Using hydroponic fodder production technology it is possible to grow enough fodder for all the animals in the farm within 6 to 10 days, and realize a massive increase in milk production.
Compared to ordinary cattle feed, this method of pasture production require far less space and the pasture produced has superior nutritive value. Small scale farmers have a lot to gain from this revolutionary technology as they can instantaneously transform into large scale producers on their small parcels of land.
A typical greenhouse containing trays stacked on shelves is used. The trays are put under controlled environmental conditions in a 6 – 10 day cycle. The content are fed as food and grain such as barley, oats, wheat, maize and others. Barley is the grain of choice due to its superior performance followed by oats. Grains develop roots and green shoots to form a dense mat. Carbon dioxide injection cuts the growing time to 4 days and increase production by25%. A 144m2 greenhouse can hold about 1800 trays and produce an average of 1200kg per day using only 800 to 1000 litres of water. This amount of fodder can be used to supplement 100 heads of cattle or 500 heads of sheep or goats per day. Low cost structures are now locally available at Agrotunnel International at a cost of Kshs120, 000.
Although hydroponic fodder production system has a history spanning over 50 years it is a relatively new fodder production technology in Kenya. It is essentially entails the germination of seeds in nutrient rich solutions instead of soil to produce a grass and root combination that is very high in nutrition. Economic and environmental reasons abound why the technology is preferable over the conventional methods of producing fodder. Among the reasons is that:-
However, as in all greenhouses, the technology faces challenges brought about by bacteria and fungal growth. Rhizopus, the common bread mould which is present in all cereal grains and in the soils, attacks the grains. If left to flourish it can cause the growth of other unwanted bacteria and fungi that produce toxins dangerous to livestock. Sterilization of seeds to control this menace is therefore paramount.
Based on extensive research the result produced show that one mat of fresh sprouted barley adequately replaces 3kg of concentrates in the diet of dairy cows. The research also shows that there is no detrimental effect in productivity of dairy cows in terms of milk production and body weight.
This technology is being promoted locally by Agrotunnels International Limited. For further details contact 0733520083 or 0722520083.
In conclusion, considering the perennial shortage of livestock feed experienced during the dry season, hydroponic fodder systems offers a technology that can achieve good performance with limited resources.
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