etc) development involves proving efficacy and in many cases companies claim efficacy in much the same way the posters here are claiming efficacy ie without demonstrating scientifically how their product achieves the efficacy. The only difference is the posters here have not kept good records as their goal was not to conduct a research project. Our government approves these sorts of products from Big Ag everyday without any challenges from the Ag research community ie YOU. Why? Well because most of your research is funded by big AG and you are not going to bite the hand that feeds you. Since none of these posters are going to pony up a million dollars for you to do an efficacy study you are inclined to bite. Since most Univ Ag Ext has become nothing more than an extension of Big Ag it is not true that you do not have a dog in this race. Prove me wrong and approach Organic Valley and ask them for funds to do the efficacy research on barley fodder.  
 
3. The only relevant issue here from an efficacy perspective is how much barley fodder is needed to replace X amount of DM feed and still provide an equivalent or better animal health and production. All other discussion of cost, water use, labor are subject to individual producer’s variables. Each individual producers can best compute these for their specific operation and decide for themselves if using barley fodder is a good fit for them. It is bad enough you are being an arm chair scientist here you don't also need to be an arm chair economist.
Reply by Daniel H Putnam
on September 21, 2014 at 9:40 AM
Wow, Remy.  
What had been an interesting and collegial discussion has gone to the gutter thanks to you.  
 
I don't know who you are or where you reside, but I guess you weren't with me Friday as I visited 3 dairies in California over 17 hours, nor Tuesday, when I visited 3 alfalfa growers in the Sacramento Valley, nor previous Friday, when 100 farmers and PCAs attended our Fresno Field day. Nor are planning to be with me when I'm planting my field trials at many locations this fall -you're welcome to get out of your armchair critic's chair and join me. Armchair - geeze, I must be missing something.  
 
And, by the way, both Peter Robinson and I did do some (non-armchair) research (with no funding) which we presented above.  
 
When one's arguments don't hold water, try throwing mud. To paraphrase Samuel Johnson - insults are the last refuge of scoundrels.
by Remy Cline
on September 22, 2014 at 3:47 PM
For these here looking for some real research on this topic they should read the article below and follow the "efficacy" studies being conducted at Cornell University and University of Minnesota. Studies Daniel is obviously aware of as he is quoted in the article as a skeptic.  
 
http://www.progressivedairy.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=11578:experts-remain-leery-on-feeding-sprouts-while-farmers-using-the-system-are-pleased&catid=46:feed-and-nutrition&Itemid=72
 
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