Fodder interest sprouting all over

Watering trays of barley sprouts

But sprouting carries plenty of costs, complications and labor

Whitesville, NY—For centuries farmers around the world have been sprouting grains and feeding the green material to their stock, usually with spotty success. The 1959 edition of Frank B. Morrison’s venerable publication Feeds and Feeding referred to “clever promoters” making “extravagant claims” about the benefits of various hydroponic systems for growing green fodder from seeds. U.S. livestock nutrition experts are generally skeptical about the potential benefits of sprouted fodder, although most withhold official judgment because almost no studies have been done here due to its rarity.

Mat of sprouted barley.
Photos: A. Fay Benson. A mat of sprouted barley, ready to be tossed in a mixer or torn up for feeding.

Or at least until now it was rare. The onset of high grain and forage prices and growing interest in no-grain feeding programs has produced at least a mini-boom of interest in producing green fodder from the seeds of small grains. Articles about farmers employing fodder systems to produce greenery for everything from chickens and geese to beef steers and dairy cows are showing up in alternative agricultural outlets — often with accompanying advertising from companies selling such systems. Some farmers have reported spending a few hundred bucks to provide greens to their poultry, while others have paid six figures for commercial fodder production systems capable of producing much bigger volumes for larger dairy herds. Continue reading “Fodder interest sprouting all over”

No grain, but 15,000 pounds of milk

Langmeiers do the job with great forage and well-hydrated calves

Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin — Jim Langmeier and his sons — Joe, Mike and Keith — are humble people who don’t pretend to be doing everything right. Spend some time visiting with these guys, and talk turns to concerns about disappointing milk solids tests, mistakes made with hay crops, and yearling heifers that aren’t up to par. The Langmeiers acknowledge they have a lot to learn about grazing and overall management of permanent pastures.

Says Jim, “We aren’t doing anything special.” Continue reading “No grain, but 15,000 pounds of milk”

Sheep add value to organic crop rotation

Ontario family shows they can cut costs, add income on tillable land

By Janet McNally It has always been my contention that sheep in the Grain Belt should be a part of a mixed crop and livestock farm. In most parts of the world, sheep are not the only enterprise on tillable cropland. They are employed as integral components of cropping programs by assisting with weed control and soil fertility, and in marketing crop residues.

Photo: Janet McNally. To smooth the weaning process, the Boettchers set up a temporary pen and chute, and allow lambs to play there for a few days before they’re sorted. Son Martin is in foreground.

With the right approach, sheep are a very profitable addition to such farms. Modern agriculture has encouraged mono-cropping, with fertilizers and farm chemicals replacing livestock as crop management tools. Mono-cropping livestock has been a growing trend as well. Continue reading “Sheep add value to organic crop rotation”

For organic dairy, no grain—no problem

Amos Nolt relies on top forages, barley baleage and chicken manure

Shiloh, Ohio — Try, if you will, to poke holes in this formula for an organic, grazing-based dairy in the eastern Corn Belt:

1. Feed the dairy herd pasture, dry hay and (in a dry year) baleage for five to six months per year. Calves are the only animals getting grain during this time.

2. Grow no corn, buy no corn, feed no corn to milking animals. Invest nothing in corn-specific equipment or infrastructure. Continue reading “For organic dairy, no grain—no problem”

Organic needs to do what people think we’re doing

By Jim Munsch — There is an ongoing struggle within organic dairy about the direction of the industry’s production and business models. The debate seems to center on whether or not the details of systems to produce milk should be strongly influenced by customers.

Grazing is central to the struggle. All advertising, packaging and commentary from organic milk marketers show cows contentedly munching grass on pasture, even though not all organic milk comes from farms where grazing is important to the production system. Continue reading “Organic needs to do what people think we’re doing”

Organic forum: What are you doing to reduce supplementation costs?

Kathie Arnold — My response to the growing cost of supplementation is to focus on improving the quality and yield of our pasture and hay crop to reduce the need for grain. That is playing out ina three areas: harvest management, seed selection, and focusing more on fertility.

With all of the recent research showing increased energy levels due to the reduced time baleage and haylage sits in a windrow respiring, we are trying to do “hay in a day” whenever possible. Other than pasture, haylage is the main forage for our milking herd. We mow in wide swaths with crushing rolls backed off as far as possible, as research has shown that leaving the stems whole facilitates quicker drying for baleage and haylage by allowing more moisture to flow up the stem and out the leaves. Crushing only seems important when we want to dry the crop all the way down for dry hay. Just prior to chopping, the cut hay is merged after having had the benefit of more sun and air exposure given the greater surface area in the wide swaths. Continue reading “Organic forum: What are you doing to reduce supplementation costs?”