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SLASHING FEED COST

New system also increases quality

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SLASHING FEED COST

Manteca organic milk producer Bill Van Ryn with some of the 750 pounds of sprouts he produces daily with technology from Fodder Solutions.

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POSTED August 15, 2009 2:33 a.m.
Manteca organic milk producer Bill Van Ryn will slash his feeding costs when he switches his cows to a diet of nutritious barley sprouts grown fresh on the farm every day.

Van Ryn is one of the first USA farmers to adopt award-winning sprout feeding technology developed by Australian company Fodder Solutions. He has been trialling the grain sprout growing unit that the company shipped to the US for the World Agricultural Expo at Tulare in February.

“I was impressed by what I saw and couldn’t wait to get it operating on my farm. It has great potential to produce milk naturally at a dramatically lower cost than grain-based feed,” he said.

Van Ryn operates an organic dairy with a herd of 300 Jersey and Holstein milking cows alongside his major almond growing and processing enterprise at Manteca.

He has applied for organic certification to introduce sprouts to his milking herd and hopes to have two growing units in operation producing 1,500 pounds of fresh, nutritious feed daily later this year.

In response to overwhelming interest, Fodder Solutions has now begun manufacturing sprouting units for the North American market at Oxnard, just outside Los Angeles.

The climate-controlled growing chamber turns one pound of barley seed into more than 8lbs of feed sprouts in just seven days for feeding all classes of livestock. As the densely matted fodder is removed for feeding out each day, the plastic growing trays are recharged with fresh seed to start the cycle over again.

Van Ryn plans to replace an expensive grain mix with sprouts to achieve a very natural diet.  The cows currently graze 150 acres of irrigated pasture supplemented with 8 pounds of organic grain per cow each day comprising a mix of corn, barley, oats and soybean.

He has to source high priced grain outside California at a cost of $400 to $500 a ton.  In contrast he will be able to grow a ton of sprouts for just $128.

“Not only will it be much cheaper, but the feed value is so much better,” Van Ryn said. “The sprouts will provide my cows with consistent, high quality feed every day.

“The price of grain feeding has simply become unaffordable as milk prices have declined and sprouts look to be the ideal solution,” Van Ryn said.

Van Ryn has been fine tuning the fodder growing system since May feeding sprouts to beef cattle and two dairy cows not in the organic milking herd.

“One old cow has been producing for 356 days and was down to a gallon of milk. Since she has been on sprouts her production has jumped up to three and a half gallons and I have removed grain completely from her diet.”

Van Ryn said irrigation supply was now a critical issue and the sprouts could be grown with much less water than the feed they would replace.  He installed a water meter to accurately measure consumption and has found it takes only 250 gallons to produce 750 pounds of sprouts each day.

The only inputs are barley seed, water and electricity to run the lighting and air conditioning.

“I’ve been on a fairly steep learning curve, but I now have an assured feed supply at a very economical cost.  And it only takes about 20 minutes a day to load out the sprouts and clean and reseed the growing trays.”

“This feeding system certainly has great potential for raising livestock in tough economic times. I think it’s a real winner,” Van Ryn said.

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