There’s an awful lot of anecdotal information out there that fodder works. It’s a healthier, less expensive, and more environmentally friendly way to feed livestock. What is lacking however, are deep, extensive studies done by agricultural scientists at major universities. Most of the studies people see are a few very limited studies which take the overly simplistic approach of comparing sprouted fodder to hay and grain on strictly a dry matter basis. In terms of the real world results we’re seeing, these studies are useless.
Now here is something we can all sink our teeth into: California State University Chico recently completed a study at the school’s organic dairy involving a small herd of dairy cows fed sprouted barley fodder over the course of a year. Among the findings:
- Fodder appears to change the rumen dynamic. When used as a supplement, fodder increases the digestibility of all feeds.
- Sprouted fodder based diets have higher IAFC(income after feed cost) than grain based diets.
- Sprouted fodder makes milk healthier for human consumption by increasing the ratio of omega 3 to omega 6 fatty acids. Grain tends to elevate omega 6 and fodder elevates omega 3.
- Conversion rates suggested by dry matter tables appear to be incorrect (everyone who uses fodder knows this). “Comparable milk production was established with a 2 lbs of fodder to 1 lb of grain exchange.”
Some areas which weren’t addressed by this phase of the study are dairy health issues including lameness, reduction of acidosis and mastitis, immune response, and fertility rates. We believe that each of these important aspects of dairy cow health are significantly improved by a fodder based diet resulting in substantial increases in operational profitability and efficiency. This means lower vet bills, fewer culls, and less infertility. We look forward to further research into these areas.
Some of the caveats to the use of fodder as noted by the study include:
- Significant system down time due to mold (fodder was produced using a containerized system with Over Spray watering).
- Significant labor and maintenance costs.
- Long learning curve.
- System cost and ROI
Kudos to Simply Country, Inc for helping to fund the Chico research and for providing the equipment used in the study.