Nutritious Barley Sprouts for Dairy Cows

Sprouts aren’t just for your salad anymore.  Innovative sprouting technology developed by Agritom has made them a very economical supplemental feed for livestock.

Bill Van Ryn, a dairyman in Manteca, California, was one of the first U.S. producers to invest in sprout-growing technology to feed his cows.  Although Agritom as a company wasn’t established at the time he made this investment, the system he chose was basically the same concept.  He’d been reading about it and decided to experiment with it. He started using it to feed a few steers and a couple of nurse cows to see if he could implement it in his organic operation.

“I’d been reading about how there is an optimum enzyme and feed value in young sprouts, and then I realised that it has the energy and the protein possibly to supplement a grain ration in an animal diet,” Van Ryn says.

The nutrient and energy levels are very as similar to grain, but the nutrient values in the sprouts are 82 percent more digestible than what is in grain.  There is also an enzyme in the sprouts that benefits the rumen microflora and makes the rest of the ration more efficient as well.

Van Ryn started his experiment of the sprouts on one of his nurse cows – a retired milk cow that was only producing a gallon a day. He measured the milk every day, and within two to three weeks of the new ration – which was barley sprouts and alfalfa hay – the cow started producing three-and-a-half gallons a day. He tested it on a second nurse cow, and his steers, and saw similar results in increased productivity and health.

“If you have the feed laboratory tested, the nutrient levels are not quite as high when compared to grain. However as you feed it out, the fit and finish, the muscle-building, the general health of the animal, its vigor and its energy – go way up,” Van Ryn says.

The sprout-growing units range in size and can produce from about fifty pounds to over five tons of feed.  The units are growing in popularity around the world, particularly in areas that have limited land or water available.

“This system can grow the feed with so much less water – 750 gallons a ton versus 180,000 to 360,000 gallons a ton. That’s a tremendous difference and the one small unit that I have is capable of growing up to 110 tons of barley sprouts per year.  The unit is 18 ½ feet long by 8 ½ feet wide by 7 feet tall. You can never grow that amount of feed on an acre per year,” Van Ryn says.

Van Ryn has had to ship grain in at a cost of about $500 a ton. With the sprout-growing system, he can grow a ton of supplemental feed for $128. Time requirements are minimal as well. It requires a total of about 20 minutes twice a day to feed the sprouts, wash and reseed the trays. Van Ryn sprouts barley seed; barley is the kind of feed that is most commonly grown.

Barley seed is used because it produces the highest protein, the highest energy and the best feed value for the money. However seed mixes can be used to produce different results if required

These systems are used around the world with many different combinations of grains designed for the economic and energy needs of the farm. The units remove the weather factor involved in forage production, creating a steady supply of feed at a fixed cost.

Van Ryn says he was so pleased with how the unit worked that he is going through the process to certify it as organic. Once he has done that, he will use it as supplemental feed for his herd of 300 Jerseys and Holsteins

Would a sprout-feeding unit be a good fit for your operation? The following checklist can be used to see if this new technology might work for you:

  1. Is water availability for growing forages a concern for your operation?
  2. Do you have a limited amount of land to grow forages?
  3. Do you have to outsource your supplemental feed?
  4. Would you like to produce your own forage?
  5. Are you looking for a viable, organic feed source for supplemental feeding?
  6. Does your climate make it difficult to put up quality feed?

If you answered yes to four or more of these questions, then it may be worth considering an Agritom Fodder System.

Click on the following link to view the range of Agritom Fodder Systems –

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