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News and information from UC Cooperative Extension about alfalfa and forage production.
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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 other "miracle products" 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:‎  
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
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.  
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.  
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 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
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
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,  
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
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.  
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  
As an example, watch this video. 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 $350 per ton.  
If you base this solely on dry matter, then you're assuming he'll have to feed more than 60lbs of fodder to replace just 10lbs of grain. - That is a totally unrealistic amount of fodder to feed!  
We don't know everything about fodder yet - but universities are testing it and why it works so well. Chico State University currently runs a fodder system with their organic dairy cows. The key thing here is they're feeding animals for their study - and it works.  
If you're still not convinced (and I don't expect you to be) then you need to go talk to someone who is using fodder, and ask them 2 things. "How is the health of heard now that you're using fodder? How much has your feed bill changed?" If you need someone to talk to, I know people around almost all of the US using fodder.
Reply by Daniel H Putnam
on January 28, 2014 at 12:27 PM
Since you haven't offered any data to support your contention, it has to be dismissed as a promotional piece.  
Please offer data to support your point of view.  
Sorry, you are wrong about the dry matter. It is important to adjust for dry matter. As Glenn Shewmaker pointed out: Try adding 9 lbs of water for each pound of hay, and then sell the hay for 40$/ton? Nutritionally, you still have 1 lb of hay!!  
See his excellent article:  
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
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
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.  
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:  
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.  
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.  
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  
Darrell Wood (President of Panorama Meats)  
It's never easy to implement something deemed impossible by the experts.
by Daniel H Putnam
on February 3, 2014 at 10:56 AM
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).  
Suggest: stop being insulting in your comments, and address the facts.  
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:  
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:  
"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.  
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
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:  
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
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).  
by Daniel H Putnam
on February 6, 2014 at 3:40 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. 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.  
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
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:
by Daniel H Putnam
on February 9, 2014 at 1:10 AM
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:  
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
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
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.  
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."  
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
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.  
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
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.  
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:  
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  
by Richard J Norell
on February 21, 2014 at 9:12 AM
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
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.  
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
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.  
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:  
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
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  
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??  
by Richard J Norell
on February 26, 2014 at 10:30 PM
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
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:  
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.
Reply by Daniel H Putnam
on September 23, 2014 at 5:51 PM
I was looking over the posts (many of them!!) over the past year and I missed yours.  
Some good points about changes in quality beyond the issue of energy and DM. It would be good to see if these more subtle types of feed changes were sufficient to overcome the negatives (costs and DM losses).  
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
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
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!  
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
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.  
by Saifuddin A Kalyanwala
on April 3, 2014 at 10:26 PM
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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.  
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
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.  
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
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.  
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.  
by Andrew Ross
on April 23, 2014 at 3:21 PM
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.... 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.  
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  
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
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.  
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.
Reply by Daniel H Putnam
on May 22, 2014 at 9:50 AM
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!!  
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
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).  
by Mohammed Akhil
on June 26, 2014 at 4:23 AM
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 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 I said ..I trust the road I am 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  
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.  
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.  
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. :)  
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
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.
on September 2, 2014 at 2:57 AM
Reply by Daniel H Putnam
on September 13, 2014 at 7:25 PM
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
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.  
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.  
by Remy Cline
on September 21, 2014 at 6:06 AM
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 1:35 PM
Hi Daniel,  
Ok we will stick to the facts!  
Much of your data seems to come straight out of another Univ's study see link below: So I have to wonder how much real research you actually did.  
However, you conveniently neglected to mention the conclusions from this real study.  
"Due to changes in the nutritive characteristics of the  
fodder (less starch, more sugars, vitamins and lysine)  
monogastrics such as people, horses, swine and poultry may  
have more benefit. In the end analysis, it is ultimately  
animal performance relative to the alternative costs that  
determines profitability and usefulness .... more research seems necessary"  
I think this is what other posters with real world experience with using barley fodder have been say here just in different words and you have been mocking them with your dog biscuit comments!  
Essentially the above Univ study is suggesting the same as I have ie an efficacy study!!  
WOW indeed!  
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.
by Dave Curry
on October 4, 2014 at 11:04 AM
Some conclusions:  
What a fantastic discussion. I have two "pleasure" horses here in the Indian Wells Valley aka "High Desert" of Eastern California. I have no dog in this hunt, either. Just sharing what I think I've learned.  
1) Green Fodder is a misnomer, more properly thought of as a grain replacement. Most every site that discusses GF and full diet requirements says something along the lines of "in addition to ".  
2) Lots of perspectives reflected here:  
2a) Livestock for profit: bottomline is everything, got that. Marbling, fat content, yolk color and even stock health are only important to the degree they maximize profit. This seems to break down into  
-- "mass-market". Supplies are readily available, reliable in both cost/quality, same with climate/weather. Mid to large operations, lots of competition, very market-driven. GF would increase cost without increasing profit, or so it sounds.  
-- "stressed/smaller-market". Supplies come from far away, are unreliable in either cost/quality/both, climate is often a major problem. Small to mid operations, limited usable land/water, some competition perhaps, but supply drives consumer prices, so folks will to a degree pay for what the operation produces. Animal health and happiness can be a value-driver more than in mass-market areas. Higher costs of GF may be offset by reliable production year-round and consistent/superior product quality to market, with market price compensating for increased cost.  
2b) Non-profit operations: meaning families/groups with limited means/land/water supporting themselves either through direct consumption or limited sales, effectively non-commercial. DM and other science not so important as a sense of doing the right thing for the animals and environment - oh, and having control! Supplies, bought in small quantities, not as cost-effective as for commercial operations. GF may/may not make fiscal sense, but cost is not a primary driver.  
2c) Got pets (this is me): There is no profit whatsoever other than the pleasure of one another's company, be it on the trail or just cleaning pens. Will pay serious $$$ for the animal's health and happiness. Same supply-line issues as with non-profit ops, and in my case "stressed" areas - one local supplier of grains/supplements, limited water resources and NO ability to grow my own (those who do have my respect!). DIY GF is a serious option: reliable, I'm in control, worth the cost for having happy(er) horses, but sorry Kyle, not buying a unit from you - but sweet units and best of luck.  
3) Basically, one set of solutions won't work for everyone. Apples & oranges & mangoes, etc.  
One other thing I noticed; Dan et. al. are on the plant side of things, so they're going to have a view towards "is this the same thing as that when it gets to the animal's mouth". Would be nice to have inputs from Animal Science types, get their perspective, which might be different, more along the lines of "does this produce the same value as that when my end-product gets to market".  
Anyway, excellent discussion!
by Dr.Raju J
on October 17, 2014 at 9:35 AM
Very good article
by Eric Smith
on October 20, 2014 at 7:00 AM
Good informative article.
by Stefan Doia
on October 25, 2014 at 9:32 AM
Hello everybody  
I am a small farmer from Romania. I own 2 acres of land and i raise chickens, pigs, rabbits and cows. I am very interested in "fodder" topics and i read a lot about this matter. For start i don' t want to argue with any team , either is pro or against green fodder. My opinion is that, in this debates i didn' t saw an equilibrate opinion. In Romania, like in other countries, cows for example, go to pasture from spring to autumn eating fresh and juicy grass all day long with a small suplement of hay and smashed grains. In the winter time the main forage is hay, but the recomandations is to fed the cows with some juicy forages even in the winter time. Mellows, pumpkins,bettle, molasses, corn silage, etc. Especially for diary cows. Even pigs and chickens need some fresh forages in the winter. But these forages are very hard to keep durring the winter for a very small farmer. My question is: what if we replace that kind of food with green fodder. Not to replace hay or grain, just for vitamine suplement. Thank you
by morteza
on November 5, 2014 at 3:50 AM
Hi dear friends  
I hope you are feeling good.  
My dear friend, I'm going to join a hydroponic forage producers, but because it is the first time they'd come to me if you have questions that I hope you can help me.  
Do you think the hydroponic forage production is economically affordable?  
Are startup costs and other collection costs are high?  
What are the challenges facing the economic challenges? (For example, diseases and…)  
Hydroponics matter how diseases arise and how to deal with them?  
Is it dangerous to animals?  
The ideal environmental conditions such as temperature, humidity and light to what should be done?  
What type of lighting should be used? Natural or artificial? What color of artificial light is better?  
Do you need to use during the irrigation nutrient solution? Water hardness in the range should be?  
How to irrigate the better? Is the tray should always be wet?  
Thank you sincerely
by Daniel H Putnam
on November 12, 2014 at 1:08 PM
Folks interested in the hydroponic system, see new report from Penn State and NH:  
J. Dairy Sci. 97 :1–14 10.3168/jds.2014-8518  
Conducted with continuous flow fermentor system (in vitro) - compared haylage with herbage, also sprouted vs. grain.  
Part of their summary conclusions:  
"Supplementation of herbage-based and haylagebased  
diets with 7-d SB (sprouted barley) increased true and apparent DM digestibility marginally (3 percentage units); however,it had no effect on fiber or CP digestibility, CH4  
output, and bacterial efficiency. The small increase in  
digestibility coupled with the DM yield loss associated  
with sprouting barley could result in less digestible  
energy available to the animal and negative effects on  
animal performance when supplementing with high quality  
herbage diets, such as herbage or haylage."
by Caesura
on November 12, 2014 at 11:14 PM
Something else that should be taken into consideration is the livestock being fed. Hogs cannot digest whole dry grain such as barley, so even though there is a decrease in dry matter after sprouting, there is an increase in digestible material.  
Sprouting it in either a hydroponic or aquaponic system is something I am looking into as a way to provide my hogs with fresh forage because I have limited space to graze them. I am setting up an aquaponic system which will use catfish to supply nutrients to the grow beds, and the plants will clean nitrates out of the fish water. Such systems can run into problems with nitrogen spikes when vegetables are harvested from the grow beds unless fish are culled at the same time. For me, sprouting barley for my hogs may be a viable solution as the barley can be immediately added to help take up some of the extra nitrate burden while the next round of vegetables is being established.
by Nkunja Matu
on November 19, 2014 at 3:45 AM
I setup my hydroponic farm some exactly two months ago and am not disappointed at all.  
three things that have come out clearly in my case:  
1. Cost of feed (dairy meal supplements) has been reduced to zero and overall cost has been greatly reduced (by close to 20%)  
2. Production is almost the same for now, but the animals look better...... am not sure whether its my eyes wanting to see that but there is definitely a difference in appearance and its good  
3. Cost of production for me is very cheap.... i am in the tropics so I do not need electricity and other forms of energy to regulate the temperatures... an appropriate green house in good enough  
How do i post photos here?  
Thank you.
by Jazz Alessi
on December 22, 2014 at 11:56 PM
Great research done about this topic. I appreciate your knowledge. Thanks  
Personal Training London
by Iva Miller
on December 26, 2014 at 3:19 PM
I read through the article and every comment (though did not read every study cited). My family is looking into growing rabbits as a source of cheap and healthy meat and so I was studying the fodder "issue." This was a most fascinating conversation. I cannot help seeing that it surely applies more to larger animals (rabbits were hardly referenced).  
I would like to ask the original author, Daniel, I believe: you have done a scientific study related to the cost and efficiency of growing fodder using a hydroponic system (and I assume you mean a system that is produced by a company for profit). And you have deemed that, based on your study, it is not possible for fodder to be a cost-efficient replacement for grains. You have somewhat dismissed online "testimonials" as mere promoters of products or people who "have a dog in the race."  
What if the "hydroponics system" was eliminated and a small-time farm (what folks may call hobbyists) used resources at hand to produce their fodder and thus fed their animals as well as reduced their feed costs?  
I live near Pueblo Colorado which is considered a semi-arid biome. There is no way possible to (naturally) grow one's own food much less food for an animal. I know numerous families in the homeschool community who are raising a variety of animals, however. One family raises prize milk goats (up to 10?) on slightly over an acre of property by using a fodder system. Another family raises several goats, chickens, and last year a hog on the fodder system. Another family raises a small flock of chickens. Each of these families has used the resources they have to provide their own food supplies (although the fodder is not the ONLY food source, I know they use hay also). One family set up shelving units (about $125 in cost) in a basement room close to the bathroom. They take the sprouting trays into the downstairs bathtub to spray them down each day. They use no extra light. This feeds at least 2 goats and a flock (40ish) of chickens. Another family uses a good portion of a bedroom for their sprouting shelves. The family with chickens simply uses trays in their windows. Sometimes the water is saved for other uses, or used from tray to tray to tray. I know all three families use fodder BECAUSE IT IS COST EFFICIENT. The 2 families with goats are large (8 children and 11 children respectively) and have some food allergies that require the goat milk.  
These families are not promoters of commercial systems and yet their experience defies your scientific study. Or maybe you would raise eyebrows and tell me that a mother of 8 (or 11) isn't keeping scientific tabs on her budget??? ;)  
Science and experience seem to clash on this topic. Why has the United States not produced a farm/farmer willing to do a study on the subject and we sort of rely on an Iranian experiment for any input at all?? The scientists have decided without a doubt one thing (fodder is lower in nutrition and higher in cost) and yet you walk out of the lab and the story on the street is completely different: cost is down and health/production remain the same or better. (Ok the 2 Idaho farms notwithstanding.) The scientists continually ask for statistics and data (understandable) and the folks deep into animal husbandry continually ask the scientists "why doesn't your data match my experience?"  
We're looking to build up a large enough herd of rabbits to slaughter a thousand a year (6 kids for whom to budget food). I guess it's time to do a controlled study. Would you like to direct the scientific part of it? :)
Reply by Daniel H Putnam
on December 28, 2014 at 11:50 AM
It looks like hydroponic sprouts works for you. It fits into those aspects (in my original article) where it seems to fit - people who would like to be self-sufficient in feed and have few other resources. You probably still have to buy your grain for sprouting though.  
On your rabbit idea - suggest that you calculate your hay-equivalent yield of the sprouts (correcting for dry matter of course), and calculate the yield of the sprouts on a hay-equivalent basis, and compare the costs of the seed with the costs of buying hay (alfalfa hay or high quality grass) from farmers locally. As detailed above, when I do this calculation, the hay comes out better - but maybe your situation is different.  
As you said, mothers with lots of kids have to be hard-nosed about the economics.  
In spite of what others have stated, the nutritious part of feeds is in the dry matter portion, so you need to correct for dry matter. You can always add water to milk, and it may go further, but doesn't improve its nutritional value.  
Sprouts should be considered more similar to grain rather than to forage nutritionally, due to their low fiber content.  
Good luck -  
by Paul Johnson
on December 28, 2014 at 9:30 AM
Thanks for writing this article and starting a discussion on this topic.  
I have owned performance horses for about 30 years, and 3 years ago I started feeding fodder when Texas was in a terrible drought. I wanted to replace the very expensive hay and concentrated feed with 100% fodder. Like everyone else on this post, I was concerned about the nutritional value of the fodder. When I tried to research the nutritional value, I found that the "experts" don't know anything about the nutritional value of fodder. The best that they can do is kill the growing plant, dehydrate it, and then count the dried chemicals that make it up and see how that compares to the nutritional needs of horses (which were also based only on the dead, dry chemicals).  
I have to agree with the people on this post who say that dry matter doesn't matter. I don't feed dry matter, and I don't believe you or any of the other nutritional specialists who claim that the nutritional benefits of a living plant are equal to the chemicals that the plant contains after it is killed and dried.  
You didn't respond to how the anecdotal studies mentioned, where fodder replaced concentrated feed of some kind on a 1 to 1 basis, of wet weight, were able to sustain at least equal weight or performance, when you say they would have to feed 7 times as much wet weight to get the same nutritional value. Maybe dry matter doesn't matter.  
In my own experience, after 3 years of feeding my polocrosse horses, I have spent about 1/4 of what I had been spending before, and my horses' condition hasn't suffered at all, and their overall health has improved. My horses do have access to some pasture some time, but most of the time they get almost all their nutrition from what I give them. If I can give them 20 pounds (wet weight) per day, I don't think they need any other feed or hay (I do keep a mineral block out for them).
by Jami Martin
on December 29, 2014 at 9:05 PM
I guess I am confused about DM and all this comparison to hay prices.  
I raise rabbits. I have about 20 adults, which is a small rabbitry. I switched to fodder not to replace hay but to replace commercial pellets. So I don't understand the whole comparing of the cost of growing and feeding fodder to hay. I compare it to the cost of the feed that is has replaced.  
Before fodder I was using 200 pounds of pellets, per month, for adults on a maintenance diet. Litters consumed an additional 50 pounds per month and required about 6 weeks of feeding pellets to reach market weight. At 20 dollars per 50 pound bag my feed costs ranged 80 to 230 dollars per month plus 5-10 dollars in hay.  
Fodder costs me 15 dollars for a 50 pound bag of barley. That produces about 4.5 pounds of fodder per pound of grain, or 225 pounds per bag of grain. I use 4 gallons of water per day to produce. The rabbits drink 50% of the water they were drinking when they were fed 100% dry food.  
They eat the same weight of fodder as they did in pellets. So my feed costs have become 15 dollars per month instead of 80 for maintenance does and bucks, and 45 per month instead of 230, if I have 5 litters in growout.  
I do not know of anyone who feeds rabbits 100% hay and nothing else. I'm sure that can't be what you mean. I may experiment with a group of rabbits but hay just does not contain enough protein. Alfalfa does but it is so high in calcium. I had numerous rabbits who had bladder issues from too much calcium coming from the pellets (made from alfalfa hay) and all of those resolved once I began feeding fodder.  
So no it is not a hoax, and it works great for rabbits. I save so much money that my rabbits now have a fantastic profit margin instead of a margin so slim one wonders why they are even raising rabbits.
by steve edney
on January 2, 2015 at 12:21 PM
Can I first declare an interest.  
We have developed a solar powered 'glasshouse' specifically for hydroponic barley shoot systems that will produce 10 tons a day from half an acre ( 2,000 acres equivilent ).  
From research, minor issues such as DM play little part in the argument comparative to water usage issues, with alfalfa requiring 1,100 litres per kilo and feed crops in the USA consuming 56% of all fresh water the only way to sustain the beef and dairy industry will be through innovations like hydroponic barley sprouts. Based in California you should know the implications of the predicament more than anyone.  
As an aside I never back something I do not believe in, to that end I have been eating 20 grams of freeze dried barley shoots a day for three months.  
Results: Hypertension down from 160/110 to 140/95 after six years of going nowhere with medication, half stone weight loss with muscle build, higher energy levels and focus improved sleep pattern.  
It works for me so I would be quite happy to recommend to any animal!
by Beth
on January 10, 2015 at 9:24 PM
First of all, thanks to the author for an interesting discussion and for continuing replies. This thread has been far more enlightening than most of the articles I've read online. I recently purchased a fodder system and am getting ready to bring it on-line. In light of what I've read here, and elsewhere recently, I'm inclined to think it may have been a poor decision. Other thoughts: 1) There are a lot of people with a lot of money in this game. It would be nice to see some actual data from them, rather than just references to their ability to produce data. 2) While it may defy current ruminant science, I can't totally discount the anecdotal results of producers getting worthwhile results in their livestock. I guess I'm a bit "alternative" but I tend to distrust conventional ideas relating to nutrition - both human and livestock. Convention wisdom regarding human nutrition is somewhat of a joke, if a person wants to be truly healthy. I haven't yet made up my mind regarding animal nutrition. Fresh, live foods do seem like they'd have more important nutritive value than dead, dry foods. But data I do not have. I guess I wonder if today's science adequately measures all the variables. Thanks again for a educational discussion!
by Sam Bolinger
on January 19, 2015 at 8:12 PM
Wow oh wow. Wonderful article. Thanks to all of you who have contributed. C
by ryan
on January 23, 2015 at 9:10 PM
I have been feeding my horses fodder for two years now. It costs me 60 dollars a month for two horses to feed them on straight fodder. I have noticed they are alot more healthy and stay more hydrated on fodder. I will continue to feed fodder have no reason to buy expensive hay.
by nick
on February 4, 2015 at 7:09 AM
I'm sure your analysis is quite excellent, one thing I wanted to point out is you don't need artificial light or any light at all to produce fodder. The seeds contain all the nutrients they need to sprout.  
Also you can do the same thing with a stack of buckets for the small backyard flock. Just punch a bunch of holes in them and rotate them. This is exactly the same as a countertop sprouter, but larger.  
I would think running a flush and drain system where the pump only goes on a few times per day would be negligible energy.. but I've not measured it.  
As for the water, why aren't you harvesting every drop off your land? Swailing for your crops, hugelkultur, even the simple rain barrel for the roof. Permaculture as a lot of interesting solutions out there.  
Again I'm just a backyard homesteader, but I'm sure people have scaled these primitive solutions up.  
At the end of the day you can buy a bag of organic barely for about $15 and quadruple it's feed value for the time it takes to pour about 1/2 gallon of water through a bucket stack 2x per day.
by Eric Blaise
on February 17, 2015 at 12:37 PM
Despite all the disadvantages, I can think of a few situations in which hydroponics fodder might be advantages. take for example those who live in semi arid regions of the country, that is semi arid because the soil does not yield much in terms of nutrients for plants, but gets a decent amount of rainfall, hydroponic growth would be helpful in such situations. other applications are, Mars colonization, crop growing during the long winter seasons,... etc.  
Eric |
by Daryl Foley
on February 17, 2015 at 11:19 PM
I stumbled upon this article, after looking into a hydroponics a few months ago for my horses, I am totally unbiased, one way or the other, yet I find all sides and arguments very intriguing. My wife and I are setting up a horse boarding facility in Nor Cal and I was looking into healthy alternatives for feed, there is a hydroponic set up that is being moved from the arena which is now being cleared out for the horses, I see the numbers on DM, and cost efficiency is not my biggest concern. What really stands out to me is healthy animals, and results, we have rescued a horse and she is on a strict diet to regain body weight...I am going to talk with the vet, RE this. I love the science, but I am a "does this work for you?" type of guy. I appreciate all views on this subject, thank you. will keep you posted when I get my own results.
by Prof Dr A M Nour
on February 20, 2015 at 2:02 PM
Benefits of Sprouted Fodder  
There are many benefits to be found from using fresh barley grass and spouted grains that has been organically and hydroponically grown. When barley is sprouted, it releases many vitamins and minerals as well as converting hard to digest starches in easily digestible proteins. Some of the benefits include:  
1-Water use reduction and conservation compared to field irrigation  
2-Reduction in overall daily feed costs.  
3-Significant reduction if feed waste - the entire root mass is consumed with the grass  
4-Increased nutritional value in the feed  
5-High yield in a very small area  
6-Increase your independence by growing food for your animals with no need for cultivated land  
7-High digestibility  
8-Vitamins & mineral saturation  
9-Phytate reduction for pH normalization  
10-Enzymatic activity increase  
11-Increases in Omega 3, amino acids, natural hormones  
12-Hedge the increase in feed costs by pre-buying large quantities of grain to have on hand  
13-On-demand availability of fresh green feed 365 days a year - all season access.  
Issues and Considerations  
1-Mold and fungus growth can be a problem. Sterile equipment, a low humidity environment, good temperature regulation, clean water, and good air circulation can all help avoid mold and fungus problems. A one percent bleach solution can be used to wash the grains prior to the initial soaking. This will pre-sterilize the seed.  
2-Depending on the sprouting setup - it can be labor intensive to rotate and clean trays and transport the "wet" feed.  
3-Seed quality can play a factor in the overall success and quality of the fodder produced.  
4-Storage of large quantities of grain needs to be considered in the costs and setup of a on-demand fodder system. Keeping the stored grain from moisture and pests is important.  
5-Some systems require power to operate and a lack of power/water in emergency situations needs to be factored in to the setup.
by locksmith los angeles
on February 25, 2015 at 11:30 AM
This is great article well done research and excellent work.  
we have posted it on our company website
by Jessica B.
on March 11, 2015 at 12:39 AM
Once we crack the quantum code of quantum biology and "spooky science" (Einstein) we will have a better understanding. We still do not fully understand photosynthesis or the conversion of light to sugar or the quantum code of seed to sprout (ok not fully). Cries of DM versus fodder will look down right Paleolithic. What we do know is that quantum biology will give us additional light (no pun intended) to shine on the issue of fodder versus dm. Quantum biology with epi genetics, synthetic biology and genetic modification will open entirely new horizons. As we have moved from the bio age into the chemical age health has been sacrificed for overall profit. I personally believe that quantum biology as we have researched at UC Berkely will lead us to a better understanding of best feeding practices for overall human development, land management and sustainability. This is not to say profitability does not have its place. I believe it is best for University professionals to cross study because as humans we become very myopic in our belief systems (basic psychology) and while I appauld Dan and his small study this study is not relevant except to cattlemen and dairy farmers soely interested in justifying the status quo. By only looking at profits and not looking at nutrition this study is extremely limiting rendering it maybe useless. Like looking at grass fed dog treats and grain feed beef dog treats and not realizing yet the impact of different omega fatty acids - stating all fat is the same. This will all look so much clearer in 50 years time. Ultimately humans have the HARE5 gene and will continue to test, anyalze and explore these different feeding systems, because of a downward pressure on profits due to increased volatile weather, the pole shift, milk consumption (declining) in the US, human population drivers and land use/availbility. It's evolution baby! Thank you to all have contributed to this teachable post.
by Bharathi Baskar.B
on March 13, 2015 at 12:09 AM
Thanks For Your valuable posting, it was very informative. I am working in India
by Harry James
on March 29, 2015 at 10:47 AM
Why can't you trim grass to use as feed and then add fertilser to grow again , hence reusing money spent on seeds?  
No one has suggested this so I assume it would not work, but why wouldn't it?
by prakash Patil
on April 10, 2015 at 7:54 AM
Recently i got into lamb fattening business. I planted alfalfa grass and sesbania grandiflora trees. I brought from neighbour farmer the dry grass and prepared own concentrate. Made formula based as 10% of body weight of the lamb in that 70% was green leaves of alfalfa and sesbania,, 20% dry matter and 10 percent concentrate. I kept feeding the lambs for 3 months.  
Outside my farm, the shephard community take the lambs for open grazing where only dry grasses are available as the hill that they take their flock is in arid area. I left equal number of lambs in their herd.  
The lambs at my farm, doubled their weight in 85 days and the lambs with the shephard, even after 120 days were nowhere near doubling.  
According to me everything in right formula is important...the dry matter and the grass..
by Dana
on April 29, 2015 at 11:46 AM
I have read the comments and some of them are downright painful to read (confrontational attitude makes for a un-comfy bystander). I recently finished my MS in dairy nutrition and found a opportunity with a company that is automating the previously manual process of growing and harvesting fodder. I have been in academia so I understand the unshakable rules of DM and its necessity. However I have also heard the testimonials, understand that we don't understand, and know that there is a lot of pieces that are un-accounted for when we run the numbers (transportation costs, labor, health improvements that no one has measured). I think this system has genuine merit for our global/ and environmental health. Agriculture is a massive entity and therefore plays a substantial role in our environmental status and if there is a scientific way to make this all measure out, it is worth the investment. That being said every business has bills to pay and also must be responsive to the market it serves.
Reply by Daniel H Putnam
on April 29, 2015 at 12:11 PM
Thanks for your comments, Dana. Let us know as you learn more.
by Amanda B Stewart, PhD
on April 30, 2015 at 2:37 PM
It always raises my red flags when I see the low digestibility % reported for the whole grains as fed.  
Extreme underestimates of digestibility for grains are often added to these calculations to inflate the value of fodder, even for horses. Am I missing something here?  
I could go on for days, or, people can quickly look at or general feed analyses.  
I regularly formulate rations for all classes of horses AND ruminants, dairy and otherwise.  
DE is DE is DE, and all expressed on DM basis. We would do the same type of calculations for animals on pasture, which also contains much water.  
Reply by Daniel H Putnam
on April 30, 2015 at 3:43 PM
Many thanks for the link, Amanda. Good point on the comparison with pasture which is sometimes very high in moisture.  
Ground grains can be very high in digestibility.
by Amanda Stewart
on May 5, 2015 at 4:42 AM
Additional research has been conducted with fodder in developing nations/arid regions. There are several papers from India, Nigeria, etc.  
A good read can be found at J. Agr. Sci. Tech. (2011) Vol. 13: 367-375  
Performance of Feedlot Calves Fed Hydroponics Fodder  
H. Fazaeli1*, H. A. Golmohammadi, A. A. Shoayee, N. Montajebi, and Sh. Mosharraf  
The abstract states:  
This experiment was conducted to evaluate the effect of barley green fodder produced  
by hydroponics system on the performance of feedlot calves. In a completely block  
randomized experiment, 24 cross bred (Holstein×Local) male calves were assigned  
randomly to one of the two treatments (diets) that were either control (grain barley) or  
hydroponic barley green fodder (BGF) that was included to provide 22.8 percent of the  
total diet on dry matter basis. Seed grade barley was grown in a hydroponics chamber  
system where the growth period was adjusted for 6 days. Body weigh gain was not  
significantly different between the treatments, but the animals that had received the  
control diet had higher (P< 0.05) dry matter intake than those fed BGF diet. There was a  
tendency (P= 0.199) toward differences in feed efficiency due to dietary treatments. From  
economical point of view, feed cost increased up to 24 percent when the calves were  
offered BGF, because of the costly production of hydroponics green forage. Although the  
mass production of fresh fodder was about 4.5 times per kg of barley grain, this was due  
to water absorption during germination and growth period. Nevertheless, the dry matter  
obtained was less than the initial barley grain and further dry matter losses were found in  
the green fodder. These findings suggest that green fodder had no advantage over barley  
grain in feedlot calves, while it increased the cost of feed.
by Jeff
on May 25, 2015 at 4:55 AM
Thought I would weigh in as I have a bit of knowledge on the market.  
Fodder is becoming a staple in feed production in areas where drought has caused a shortage of forage causing high prices where grain is still relatively cheap. The argument of feeding grain vs fodder is 100% bioavailability of nutrients and the health and well being of the animal(s). There have been studies that show promise using cost of gains from feeding fodder vs dry forages that show promise that the digestibility poses an advantage to fodder. Although I don't think any of them have been published. People that I know personally who have incorporated fodder into their operations report substantial reductions in overall feed cost. Unfortunately I don't have the scientific evidence to back it up and this article is also missing conclusive evidence regarding this aspect and therefore is an incomplete analysis.
Reply by Daniel H Putnam
on May 25, 2015 at 10:37 AM
Thanks for the comments, Jeff;  
I'd like to see a complete analysis of the water use issue - the water used for production of the grain included vs. grazing or hay.  
Hay prices have fallen a bit in CA this year in spite of the drought. Supply and demand is a complicated equation.
by Kyle Chittock
on June 24, 2015 at 8:57 AM
Have any of the authors of this article read this fodder research yet? It is very enlightening, especially on the actual results of feeding sprouts and grain replacement rates. You'll see that dry matter really doesn't matter.
by Gideon
on July 19, 2015 at 3:26 PM
in any sprouting system water and seed is the base of growing  
so hydro is high in sprouting feeding that comes out back will be running like water too much of that i guess will be weight losses unless you feed hay as well  
and seeds will only last 7 to 10 days max  
so while the seeds for sprouting is there the sprout will grow once the seed is used up the sprout will have to get nutrition from another source  
so to try and grow seeds for a full 50 days will be impossible with out ground that has fertilizer in it  
hydro grow is only water base growth but to go the full cycle u will need a greenhouse effect where u have special treated ground for a full grow system like a mushroom system  
and i think that feeding will cost far more then the old fashion way  
just my penny of a thought
by jessica07
on July 22, 2015 at 4:41 AM
I’m sure this will be the first, and last time, i’ll feature your comment as it directly affirms the argument in this post. Thanks.
by clane
on July 30, 2015 at 1:55 PM
I've been interested in fodder for several years, but mostly have just read about it. Most of the information (actual studies do seem to be based around cattle, when I have horses) The DM argument was one I'd not been presented with before and I think this might be where some of the confusion (for me anyrate) came from.  
Most horse owners are taught to feed by body weight, but rarely is DM discussed. Once I wrapped my head around the cost analysis of 'as fed <> dry matter', the lightbulb went on.  
So a pastured horse who eats only 'as fed' would need to consume approx 40lbs/day for 1000 lb body weight. and 20 lbs hay if hay fed. (using the usual 'by the rule thumb that most horse owners do use)  
If we consider the fodder to be 'as fed' NOT DM then I think the calculations might make more sense cost wise for the average horse person.  
We are suffering a pretty bad drought up in the MNW (canada) currently and hay is slim to none, which renewed my interest in this type of feed.  
I do think it has a valid place in the traditional sense of feeding. esp considering the current cost of hay up here which has just gone through the roof. My horses have just become a case study! And sine I'm an engineer by nature, I promise to be back with actual cost/caculations when I have them. Do I believe it's more cost efficient, most likely not, but when I can't actually find hay to purchase, it might be a definitely viable alternative. Even cubes are in short supply around here atm.
by dr. j. mark rodgers
on October 19, 2015 at 1:48 PM
First I must apologize. I have not read all the comments. There just are too many. So if this comment is a repeat of what has already been discuss, then I am sorry.  
But it seems to me that your economics analysis is missing some important considerations. First is the cost of land, the interest payments, taxes and cost of labor and equipment that is associated with traditional hay production. You also can't simply cut a field year after year without reconditioning the field.  
Fodder systems are much more compact allowing for smaller acreage. Its not just the cost of seed that needs consideration. Its the entire value engineering of farming that comes into play. In parts of the country where land costs and taxes are higher. Your better off with less land and higher yields.
by Daniel H Putnam
on October 20, 2015 at 11:40 AM
Thanks for the comments.  
Agree with your point about the cost of reconditioning fields, and of course using less land.  
However - if you purchase hay you don't have to worry about any of it, at least economically. Don't have to worry about any cost except the cost of hay.  
Generally, it's cheaper to produce one's own hay, but not always. Depending upon individual expense issues (cost of land, etc.), cost of production for hay is about $100/ton to $160/ton in many areas. However, if you don't have land you can buy it at market price or try the hydroponic concept. We took one fodder enthusiasts' estimate of $100/ton (that's wet, mind you) for the fodder as one estimate. At that rate, it's about $750/ton dry hay equivalent. A little pricey.  
Considering ONLY the cost of seed at 18 cents/lb, that the HAY EQUIVALENT cost of fodder is well north of $400/ton.  
Is that cheaper than purchasing hay? Definitely not this year, when alfalfa is priced between $140 and $240/ton delivered. And not even in the very high priced year when it was $350/ton.  
So while it may be a treat for one's animals, the above illustrates why they call economics the dismal science. Doesn't quite pencil out.  
Looks delicious though!  
Thanks for the comments.  
by Hiren
on October 28, 2015 at 9:29 AM
From what experiment i have done on my farm with just one animal is feed 1/3rd of ration and weight equivalent seeds as fodder(maize) and what i saw was hay in take was reduces by 50% so what i did was i halves the fodder(maize) and kept the ration at reduce(1/3rd) level and i still saw reduction in hay consumption but at no point did i saw reduction in milf.  
Many people go for urea treated grains and fodder to fulfill protein requirement of the animal but that protein can easily be easily made available by sprouting fodder. And yes that 1/3rd reduction in grain ration was more then enough for show clear profit.
by Kyle Chittock
on October 30, 2015 at 9:12 AM
I guess it's time for me to post again. Your math in the last post is VERY misleading. Sorry, but it's all wrong.  
You can easily replace 1lb of dry matter with 2lbs of wet fodder. Reference:  
I've seen people do as good as 1:1, but that depends on the ration. We need to look at research done on animals actually eating fodder. Your dry matter calculations do not work. None of the numbers above make any sense in the real world.  
Let's take a worst case scenario:  
Barley seed is not going to be very good at 18 cents per lb, so let's forget that. Let's use an "average" number of a small machine, so the costs are higher than normal.  
Good barley seed: 28 cents per lb.  
Yield: 7lbs of wet sprouts from 1lb of seed  
2,000lbs of sprouts requires ~ 285lbs of seed  
285 X .28 = $79.80  
Average cost of electricity per ton = $10  
Total cost of fodder (excluding equipment) = $89.80  
Cost if replacing high quality alfalfa, 2lbs sprouts for 1lb of dry hay = $179.60 per ton  
Let's round to $180 per ton for this scenario. This is a small backyard farmer who cannot grow their own hay. (If it's a larger customer, they're going to get a better price on barley, lower utiity cost, and overall price per ton will come down)  
This is BETTER than the $240 per ton alfalfa. You improve feed conversion of everything fed with fodder (shown by the digestibility studies mentioned above) improve animal health, etc.  
I don't know why you refuse to look at any people actually using fodder and ask how they are saving money if this is "dismal science".  
Progressive Dairy Article: "Fodder cuts dairy’s feed bills in half"  
by john
on November 30, 2015 at 9:03 PM
by David M
on December 10, 2015 at 5:22 PM
Hi Dan, thanks for the article. It definitely gives a balance to the hydroponic fodder use. I was a dairy farmer in Michigan and grew my own hay and intensively grazed my herd. I was also the past president of the Michigan Hay and Grazing Council and was a speaker at several grazing conferences in the Midwest. I now live in Florida and am desiring to start a dairy there. I have an interest in hydroponic fodder because the price of land in Florida is so high. Land is currently around $7000/acre. To buy enough land to support a large herd would be in the millions of dollars. It has been interesting to read all the comments both pro and con. I do think more research is needed, however, as there are too many variables that haven't been covered. In Mexico farmers are feeding fodder from corn seed. I was very impressed after reading and seeing the photos from that study. I remember when I started grazing my dairy herd back in 1992 there were many skeptics that scoffed and said it was a fad. While I'll admit grazing doesn't work everywhere, there is much scientific research on grazing now proving its economically sound. I was proof of that for 15 years on my own operation! Is there still a glimmer of hope for a fledgling hydroponic fodder industry as more research comes forth?
Reply by Daniel H Putnam
on December 11, 2015 at 10:00 AM
David M;  
Interesting story, David. There have been a number of growers who have successfully used grazing on their dairies (here in CA) - also, Argentina has over 10 million acres of alfalfa and other forages used for dairy grazing systems. Interesting! It can work and has worked in many areas. Your $7,000/acre sounds cheap here in CA, where land is more than double this in many areas, for irrigated land. In terms of the economics of hydroponic fodder, I would do some hard-nosed economics about the purchase of (even expensive) hay and how that compares in your area of Florida. The above analysis on the high costs of hydroponic forage (compared even to the $350 hay of last year) has held up to scrutiny, if one is honest about the dry matter issue. Regardless of what some people have said, rations are ALWAYS balanced on a DM basis.
by Robert
on January 4, 2016 at 1:57 PM
"A friend brought me some"... realy?  
I was about an hour into reading this debate when it struck me, the original analysis can only be considered anecdotal due to the fundamental lack of scientific discipline.  
Consider the author's statement: "A local friend who is working with hydroponic forages brought us some..."  
While I have derived some value from my time this afternoon, I can't help but feel upset at myself for not spotting the lack of controls and real evidence used to back the article sooner.  
"A friend brought me some"... realy?  
That is hardly what I would reliable. Not that I would claim this to be, but what if the "local friend" had in some way, whether intentional or accidental, did something that adversely impacted the source sample?  
While I won't go so far as to use the words junk science, I for one think the credibility of the article deserves some serious scrutiny. Where did the samples really come from? What if any were the environmental controls? How can you prove anything stated in the article given the source and methodology? What exactly is the affiliation of the authors with the University?  
There are some talking points in this article which, to quote the author, seem "attractive at first look, but fall apart upon analysis".  
"A friend brought me some"... realy?  
Assuming for a moment that the analysis had merit, the authors do the audience a great disservice by demanding facts while failing to provide your own.  
Also, I find the incomplete reference section alarming as well. The authors cite websites that are not given. Is this the quality one can expect from this University?  
I have "no dog in the race", I like many, am researching the viability of fodder for a given purpose. I am sure you can understand my frustration upon realizing I wasted my time on "A friend brought me some".
by Ariel L
on January 12, 2016 at 10:24 AM
Has anybody looked at the increased on meat production? So far I've seen only references to increases on dairy production.
by Richard J Norell
on January 12, 2016 at 8:09 PM
Cindy Daly's research was very informative. She compared feeding 5.4 pounds of barley dry matter from three different sources: processed barley grain, barley fodder, and a 50:50 blend of grain + fodder. Production was similar between groups which clearly shows that processed barley and barley fodder are similar in feeding rate on a per pound of DRY MATTER basis.  
Cindy shows the cost to produce 1134 pounds of fodder per day in her powerpoint ($69.30 for seed, $20 for labor, and $5 for utilities which totals $94.30). The as fed cost of fodder is $0.083 per pound ($94.30/1134 = $0.083). If we assume fodder is 15% dry matter, then Chico State produced 170.1 lbs of fodder dry matter per day (1134 x 0.15= 170.1). The cost per pound of dry matter is $0.553 (94.3/170.1). Cindy shows lower cost for processed barley in her study ($0.31 per pound as fed and $0.35 per pound of dry matter).  
Cindy used $0.06 per pound of fodder as her feed cost yet her actual feed cost was $0.083 per pound of fodder. Using the corrected number, income over feed cost was significantly lower on the 36 lbs of fodder diet ($13.44) than on the 6 pounds of processed grain diet ($13.92).  
To recap, Cindy's trial was very informative. She matched all my earlier statements: 1) Fodder has a similar feeding rate to barley when fed at similar lbs of dry matter, 2) Fodder is more expensive than grain on a per pound of dry matter basis, and 3) Income over feed is reduced on fodder diets due to the higher cost of fodder per pound of dry matter.
by Richard J Norell
on January 13, 2016 at 12:58 PM
jCindy Daly's research comparing fodder versus processed barley is available here in powerpoint format:  
Note her data shows that 6 pounds of barley fodder replaces 1 pound of processed grain. She has several earlier interviews where she states the replacement rate is 2 pounds of fodder for 1 pound of processed barley. Clearly her recommendation is different today after conducting a trial that documents a 6:1 replacement rate. IF someone tells you it is 2:1, show them Cindy's data.
by Michail Fragkiadakis
on January 21, 2016 at 3:07 AM
"Cindy's data" conclude:  
-Rumen dynamics change under the influence of fodder and DO NOT APPEAR TO HOLD TO THE 6:1 CONVERSION as implied by the DM  
-COMPARABLE milk production was established with a 2 lbs of  
fodder to 1 lb of grain exchange.  
What I undestand from that is that the replacement rate is 2:1,according to "Cindy" (although the actual study doesn't support that with data.)  
I am not asking from you to answer to the conclusions (I already asked Prof. Daley directly), I only ask you and the rest of the respected readers to be self-possessed and unbiased (in other words "chill out").  
What are the results from your own personal trials Richard? (in order to save precious time I already tell you that I have none).  
Please, don't mistake literature research for field research. Don't mistake information for knowledge.
by Richard J Norell
on January 22, 2016 at 2:38 PM
I had not read completely through the slideset and had not seen her conclusion that 2 pounds of fodder replaces one pound of grain. Her production trial with a 6:1 replacement rate clearly does not support her 2:1 conclusion. The small changes in rumen dynamics would not allow 0.3 lbs of fodder to replace 0.9 lbs of barley. If it did, the cows on fodder would produced more milk and/or put on more body condition.
by Jeff
on January 26, 2016 at 1:59 AM
Hi Daniel,  
You had a questioning about water usage, in my own system I am growing 250# of barley sprouts per day on 30 - 40 gallons of water. I have replaced a 3% body weight dried alfalfa hay we will say around 14 or 15 % Crude protein with a 2% body weight fresh sprouts and 1% timothy hay with a small dairy herd. The cows are producing 10 to 20% higher milk yields, have overall better body condition and daily consumption of water is reduced which offsets a large portion of the water used during production of the feed. I paid $0.07/lb for my alfalfa hay which is up at least 50% this year. Sprouts cost me about $0.035 per pound to produce using certified seed plus additional labour, my 13 yo daughter looks after the system and she spends around 45 minutes per day after school harvesting and re-seeding, I do it in about 15 minutes. I am developing an automated seed cleaning, soaking system that will allow me to purchase non seed grade barley for less than half of the price bringing my production costs down to 1.5 - 2 cents per pound. I am not using any lights or other special equipment, you could factor in a portion of my heating bill for my shop where it is located but we are talking maybe $25/mnth which would add about 1/3 of a penny per pound putting me at 0.038/pound. All in all I have probably cot my feed bill by more than 25% and increased my yield. At the same time it allows me to free up more land for summer pasturing or other production otherwise used for making hay. I was reading a study that was conducted in Australia where they had over 1kg/day beef gains where science had determined using dry matter calculations that the cows would produce no more that 200g per day. It was a good article and well written but nutritionists are starting to take a different look wet feeds, I am currently working with a dairy nutritionist to develop a more balanced feed plan for commercial dairy production in my area.
by Daniel H Putnam
on January 26, 2016 at 7:52 AM
Thanks your information - quite interesting. I'm glad you were able to make it work.  
In terms of water use, it's important to include the water used to produce the grain originally, and compare with water used for barley grain or hay based upon dry matter production. In the case of sprouts, they are closer nutritionally to barley grain than to hay due to the low NDF content.  
I'm not a beef person, but 200 grams gain/day sounds pretty low I think for any system - and 1 to 2.2 lbs (1 kg) daily gain is more normal I think if grain is included.
by Jeff
on January 26, 2016 at 9:41 AM
I am glad that you feel that 200g per day seems unrealistic because they were basing that estimation on dry matter values by volume of wet feed supplied to the animal. Same type of thinking you have on the subject.  
With regards to water use for growing the grain to supply the system. We don't need to irrigate grain unless we live in the desert so in my geographical area we are dependent on rain, the natural water table and soil quality. But this is where the sustainability comparison really leans to the fodder side. And I am going to use hay as an example because you don't base feed livestock straight grain whether it's rolled or crushed because eventually it will kill them it's too hard on their rheumen.  
We will use 2% body weight as an example for feed intake requirements and I am going to use a 1:1 ratio because that is what I am using on my farm.  
A 1000 pound cow will eat 7300# of hay per year. It requires around 3 acres to produce that hay and yes I realize that is a loose number because there are many variables involved in hay yields.  
However the same cow will eat 7300# of sprouted barley per year and it will require 0.23 acres to grow that barley. (Based on typical yields in my area). You could feed 10:1 and your still not even close.  
Yes I realize you cannot feed straight barley fodder or grain for that matter without adding some roughage in for fibre. But I used it to provide a solid contrast to how much land this type of feed system can open up for other crops.  
On another note, I think you have driven the nail pretty hard into the loss of DMV from sprouting. Mainly from energy loss (starches) during sprouting. However cows must burn more energy and generate more acid and bacteria to break down dried feeds.  
There are too many variables to look at it from a DMV prospective, the only way to determine whether your theory is correct or not is to do a controlled side by side study. I haven't had the time but I am going to see if I can get our government to provide a research grant to our local ag college to perform such a study so that will give us accurate data to dispute all of these discrepancies and assumptions.  
As an engineer my career revolves around numbers that represent indisputable fact so I understand your prospective. Lets get some more data before we write it off.
Reply by Daniel H Putnam
on January 27, 2016 at 12:03 PM
A cursory look at your math - you estimate about a 1.2 ton/acre hay yield - pretty low. Average in my state is about 7 t/a, and nationally likely close to 4 tons/acre (USDA says 3.3, but that doesn't include haylage). 7300 lbs of sprouted barley is about 730 lbs of barley seed and average yields are about 4,000 lbs/acre, so that might take about 18% of an acre, so you're close there.  
However, the main point is that feeding 7300 lbs of 90%DM hay (6570 lbs of DM intake) is fundamentally different than feeding 7300 lbs. of 10% DM sprouts (730 lbs of DM intake). They're not equivalent. Put them on an equivalent basis and see what you come up with in terms of water and land.
by Dan boik
on January 26, 2016 at 9:57 PM
Not sure what this whole article about but I will tell you One thing is for sure FEEDING HYDROPONIC BARLEY SPROUTS IS WAY MORE COST EFFECTIVE THEN REGULAR DRY GRAINS. I HAVE CUT MY FEED BILL AT LEAST 50%. labor is not a factor not with the system I have fodder pro 2.0 takes 10 to 15 minutes per day and the cost of the equipment still keeps me 50% below my usual grain costs. Utilities was up just a tad in the winter time. But my vet bills are way lower due to no colics and impactions and I feed less hay. my horses have never looked better and are healthier without adoubt. My foals are bigger and stronger and my yearlings growth rate are consistent. They keep growing right on through dead of winter. My stallions fertility is off the charts and my mares come into season earlier and are easier to get into foal. You can put all your scientific numbers together you want. But I've been doing barley sprouts for 3 years now. I'll never go back to dry grains.
by Jeff
on January 28, 2016 at 3:17 AM
7300/3=2433 not 1200 I did a rough estimate of the Timothy I took off of my (non-irrigated) field last year and on the high side I got around the same as the U.S national average you posted. With a mixed forage I know I could produce more but anyone who is getting 7 T/A has a heavy fertilizing program, irrigation in an extended growing season hopefully with non-gmo Alfalfa. I would also assume that is during their crops peak years not their average. But anyways I will re-do the numbers based on what my (un-irrigated) land produced because after all we are trying to determine if sprouting barley is efficient AT ALL because your article claims it is blasphemy. We are not trying to determine if it is viable for the privileged few that have high priced land like your 7 T/A irrigated farmers. Maybe I am wrong but I don't know anyone that yields remotely close to 7 T/A in my area by conventional farming.  
So lets use your national average. It takes 2.3 Acres to produce 7800# of hay per year instead of the 3 that I originally posted and my apologies I wasn't trying to cherry pick stats I should have looked at the material I was referencing more closely.  
So 2.3 acres for hay and .18 acres for barley is 13X more land to produce hay. That is a staggering statistic to the benefit of sprouting. Which I would like to point out is classified as a grass feed by the grass fed beef/dairy establishment. Producers receive a higher dollar per lb for their product if it is grass fed which needs to be considered when establishing financial viability as well.  
Daniel Putnam  
"However, the main point is that feeding 7300 lbs of 90%DM hay (6570 lbs of DM intake) is fundamentally different than feeding 7300 lbs. of 10% DM sprouts (730 lbs of DM intake). They're not equivalent. Put them on an equivalent basis and see what you come up with in terms of water and land."  
By your fundamentals I would have to feed over 128# of sprouts to get the same nutritional benefit of 20# (approximation) according to actual DMI. We all get it Daniel you don't need to keep repeating it. The difference in feed value is going to be speculative because the animal is going to absorb more of the available protein and nutrients sprouted than dry and no one with a reasonable amount of common sense would ever refute that statement, not even you. There may be less energy available in the feed used up by the process of sprouting (DM loss) but that doesn't necessarily mean the animal is absorbing less. The question is how much? You don't know, if you did you would have provided the evidence, likewise I would do the same. Drop the DMI comparison you are back peddling.  
As I mentioned, I am replacing 15% crude protein Alphalfa pound for pound with 2/3 WM barley sprouts and 1/3 Timothy hay for fibre and the timothy is fed at free choice so they are only consuming 1% of their body weight when consuming 2% sprouts. Some guys feed a higher ratio of sprouts and feed straw for fibre which is again more financially efficient of system but I don't like feeding straw for personal preference. Maybe for beef cows but not for dairy.  
What are the most common base feeds for livestock? Grass/Legumes and the evil gmo corn silage. What did I use as a comparison for land usage and feed value? Hay. Why? Because that is what I am replacing with sprouts. Why is that important to this discussion? Because your article claims that there is no value in sprouting grains. Is there value? Yes there is I just explained it.  
These are real numbers from an actual feeding operation that is taking place on my land 12 months of the year and I would be more than happy to have you out for a tour because it's obvious that you either don't believe me or don't want to.  
Just because you don't understand it doesn't make it untrue.
by Steve Atherton
on January 29, 2016 at 11:26 AM
I appreciate the very interesting discussion. I am no farmer, but have been tasked with figuring out how to raise enough food (i.e. fruits, vegetables, meat) for 20 people now with many more anticipated in the future. I am in a most inhospitable high, Chihuahuan desert area of West Texas. Water is too salty for irrigation and the soil, unamended, is poor for growing anything but creosyte, mesquite and a few cacti.  
My training as a chemical engineer and work as a project manager makes the "economics" a priority to me, but the economics of my location seem to be quite different from those who have contributed to the discussion thus far. Specifically, I am 17 miles on bad dirt roads (think no faster than 25 mph in order to not destroy your vehicle) to the nearest grocery store and another 20 miles to get to a feed store. Also, bear in mind that at times the roads are completely impassable.  
My inquiry is not driven by some "prepper", "self-sufficiency" or "organic" mentality, but pure practicality. I am trying to figure out if I can grow what we need cost-effectively in comparison to retail shopping at your standard grocery store or Walmart (25 miles away, 17 of which are over the horrid roads I mentioned before).  
While my soil is not good, I understand that it can be amended and I do expect to do in-ground growing as much as I can, if practical. My big issue is water.  
Our well water is too salty and conductive for irrigation or human consumption but okay for livestock. While solar stills can produce the drinking water we need from the well, I do not see that as a practical solution for irrigation.  
Rain water harvesting can only supply a small portion of our needs (say 1000-1500 gallons per month on average), but it is sporadic and, when it comes, often torrential so cannot be relied upon as our sole source. Mixing well water with the rain can augment to a degree, but it seems to me that hauling of public water (we have a 1,250 gallon tank on a trailer) to our location (over the same 17 miles of horrid roads) will likely have to be a part of any option we pursue. I will also, where possible, use grey water for growing things.  
It is in this environment that I am considering a hybrid aquaponics system that includes some self-wicking beds fed with worm compost for food production and a hydroponic fodder system for our livestock.  
In this, I am not trying to sell our produce/meat in competition with commercial producers, but rather seeking to more cost-effectively produce food than I can buy it for retail, particularly in light of our high cost of travel.  
I have read Dr. Putnam's analysis with great interest. My sense is that if he, as a leading skeptic, thinks that a hydroponic fodder system might suit my situation well, then it is a no brainer to go that way. Alternative, if he has an idea that he thinks might work better in my situation, I would be very open to it. I am also very interested in what others, particularly those with practical experience, might suggest.  
I look forward to reading your comments.
Reply by Daniel H Putnam
on January 29, 2016 at 1:10 PM
Steve Atherton;  
Your note is a challenge indeed. Might be one of those situations where the sprouted grain may be good.  
First thing I would think would be to examine your water resources in more detail. Quantity (is it a good well?) and salinity. We have been growing alfalfa on saline water at about ECw of 5-10 in West Side San Joaquin Valley in soil. In hydroponic sand tanks the Riverside folks saw yield reductions at about EC of >10 but not below (established plants cut multiple times, not sprouts). The are other salt-tolerant species like barley (forage) and tall wheatgrass. Some desert soils can be reclaimed - would recemmend talking with some of the Texas experts on that issue. And test the water to see if it can be used. You'll have to watch ions like Mo, B, and Se that might be toxic at some levels.  
I would guess that a higher priority would be to produce hydroponic vegetables vs. forage or the sprouts, but sprouts might be useful too. REmeber cattle need lots of forage. You should probably examine the cost of the sprouts vs. delivered hay.
by Al-Mahdi Shaheen
on February 3, 2016 at 8:03 AM
i came over here by searching over hydroponics.  
The seeds are transformed into a product with new physical attributes and this transformation may result in adding certain values to the product.  
I would like to know what are the nutrition benefits or ,any other benefit , of hydroponic products that can compensate its DM loss ?  
Thank you
by Leslie
on February 24, 2016 at 6:03 PM
So every person who comments seems to have quite a bit of knowledge here. But I have a question.  
When the seed is turned into a sprout, would the entire composition not change?  
You aren't comparing a seed anymore... it is bigger... it has one as thinking the dry matter doesn't decrease, the entire "sample" that is being analyzed is something entirely different, so there is water, there are leaves, there are veins... if you add water to a balloon, the dry matter (rubber) doesn't decrease.... but the new 12 inch water balloon does have 80% water content, 18% rubber, and 2% air, where when it was just am empty balloon it was 90% dry matter and 10% air. So you could say adding the water to it made it less of a balloon if we were to compare the seed and fodder in the same way...  
To say it is a dog wagging its tail treat for horses is a little ignorant in my obviously humble opinion. Horses need to have grasses and forage lining their guts for slow decomposition. They chew hay and gasses down to half inch pieces that ferment in their hind guts.... feeding seeds and grains is much harder on them and causes ulcers which is why smaller grain feedings with more grass and hay is better than anything.  
So if you understand what I was getting at with the balloon analogy... is your analysis with seed to fodder the same?
Reply by Daniel H Putnam
on February 26, 2016 at 7:17 AM
Thanks for your comment.  
The difference between a balloon being filled with water vs. seed germinating, is that germinating seeds use carbon while germinating, therefore dry weight. Carbohydrates (starches etc.) to grow leaves before they start adding more carbohydrates through photosynthesis than are lost early on. 6 days is too short to make up for that loss.  
Therefore seeds would LOOSE dry matter in 6 days, while you are right, balloons would be the same when filled with water.  
by Sezal Jain
on February 26, 2016 at 3:07 PM
I have been reading this thread and I have a question. Has anybody tried growing the seeds for 30 days or so instead of just the 6-7 days advertised by all hydroponic fodder companies? That would generate more DM but how does that compare economically as you need to provide nutrients, water and light etc.
by Bryan
on March 14, 2016 at 11:17 PM
It wouldn't matter what this was about - although it is an interesting topic (to me) - this discussion is a great example of theory versus practice...  
Scientist: Doesn't work, I've done an experiment.  
Farmer: Um... does work, I'm doing it.  
Scientist: No, it doesn't. Did you not read what I've just written?  
Farmer: Ok... I'm still doing it though.  
Scientist: Prove to me what you are doing is possible, in a manner that is acceptable to me.  
Farmer: Love too, but I'm a bit too busy farming and making money. Anyhow, isn't that *your* job? Why don't you come out here and watch me farming and making money?  
Scientist: Nah, science doesn't work like that.  
Farmer: No worries. We'll still be here farming and making money if you change your mind...
by Robert Troy
on March 29, 2016 at 6:56 PM
Pretty sure Mr. Putnam will never understand the dm conversion of the fodder systems.. And you people who say it's working, it probably isn't if you ask him. It's like I've been told over and over again from many different farmers, your nutritionist will not understand. They always want to go back and convert everything to dry matter. I think that horse has been beat to death so I'm not going to comment on that anymore. Talk to the people who are doing it. it is working.
by Jeanne Fick
on April 1, 2016 at 2:27 AM
Say what you like about DM. I am absolutely unable to produce a land-grown crop for various reasons. One is I cannot afford a tractor and implements. I live on a large alien-infested farm with no way of producing feed without earthmoving equipment. I use sprouted barley and oats for my five horses. The natural grazing I have is completely useless. Although the horses graze all day, they cannot possibly be sustained on only that. They were thin (really thin or actually emaciated, really) and I was feeding them a six-ingredient meal three times a day (oat chaff, lucerne cubes reconstituted, maize meal, molasses meal, canola meal and oat/barley grain). This cost me about R7,000/month.  
I started sprouting the grains, using primitive methods; buckets and cat litter boxes for trays. I stack them up three high to keep the roots moist. Slowly, their ingredients have been removed and green feed increased.  
My feed now costs me less than R2,000/month and the horses are fat, fat, fat and very shiny and healthy. That is really all the proof I need. I really don't care about the DM analyses and all that other stuff. The proof really is in the pudding.  
Oh, and the sprouts are grown in open air, watered only twice a day, which is +- 5L water per day.  
Soon, my horses will be on only grazing and barley sprouts, which will cost me even less.  
Money talks...
by David Smith
on April 10, 2016 at 6:32 PM
It is not DM that is important, it is TDN (total digestible nutrients) that is important. Some research shows an improvement from 40% to 80% of TDN when grains are sprouted. This shows even if dry matter decreases when sprouted, the TDN increases by double.
by Kyle Chittock
on April 11, 2016 at 8:54 AM
The "labor" aspect has just gotten even easier to address. Copy and paste to watch a video of an automated fodder system.
by Falahun
on April 20, 2016 at 6:37 PM
Thanks a lot.. great efforts  
greeting from Afu University Dubai
by Marilyn Stevens
on May 11, 2016 at 11:24 AM
Great article and very useful comments. I am not an agronomist, so my questions are very lay-oriented. I live in Costa Rica and have been asked to write an article about how fodder systems would benefit livestock here. We are in an extended drought situation, and especially in the northwest cattle-producing area of Guanacaste, it seems on the surface that hydroponic barley fodder might be the solution to the severe losses that ranchers are experiencing due to the drought. The folks who asked me to write the article had had the support of the government initially, and were documenting some successes on a test dairy farm. But the government has stopped all support, without explanation (I cannot get them to respond to me either), and the folks have shut down their test operation. Most of what I've come across in my research to date has been positive (hmmm, hype maybe?) so I was happy to find both the article and ALL the responses, both positive and negative. So, a long preface to my basic question -- is there any research that anyone on this site is aware of that would support (economically and practically) fodder systems in a tropical environment with 27 micro-climates? Thanks so much.
Reply by Daniel H Putnam
on May 12, 2016 at 2:26 PM
I was just in Costa Rica in Guanacaste this spring - awfully dry there. Fires and all. Reminds me of our 5 year CA drought.  
Perhaps a situation where any type of fodder (at all) is hard to come by is the type of situation where this makes more sense. Still, the DM losses and economics (as well as the fact that sprouts are nutritionally closer to barley seeds than long hay) should be considered. I would take a hard look at whether hay can be shipped in (and at what cost), and the true costs of sprouting vs. process unsprouted barley grain. See Rick Norell's post above about the relative cost issues. Sprouts are more expensive than grain, and the daily gains were about the same.
by Rick Norell
on May 11, 2016 at 1:13 PM
David Smith, interesting. Could you post a link to the study you mentioned in your post? Thank you!
by Rick Norell
on May 11, 2016 at 1:56 PM
Found a new report on feeding barley fodder to sheep. See: Average daily gain was similar between controls and animals fed barley fodder. Cost per pound of gain was significantly higher on the fodder diet.
Reply by Daniel H Putnam
on May 12, 2016 at 2:26 PM
Interesting study. Thanks for the link.
by Glenn Shewmaker
on May 13, 2016 at 1:01 PM
Reply to David Smith  
Both DM and TDN are important. TDN is the concentration of total digestible nutrients expressed as a fraction or percentage of dry matter (DM). Barley grain varies from 77 (light grain) to 84% TDN and net energy for gain is 1.4 Mcal/kg.  
In the recent study by Hafla et al. 2014: J. Dairy Sci. 97 :1–14 10.3168/jds.2014-8518  
They reported crude protein was higher in the barley fodder by about 2% as we would expect. Crude protein increases because the starch and sugars are used in plant respiration during sprouting, thus other components increase in concentration although the actual amount is less. However, rumen degradeable protein increased in the sprouted barley (SB) compared to barley grain. Starch, the source for much of the sugars used in plant respiration declined from 58.1% in barley grain to 27.7% in SB. Nonstrucural carbohydrates also declined significantly from 62.1 % in barley grain to 48.8% in the SB. The structural fibers increased as expected from 14.4% to 30.5% NDF and 5.3% to 15.5% ADF, from barley grain to SB. Ether extract (fatty acids [FA]) were 2.2% for barley grain and 4.0% for SP.  
Total digestible nutrients (TDN) Dairy NRC 2001 summative equation:  
The sum of digestible crude protein, fat (multiplied by 2.25), non-fibrous carbohydrates, and digestible NDF.  
TDN= [(NFC*.98) + (CP*.93) + (FA*.97*2.25) + (NDF * NDFD)] – 7  
Since starch and nonstructural carbohydrates decline and structural carbohydrates (NDF and ADF) increase in concentration, although FA increases and is very energy dense, I don’t see how TDN can increase more than barley grain. Then there is the issue of dry matter loss from sprouting.  
Hafla et al. Conclusions are verbatum:  
“Supplementation of herbage-based and haylage based diets with 7-d SB increased true and apparent DM digestibility marginally (3 percentage units); however, it had no effect on fiber or CP digestibility, CH4 output, and bacterial efficiency. The small increase in digestibility coupled with the DM yield loss associated with sprouting barley could result in less digestible energy available to the animal and negative effects on animal performance when supplementing with high quality herbage diets, such as herbage or haylage.”  
I maintain that sprouted barley or barley fodder has no advantage over barley grain. There is no magic to barley fodder.
by Tahmim
on May 14, 2016 at 10:46 PM
you make foolish everyone, almost. think about that, what is the main food of a cow and why?  
for grain and hay, there is almost 20% of amino acid. where my com need only 20%.  
if it eats 10kg everyday, it will always do the same.  
like you, who eat same amount every day. dont think about dm.  
you cant be hungry
by Sunil Gamage
on June 7, 2016 at 2:43 AM
Dear Messrs/ Dr/s Daniel H Putnam, Peter H. Robinson and Eric Lin  
This is regarding your article on October 11, 2013 on “ Does Hydroponic Forage Production Make Sense?” in Alfalfa and forage news.  
I am from Sri Lanka’ where 95% of the farm holdings are below 2 hectares. They own 71% of the agricultural land. Mixed farming, including livestock in only in 21% of these holdings. Sri Lanka Imports 80% of its milk supply. Its meat production by ruminants is falling by about 1-2% annually.  
The farm holding priority for inputs, including time,labor and funds are as below.  
First Priority Rice (we are self-sufficient) grown first with rains in September-October (Two and Half month varieties) and the harvest is taken in February -March. Second cultivation with irrigated water (Sri Lanka is having an extensive network of reservoirs build 2000 years ago) in April-May and harvested in July. During this period farmers are busy with paddy cultivation.  
Second Priority is Vegetable, pulses and cash crop cultivation. Limited resources are given to these and time allocation is also limited as this is done during the rice cultivation season.  
The last priority is Livestock. Almost no or very limited resources are used for the livestock sector. However, in this farming system and under the present context,  
• the risk reduction ability,  
• farm yard manure not only for crops, but also for inland fisheries (a one eighth of the fish production from inland sources) and also  
• Due to efficient disposal of crop byproducts (otherwise burnt emitting carbon dioxide)  
Livestock is an essential part.  
So now. This is where hydroponic fodder can be introduced and will be the catalyst to increase livestock production.  
by steve
on July 8, 2016 at 8:05 PM
Fodder vs hay is like lath and plaster which was replaced by sheetrock,land lines that were replaced by cell phones,library cards that were replaced by computers.Not to mention where I live in Idaho all the hay fields are being sold out to developers because there is a housing boom going on here.Life changes and those who don't make the transition become fossils.Go kyle,good to see you jumping a better mousetrap and the world will line up at your door.
by Skip
on July 21, 2016 at 9:47 AM
So why do I care about dry matter. Isn't the real question nutrition and calories? and more specifically Digestible calories?  
I compared the calories per 100 g of wheat seed is 394 and is reported at 30% digestible. 100 g of wheat sprouts are 214cal and is reported to be 70% digestible. 1 cup of wheat sprouts can be made with less than 2 oz of wheat making it 5 times more calories when you compare calories out of wheat. .  
This happens when a seed germinates and begins the fast start processes of life. it creates calories out of water.
by Daniel H Putnam
on July 22, 2016 at 6:42 PM
Yes, you are right the real question is nutrition and calories (among other nutritional values like protein and fiber and digestibility of all).  
And Yes, the real question is also dry matter, so you should care.  
You do not get more calories from sprouted seeds than with the seeds themselves, until the seedlings start producing their own calories through photosynthesis. But that happens after 7 days, so initially, there is a loss of calories as the seed sprouts.  
With sprouts, since they are growing, they are using up energy (calories) from the seed endosperm.  
Calories (digestible energy) are always considered on a dry weight basis to compare different products in animal feeds whether sprouted seeds, un-sprouted seeds, or hay.
by Thomas Barlet
on July 23, 2016 at 4:02 AM
My wife and I entered the world of horses three years ago, and we currently own seven horses. We currently board our horses on a friends property, and as an in-kind guesture we also care for four of his horses.  
I came across this article in researching fodder after someone mentioned they were thinking of setting up a fodder operation.  
Having done considerable research on various aspects of horses, with care, feeding, and well-being of our babies as we think of them (including the four we claim as ours as we treat them the same as our own), my primary concern is they are getting all the vitamins, minerals, protein, fiber, etc. that they need.  
Show me the GA (guaranteed analysis) of barley fodder that lists the CP, ADF, NDF, TDN, ME, etc., as well as vitamins A, B-complex, C, D (not really necessary as horses like humans make there own from sunlight), E, H, and K, and minerals Ca, Cu, Fe, I, K, Mg, Mn, P, and Zn. I have such analyses for various forages. Show me the data, please.  
As for grains, horses were not meant to eat them. They were meant to eat grasses and other forage. The major problem with grains and grain-based fodder is the inverted Ca to P ratio. Horses need a calcium to phosphorus ratio of at a minimum of 1.2:1, preferably 2:1. (Research Miller's Head on the effects of inverted Ca to P ratio on horses.)  
Since there is not enough land to provide sufficient forage for our babies, we feed them free-choice coastal bermuda hay (the main hay grass grown here in the Lowcountry of South Carolina) and multipurpose pellets at the daily rate of 750g for the two seniors (they may be 20+ mares, but those girls can scat when they want to), 250g for the mini, and 500g for the rest. Seem too little feed per horse? No, they're butterballs, leaning toward the overweight side of the fence. We do try to turn them out once a week to mow the yard, which lowers our hay bill a good bit.  
As to their health, they regularly race each other around the pen. If they are running around and playing with each other, I say they're healthy. (On the really cool days they show off by having an eleven-horse marathon of sorts.)  
To add to the energy our horses have, our 14yo Painted Walker mare took off, followed by our 18yo thoughbred Arabian and 3yo Heinz 57 colt. When Baby Girl, the PW, saw the other two less than ten feet behind her, she left them. In less than two seconds Baby added over 50 feet of distance between her and the other two.  
My point is this: regardless of the food consumed, horses (any critter for that matter, humans included) must get all the nutrients, fiber, and energy they need to be healthy. The food MUST BE COMPATIBLE with a given critter's digestive system for the greatest efficiency in extracting the necessary components from the food. The greater the incompatibility the more of a crap shoot it becomes, until the critter can't meet its daily needs for extreme incompatibility.  
To wit: fodder is viable in certain locations, argument accepted. Fodder is than grain-based supplements in a particular area, argument accepted. But at present it is not the be-all end-all feed it seems to be. Long term research needs to be done, research spanning years if not decades.  
By the way, Kyle, I hate pushy salesmen/saleswomen. I won't be buying anything you are trying to sell me. Period.  
To the person importing hay from Ohio and New York: SERIUOSLY?? Our hay is grown about 50 miles away. We VOLUNTARILY chose to pay a $25 delivery fee. Fellow delivers it AND drops it off in the pen where we want. The bales are round and 1300 pounds each at $60 per bale. Also the grower himself came out on a delivery to see what we had at the end of a bale after the horses had munched it down. He went to a remnant, pulled some out to check, then looked at me said, "I hate selling bad hay." Get that level of service from your OH or NY growers.  
Now this post would not be complete without some numbers. Since we increase the supplemental feed (hay is lacking in some vitamins and minerals, hence the supplement) during the winter as our horses tell us when they need they increase, and since the winters vary in coldness here (mild/harsh) and duration, I used worst case cost (horses eat more in winter than summer: the bacteria in their hind guts generate heat converting the digestible  
fiber into a more easily absorbed form).  
Our feed is currently $9.10/50lb. Call it $10/bag to allow for variability in production cost. We need about 130 bags per YEAR feed and 130 bales per YEAR hay. 33 deliveries per year at $25 each.  
130 x $10 = $1300  
130 x $60 = $7800  
33 x $25 = $825  
Our cost per year, worst case, is $9925. For ELEVEN horses. That is $902.22 per horse per year. How would growing my own fodder compare after adding up the TOTAL cost of starting up and long term running costs? This MUST INCLUDE THE COST OF THE SEED USED.  
Cost of seed... hmmm.... This is a variable cost. Since the seed is purchased a fodder system is not 100% independent. Droughts, natural disasters, variable costs of growing the barley and harvesting the seed...  
My thoughts on the subject.  
As for DM figures: the only way to compare nutritional content of each is to convert them to then same form (you can't expect results to make sense if one unit of measure is pounds and the other is kilograms; they must both be the same unit.
Reply by Daniel H Putnam
on July 23, 2016 at 8:14 AM
Thanks for your comments, Thomas
by Allan Foglio
on August 10, 2016 at 5:18 AM
There are something new ideas that you share on your blog.After reading this article I get more information.It will be helpful for us.Really it was fantastic.  
Thanks for sharing this article.....
by Michael Fassel
on September 5, 2016 at 10:07 AM
This is a great article and discussion. Thank you for making it possible. I wish I had found it earlier.  
We run a commercial stable operation and maintain about 75 horses. We have fed fodder to the horses for 4 years. We also feed grass and alfalfa and four different Purina products. Not all the horses get fodder, but most do.  
We're a stable, not a laboratory or university, but we do keep track of what all our horses eat at an individual horse level. Among other things, we track the calories that are actually fed to each animal daily.  
I've read all the comments that mentioned horses. The comments about dry matter have been great. Yet, I think they overlook one thing. The horse.  
It seems assumed that a horse requires the same amount of energy fed whether they are on or off of fodder. That is just not the case.  
Before we introduced fodder 4 years ago, my average horse in the herd required over 26,000 calories a day to maintain a good body condition. This number varied but had stuck pretty close to 26,000 for 2 years.  
Two months after adding fodder to their diet, the same average horse in the herd required just over 21,000 calories per day to maintain a good body condition. And four years later, I'm still just above 21,000.  
In our case, the introduction of fodder caused the horses to become more efficient at digesting their food. They were able to extract more energy from the ration they were fed, and hence the dry matter required by the average animal was less.  
The reduction in calories required by each horse resulted in a reduction to our overall feed costs. Maybe it's fodder magic, maybe it's getting more water in their gut while they eat, but it works.
by Douglas Baskett
on September 7, 2016 at 4:54 PM
What would happen to the DM in the fodder if you ran it through a roller to squeeze some of the water out? I saw a Youtube video where the dairyman cut the forage and let it wilt before he turned the cow on it.
by Allan Foglio
on September 16, 2016 at 6:01 AM
Great Ingrates !  
I learn it very nicely.It has been something new ideas that you make.It has been something new ideas that you make.It will be helpful for us.Thanks for sharing this article...
by Kyle Chittock
on September 16, 2016 at 11:23 AM
Thomas Barlet - All great comments. The nutritional information you asked for is all readily available, feel free to contact me and I'll email it to you. The calcium to phosphorous question is a great one in particular. Although that's true for fodder, it's not for a complete ration that happens to include fodder. Sprouts alone are not a complete diet for any animal that I'm aware of.  
I think reading Michael's comments would be wise. He's speaking solely from experience of using fodder for his own horses. Interestingly enough, the only people that have commented on this forum about actually feeding fodder have positive things to say. I don't think that's a coincidence.
by Daniel H Putnam
on September 23, 2016 at 11:56 AM
Thanks for all of your comments. I was interested in some of the nutritional issues Thomas.  
You may also be interested in a calculation on the water use in sprouts, in a second blog on this issue.  
by Dave Walker
on September 25, 2016 at 12:16 PM
Quite a comprehensive list of contributors. I have been reviewing barley sprout fodder for a bit. I'm no scientist but have seen some interesting observations related to the digestion of equine. First, the loss in DM% from seed to sprout is from the stored energy in the seed that is utilized to germinate. Once the stem and leaves develop, and roots take hold, they will supply the nutrients. The barley sprout is a source of water, sugar, starch and protein, fiber. The stomach and small intestine can break this down easily and absorb the nutrients before "waltzing" on to the hindgut. Whole grains that are not processed (cracked, rolled)have a likely hood of not being digested before getting the hindgut. If undigested sugars and starch get to ferment by lactic acid and start unbalancing necessary acid and bacteria required to breakdown roughage. I see barley fodder simplifying and making available energy digestion safer. Some feeds are cheaper than fodder production, but they also make digestion not a efficient. I'm seeing enough benefit for equine, that it may nudge its use over costing a bit more that traditional feed. There should be less colic, ulceration, and hopefully foundering.  
Horses get the trots for fodder.  
by Greg Pinniger
on September 30, 2016 at 8:39 AM
Mr Putman you are emphasizing DM and am sure you will have it on your gravestone. I on the other hand will have a sentence or two on my gravestone that talks about the natural enzymes that are produced in the fodder and the improved digestion the animal experiences. Just look at the fodder molecules under a high power microscope and see the difference in size and shape. They pass more effectively through the tissue in the digestive tract get into the muscle, blood, and eventually end up showing improvement in the coat, hoofs, and teeth of the animal. I have experienced this first hand with a horse ranch that had 50-60 head at all times. The results are so obvious and amazing comparing his herd to the neighbors hay fed brothers.
by Adult Walker
on January 6, 2017 at 10:58 PM
Hey, very nice site. I came across this on Google, and I am stoked that I did. I will definitely be coming back here more often. Wish I could add to the conversation and bring a bit more to the table, but am just taking in as much info as I can at the moment. Thanks for sharing.  
Keep Posting:)
by trycone
on January 11, 2017 at 4:32 AM
-Great Job !
on January 25, 2017 at 12:06 PM
i am very impress with this fodder production but my only problem is the nutrient solution you are using i don't know them and how they are applied
by brisch
on February 1, 2017 at 7:06 AM
Ive spent 3 hrs reading through these comments and Im pleased that its not a one sided opinion. I can see most of the discussion is about effects in realation to cattle and dairy some horses. If the sprouts are similar to grain how would pigs perform on the sprouts. Even if I had to feed twice as much wet sprouts# as dry feed# I would be saving large amounts of money. And even if it took 30 days longer to feed hogs to butcher weight I would still come out ahead. Also if different grain types are used does the DM loss change. Very interesting its something im going to experiment with but I wont be buying an expensive system just yet. Thanks
by Vinylpro
on February 4, 2017 at 10:31 AM
I also spent alot of time reading through all of this info. There is more to the equation then DRY MATTTER! I'll leave it at that.
by Graham
on February 5, 2017 at 3:56 PM
First, let me start by saying I am not a farmer, I am an economist. My interest in this topic revolves around the efficient use of resources and the comparative advantage of the efficient use of resources.  
From what I can tell from the article, the argument the author is making is that pound-for-pound dry grain has more dry matter that hydroponic fodder. This fact doesn't seem to be in question. This unfortunately seems to be where the author leaves off.  
What is more interesting to know is changes in weight gain in livestock raised for slaughter, and milk production in dairy animals.Some of the comments have mentioned that their animals pass whole grains through their digestive tract without digesting them. That's natural. Grains are ultimately seeds. Seeds are naturally designed to be spread by grazing animals and nourished by the animal's manure. Seeds are only digestible after they've been broken down. Some readers have commented on oats being rolled, steamed or flaked prior to being fed to their animals. This, I understand, increases digestibility. I would like to know if the author's studies included the cost of these value added processes.  
In closing, I would like to say that the author's study seems to ignore the most vital and in my opinion obvious question. The question of return on investment. I would like to propose a simplified version of such a question. If a farmer feeds his livestock $100 worth of dry grain how much value does it add to the livestock, either in the form of weight gain or milk output? And how does that compare with the same farmer feeding the same livestock $100 worth of hydroponic fodder?
Reply by Daniel H Putnam
on February 5, 2017 at 11:16 PM
You raise some good points. Grains are commonly fed, and typically require some sort of processing to make the energy more available from seeds. However grains cannot completely replace forages for ruminants. The key question here is that $100 worth of grain rapidly becomes $75 worth of gratin due to DM losses. That is whatever 'value added' from sprouting would have to exceed 25-30% of the original feed value.value of the grains. I haven't yet seen such evidence.
by Anne Miller
on February 9, 2017 at 9:54 AM
Graham, I like your point that we are looking for return on investment. To that end, an additional question is can the cost of the input be reduced without lowering the outcomes.  
I feed chickens, and I understand Daniel Putnams's point that $100 worth of grain, by his calculations becomes $75 worth of gratin. However, as stated in earlier comments about feeding horses, it takes less fodder to feed my chickens. In other words, in the same amount of time it would have taken me to feed them $100 worth of grain, they are only consuming, again using Mr. Putnam's calculations, around $50 worth of fodder. I have fodder left over!! So to address Graham's economic question, I have reduced the cost of inputs without reducing output.  
In addition, my system had minimal initial outlay, constructed with items on hand for the most part. The water usage is minimal because it is a closed system, constantly recirculating the same water (which is the same water that also is growing 80 heads of various lettuces.) I don't need to own or rent land that must be insured and pay property taxes. I don't need a tractor that burns fuel and adds to carbon in the air. I also don't need to truck in hay from out of state (another carbon load.) I work with a seed supplier who has also worked hard to reduce his carbon footprint as well. These are all factors that have not been worked into the calculations.  
So basically, even though the author claims I am getting less forage for my seeds, it takes less to feed my hens, and they digest more, so my feed cost per day is less and that is the ONLY point that matters.
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