Why Feed Fodder?
When I ask livestock people all around the country “What are the biggest challenges facing Agriculture today?”, almost always I get about 3 answers.
The first lately has been concerns over the drought that has hurt agriculture in the last few years. The second is the availability and affordability of adequate water to grow our crops. The third is the high price of land and or the lack of land available for growth.
Why Fodder? Fodder solves all of these issues. The things that make the use of hydroponically grown forage attractive, are also solutions to the problems in traditional agriculture.
First, let’s address water availability. Many people think that the next war will be fought over water. As population and specific population centers grow, the demand for water seems to be rerouted from farming and agriculture to the cities. Also, much of the water comes from the mountain areas where snowfall in the winter is very important, and for rainfall during the growing season in the Corn Belt. With drought conditions, this just amplifies the problem. In the Texas
panhandle where I live, we have no surface water, and lately very little rainfall. All our water is pumped out of the Ogallala Aquifer, the largest underground aquifer in the United States, which is not being replenished at the rate that it is being depleted.
Hydroponically grown fodder is typically a tray where the seed is spread in a ¼” layer and then moistened at regular intervals. This water can be recycled during
the watering periods for that day, and then disposed of and freshwater added. With this type of system 1 pound (as harvested) of barley fodder with a RFV
(relative feed value) of 190 can be grown by using ¼ to ½ gallon or less of water. For Alfalfa hay with a RFV (Relative Feed Value) of 180, we use about 58
gallons of water to grow one pound of Alfalfa hay as harvested with traditional farming.
This is an incredible cost savings as our water supply diminishes, and quite possibly will determine if a producer continues in business or not. One report from the USDA, New Mexico Agricultural Statistics Service on New Mexico Agricultural Statistics from 2012 shows that irrigated crop agriculture in New Mexico uses 75% of total annual state water usage, over half of which goes toward the production of forage crops. State forage production alone in 2012 utilized 380,000 acres of land and on the order of 1-million acre-feet (AF) of water.
Growing the required amount of feed with a substantially lower amount of water usage not only reduces the current water usage but allows sustainable agriculture to be conducted in locations where before there was not an adequate amount of water available for conventional agriculture.
The issue with drought conditions has been an extremely large concern with the climatic change that has plagued the United States the past few years. Fodder addresses this issue by controlling the environment that the fodder is grown in. To be efficiently grown, fodder likes a certain environment. Growing Fodder likes the temperature to be maintained between 65˚F to 68˚F. Growing Fodder likes the humidity to be maintained between 40% to 70%. Growing Fodder likes to have a gentle breeze blowing, with fresh air. And Growing Fodder can be in the dark the first few days, and then requires light, natural or artificial to promote growth and photosynthesis.
To accomplish this we place our Fodder Production Facilities into a highly insulated building, sized for the quantity of production desired. Then we will install
environmental control systems to meet the ideal conditions for fodder growth.
By doing this we no longer are worried about the exterior weather conditions. Hot or cold, winter or summers, wet or dry, calm or windy and cloudy or clear no
longer affect the fodder growth. 24 hours a day, 365 days a year we can provide fresh green fodder for livestock.
All of this also addresses the issue of land price and availability. No longer do we need large acreage to produce our fodder requirements. Once we create the environmental structure that Growing Fodder requires for the most efficient growth, we have a condensed building footprint. The average space requirements range from 1.7 lb. of fodder per ft2 with a production of 5000 lb. per day up to 2.67 lb. of fodder per ft 2 with a production of 100000 lb. per day. That is in a 100 ft. by 300 ft. building 50 tons of fodder can be produced every day.
This allows a couple of things to happen. We can use previously idle area such as circle corners to produce our fodder while leaving the cropland for grazing, or
for growing more cost-effective crops. Also, land that was considered unproductive before may be utilized for fodder production.