Thursday, November 3, 2016

No Advantage to Hydroponic Fodder

Barley sprouts
Hydroponic fodder is being promoted as a means to reduce feed costs and improve productivity.  Alan Sulser, an Agricultural Extension Agent with Utah State University, conducted an experiment to evaluate the economic potential of hydroponic fodder and its effect(s) on the performance of sheep. Over a two year period, Sulser fed hydroponic fodder to replacement ewes and rams.

 After a 2-week adaptation period, sheep were randomly allocated to two treatment groups. The control group was fed alfalfa hay and mixed grain (corn + barley). The treatment group was fed the same feed ingredients (in different amounts), along with hydroponic fodder. Sulser sprouted his own grains from barley (6 day growth period). The rations were balanced for energy (TDN) on a dry matter basis using Montana State University's Sheep Ration Balancer. The sheep were fed their respective diets for 100 days. They were fed twice daily and weighed every 10 days.

Cost per day
Cost per gain

Averaged over both years and sexes, body weight gain was not significantly between groups. Control sheep gained an average of 0.64 lbs. per day, while the fodder-fed sheep averaged 0.59 lbs. per day. Compared to the control group, the fodder-fed animals consumed more dry matter on a daily basis. Feed cost per day was higher for the fodder-fed animals:  $0.96 vs. $0.54 per day.  If all costs are included, feed cost per day for the fodder-fed animals increases to $1.08, and cost per pound of gain increases to $1.87.  Other costs include labor, water, electricity, and equipment ($10,000 for a commercial fodder system prorated over 10 years).

The experiments showed no advantage to feeding hydroponic fodder in replacement of hay and grain to replacement sheep. The experiments were not scientific.

 Source:  Journal of the NACAA, December 2015

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