Growing Sprouted Fodder for Livestock

With many regions of the world experiencing record droughts and available water becoming more of a concern for many businesses and individuals who own and raise livestock, seeking options and solutions to maintain the health and growth of their animals can be a challenge. Sprouting fodder on site can become a dependable and low cost source of feed and nutritional supplementation, creating a local, on-demand feed source that can build great resiliency and independence for homesteaders and those in agricultural industries.

As a response to these concerns, Tsunami Products, Inc. has developed a portable Tsunami-Fodder unit that combines the water generation technology with a fodder sprouting system. The system provides available on-demand fresh green feed 365 days a year.

In this article we will explore the benefits of sprouted fodder feed, the process of growing it, and the characteristics of the portable Tsunami-Fodder unit.


SEED-TO-FEED IN 7 DAYS!


Grains for fodder production

Sprouted fodder is tender, young cereal grass grown from grain seeds. It is an equivalent of fresh spring grass which is considered to be the best livestock feed. Both the grass blades and the root mass are fed to livestock the same day they are harvested. Feeding fresh, green feed has significant nutritional advantages over dry feeds.

A variety of different grains, or their mix, can be used for sprouting: wheatgrass, barley, corn, oats, sunflower. Barley is the most popular, as it is readily available and has a good germination rate.

The sprouted fodder will grow from a dry seed to a 6-7 inch (15-18 cm) tall plant in as little as 7 days.

The technique is not new and has been used and investigated for many years but has started to see a resurgence in use throughout the world as water and crop growing issues become more prevalent.


THE BASICS OF SPROUTING FODDER


Just like sprouting grains for human consumption (wheatgrass, beans, alfalfa, etc), growing fodder as sprouted grains is relatively easy — with a rapid turn over from the start to a ready-to-use product. Only untreated, feed grade, whole grain seed should be used for sprouting.

The basic method for growing fodder is as follows:

The grains or a seed mix is soaked for about 12-24 hours.
Water is drained and the seeds are spread 1/2 inch (1.5 cm) deep into shallow trays that have drain holes.
Next, the seeds get watered with a "flood and drain" method 3-4 times a day, keeping them moist for the duration of the growing cycle.
Sprouted fodder is ready to be harvested within 7 days. The interlaced roots form a dense mat, which can be cut into serving portions with a box-cutter or a sharp knife.
Animals get to eat fresh nutritious fodder that they love so much!
sprouted fodder seeds
sprouted fodder grass
sprouted fodder mat
animals feeding on fodder

HOW MUCH FODDER IS NEEDED


A sprouting tray that takes about 4 lb (2 kilos) of grain, provides around 16-28 lb (8-14 kilos) of finished fodder. With multiple trays being rotated on a daily basis, one can grow a continuous supply of fresh feed with very little space, power and water requirements.

Sprouted fodder is digestible by a large variety of animals: horses, dairy and beef cows, swine, poultry, sheep, goats, llamas, rabbits, as well as a number of wild animals, and even some varieties of fish! This living food can compliment the diets of most farm animals.

Below is an estimate of how much fodder can be fed to the common farm animals. Some animals will also require roughage or mineral supplements. Please use these amounts as a guide only.

Horses: 2-3% of body weight in fodder, 1.5% of body weight in dry hay.

Beef Cows: 2-3% of body weight in fodder, hay/straw ration.

Dairy Cows: 3-5% of body weight in fodder, hay/straw ration.

Pigs: 2-3 % of body weight in fodder.

Goats: 2-3% of body weight in fodder, mineral and hay rations.

Sheep: 2-3% of body weight in fodder, hay ration.

Chickens: 2-3% of body weight in fodder, grit and calcium supplements.

Rabbits: 3-5% of body weight in fodder, hay ration for roughage.

animals that benefit from fodder

Based on average body weights and recommended feed weight percentages by animal type, 117 lb (53 kilos) of fodder a day (which a Tsunami-Fodder unit produces) is enough to feed 4-5 beef cows or horses / 3 dairy cows / 20-40 pigs / 15-90 goats / 15-40 sheep / 1000-1700 chickens / 400-600 rabbits.


BENEFITS OF SPROUTED FODDER


High yield in a very small area.

Sprouted fodder production provides huge ecological and economical advantages. For example, one research shows that fodder grown in a 6' x 9' (1.8 x 2.8 m) system can feed the same amount of cattle that graze on 12 acres of pastureland. This equates to tremendous savings in land needed for livestock feed production.

With no need to invest into cultivated land, a farmer can expand a herd without having to purchase additional land, or redeploy it for other revenue generating crops. It also means significant reduction in fencing and equipment maintenance cost.

On-demand availability of fresh green feed 365 days a year.

Farmers using Tsunami-Fodder are guaranteed a consistent supply of quality fodder 365 days of the year irrespective of climate conditions.

Besides, a farmer normally has to wait for at least two weeks for pasture to grow and about three months before animals can graze on it. The sprouting system produces feed within 7 days.

High digestibility and increased nutritional value in the feed.

When grain is sprouted, it releases many vitamins and minerals, as well as converting hard to digest starches into easily digestible proteins. For example, barley, which is the easiest to sprout, has a crude protein percentage of 12.7% and a crude fiber percentage of 5.4% as a seed. These percentages jump to a crude protein of 15.5% and a crude fiber of 14.1% after an average of 7 days of sprouting. By sprouting, the digestibility of the grain increases from 40 to 90%, so the livestock does not need to consume as much fodder — as compared to commercial feed. This means that they are obtaining more nutrition from a smaller volume of feed.

Also, the action of sprouting amplifies the natural vitamins, minerals, enzymatic activity, omega 3's, amino acids, natural hormones, and stimulates immune response.

The increased digestibility of fresh sprouts improves digestion and absorption while using less energy. This in turn enables animals to use the energy for such activities as milk production, reproduction and weight gain.

Sprouts are loaded with chlorophyll and beta-carotene which offer benefits when raising poultry for eggs, as birds start producing larger eggs with bright orange yoke.

Added benefit: significant reduction of feed waste — the entire root mass is consumed with the grass.

Overall better performance and health, which lead to higher productivity and reduced vet bills.

Some of the improvements noted by farmers in different animal species that feed on sprouted fodder include: faster weight gain, increased marbling in meat, increased fertility — larger litters, heavier and longer lactations, improved coat shine and body condition, lower infant mortality, less teeth wear, fewer parasites, less incidence of colic and gut ulcers, etc.

Reduction in overall daily feed costs (up to 50%).

Today's rising costs of grain, hay, corn, and other feeds make owning livestock more difficult. The cost of growing fresh sprouts is significantly LESS expensive than feeding grain and corn, and in many cases — hay. Considering that a 110 lb (50 kg) bag of grain could grow into 440 lb (200 kg) of sprouted fodder that is more nutrient dense. Sprouts can be grown for as little as US $0.03–$0.05 per lb. ($0.07–$0.11 per kg).

The significant reduction in cost of fodder production comes from:

Reduced energy use: electricity is needed only to run water generating unit, grow lights, and a water pump on a timer.

Zero use of fertilizers, pesticides, and other chemicals. The sprouting grain seed contains all the energy it needs for 6 to 10 days of growth. It is therefore unnecessary to add nutrients to the water as the sprouting seeds need no extra nutrients in that time. Tsunami-Fodder unit is totally self-contained and isolated from insect invasion.

No need for planting and harvesting equipment, storage facilities, nor for transportation from the harvest location to storage facilities.

Reduced labor requirements. Labor needed to sow, maintain and harvest product in a Tsunami-Fodder unit averages about 1 hour per ton, per day. Such minimal labor is possible through system automation, use of specialized equipment, and easy access inside the container.

Water use reduction (up to 98%).

Water conservation technology is at the core of the Tsunami-Fodder system. Our sprouting tower re-circulates the water as it runs through the filtration and irrigation system.

As a result, one can grow 117 lb (53 kg) of sprouts with as little as 10 gallons (40 liters) of water used per day. That converts to 98% less water used to grow the same amount of livestock feed as in an irrigated-field type of agriculture.

Livestock theft prevention.

With the use of portable Tsunami-Fodder unit, animals can be kept and fed close to a farmer's dwelling, where they can be better protected from livestock theft that often occurs in developing and 3rd world countries. Theft can get so bad, that farmers are forced to reduce the amount of flock they can keep.

"Grass fed & organic" labeling.

Nutrition conscious consumers have spurred the growth of the all-natural, organic, free range, and grass-fed meat, dairy, and egg markets. Fodder sprouts offer the highest level of nutrition with fresh, green grass fed to animals every day. Sprouted grains are free of petroleum based fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides.

Livestock that is fed sprouted fodder is considered grass fed and organic — a farmer has an opportunity to market the products in this niche market, which guarantees a higher profit.


FODDER SYSTEM AS PART OF DISASTER RELIEF PROJECTS


animals die as a result of drought

People in rural communities depend on their animals for sustenance. For them disasters like flooding, drought, earthquake and war can be extremely devastating. Disasters not only leave people without an immediate source of food and potable water, but their livestock as well. If animals are provided with feed and water, their owners get milk, eggs and meat...

Oftentimes, as a result of drought, owners lack a way to feed and water their livestock. Farmers are forced to sell off their animals very cheap before weight loss or death — thus losing money. Not only does this situation have direct negative impact on the individual farmer, it also worsens the economic situation for entire communities — making them dependent on the government support and hand-outs from charitable organizations.

Image above shows the consequences of drought in Zimbabwe in 2016. Parched pastures caused the deaths of thousands of cattle across the country.

Through design and development of technology that produces both potable water and livestock feed, it is possible to not only create a short-term relief of an immediate problem, but a sustainable long-term solution to the food crisis that arises after a disaster has passed. With this perspective, Tsunami Products, Inc. has developed a hybrid Tsunami-Fodder system that combines the water generation technology with a fodder sprouting system.

Recently, it has been an absolute improvement for many farmers, who are switching from free-range to zero-grazing, as pasture land availability becomes scarce, and increased drought conditions make it unproductive.

Tsunami Products, Inc. is proud to offer an innovative way to feed livestock in worsening environmental conditions. If we want to see people "stand on their own feet", we need to help them be self-reliable, participating in self-sustainable activities — farming is one of them.


TSUNAMI-FODDER


Portable Tsunami-Fodder unit is an insulated container. It is equipped with temperature and humidity control equipment that maintains optimum environment for sprouting fodder and reduction of potential mold growth.

Automatic watering is accomplished with timers, pumps and a special filtration system to keep recirculated water free of contaminates and harmful bacteria.

Tsunami-Fodder unit


Physical dimensions: 6' x 9' x 90" / 1.8 x 2.8 x 2.3 m (W x L x H)


The management system controls the flow and temperature of the air, as well as LED lighting, a water pump, and a filtration system. The unit functions as a mini-greenhouse with time-controlled irrigation supply. The water supply opens automatically at predetermined intervals, delivering moisture to sprouting trays.

Water recycling system

Tsunami-Fodder uses a compact, vertical farming method. Vertical system is the key to high volume production of fresh fodder in a small area.

Trays with grain are placed on the multi-story rack at an angle. Each tray has drain holes on the lower end of it. This allows water to drip into gutters. Catch basin at the bottom of the rack collects the water as it runs through the system. At that point the water is murky and needs to be filtered before returned back to the system.

In the filtration unit drained water undergoes a specialized filtration and UV treatment, which removes all dissolved particles, potential mold spores and bacteria. Clean water returns to the trays, making Tsunami-Fodder a unique closed-loop system — meaning the water stays in it, and the unit doesn't need a continuous connection to an outside water source or drainage. Any excess humidity removed from the unit via the climate control system is returned back into the watering system for reuse.

The sprouting process runs on a simple 7-day cycle. Every day, a row of trays with 7-day-old sprouts is removed to be fed to the animals, and fresh soaked grain is placed into these same trays.

Production capacity of Tsunami-Fodder

There is a total of 49 sprouting trays, stacked in 7 racks. Every day a row of 7 trays is harvested and reseeded, with an output of 117 lb (53 kg)* of fresh fodder. Daily dry seed input equals 29 lb (13 kg).


Tray size: 14" x 30" x 2" / 36 x 76 x 5 cm (W x L x H)


Based on average body weights and recommended feed weight percentages by animal type, 117 lb (53 kg) of fodder is enough to provide feed to either 4-5 beef cows/horses, or 3 dairy cows, or 20-40 pigs, or 15-90 goats, or 15-40 sheep, or 1000-1700 chickens, or 400-600 rabbits. Numbers vary depending on the size/age of the animals.

*This calculation is based on 4-times weight increase of finished fodder compared to dry seed, which is on the lower side. As much as 7-times weight increase is possible. This number depends on the quality and kind of seed used.


Here's a summary of characteristics for portable Tsunami-Fodder unit:


No assembly required. All single container units are 100% turnkey and are delivered ready-for-use.


100% self-contained and weather proof.


Meets climate control standards to ensure best possible growing conditions.


Incorporates industry leading sprouting technology, and uses a re-circulating water system.


Provides easy access for seeding, harvesting and maintenance.


Transportable: moved around with a forklift or crane truck. Can be towed (with optional plug axles & tow hitch) or airlifted, and set at any location.


Can be scaled to meet the needs of any on-farm operation.



REFERENCES


American Agriculturalist. 2013. Be fussy about barley seed for dairy fodder.


Anderson, A. 2009. Progressive Dairyman: Yummy sprouts for dairy cows.


Boylen, Kelli. 2013. Progressive Dairyman: Two dairymen are making profits with sprout fodder systems.


Cornell Univercity. New York Organic Dairy Program. The Nuts and Bolts of Sprouting Barley Fodder (fact sheet).


Douglas, I. and T.P. Curran. 2013. Assessing the viability of hydroponic grown fodder in Irish agriculture. In Biosystems Engineering Research Review (Ed. E. Cummins and T. Curran). University College Dublin.


Dung, D.D., I.R. Godwin, and J.V. Nolan. 2010. Nutrient content and in sacco degradation of hydroponic barley sprouts using nutrient solution or tap water. Journal of Animal and Veterinary Advances 9(18): 2432-2436.


DuShane, L. 2014. Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education: Growing hydroponic fodder for dairy goats on a limited acreage farm. North Central SARE Farmer/Rancher Project FNC13-905.


Finney P L. 1982. Effect of germination on cereal and legume nutrient changes and food or feed value. A comprehensive review. Recent Advances in Phytochemistry 17: 229–305.


Fyksen, J. 2014. Agri-View: Adams Dairy sprouts new barley fodder venture. Madison, WI.


Ghazi N. Al-Karaki, M. Al-Hashimi. 2011. Green fodder production and water use efficiency of some forage crops under hydroponic conditions.


Heins, B.J., J.C. Paulson, and H. Chester-Jones. 2015. Evaluation of forage quality of five grains for use in sprouted fodder production systems for organic dairy cattle. J. Dairy Sci. 98 (Suppl. 2). Abstr. 64.


H. Fazaeli, H.A. Golmohammadi, S.N. Tabatabayee, M. Asghari-Tabrizi. 2012. Productivity and nutritive value of barley green fodder yield in hydroponic system. World Applied Sciences Journal 16 (4): 531-539, 2012. ISSN 1818-4952.


Hillier, R.J. and T.W. Perry. 1969. Effect of hydroponically produced oat grass on ration digestibility of cattle. Journal of Animal Science 29(5): 783-785.


Kaderly-Boylen, Kelli. 2013. Progressive Dairyman: Experts remain leery on feeding sprouts, while farmers using the system are pleased.


Naik, P.K., B.K. Swain, and N.P. Singh. 2015. Hydroponics: its feasibility as an alternative to cultivated forages.


No fodder crisis for farmer who used hydroponic system to feed cattle.


Peer, D.J. and S. Leeson. 1985. Nutrient content of hydroponically sprouted barley. Animal Feed Science and Technology (13)191-202.


Roque, B.M., C.R. Phillips, and C.A. Daley. 2014. Utilization of sprouted grains as an alternative source of energy in the dairy cow ration. California State University, Chico, CA.


Sergeant, D. J. 2012. Lancaster Farming: Sprouted barley fodder a blessing for NY farm.


Sneath, R. and F. McIntosh. 2003. Review of hydroponic fodder production for beef cattle. Meat & Livestock Australia Limited.


The New Zealand Merino Company, October 2011. Hydroponic Fodder Production. An Analysis of the Practical and Commercial Opportunity.