Increased Digestive Performance
Sheep Fodder Replacement Diet Trial
Over the course of six weeks, he fed them a portion of one mat of fodder weighing approximately 8Kg produced from 1.2Kg of barley grain, alongside some concentrate. The farmer fed the sheep according to the parameters outlined in the methods section, and weighed the sheep every two weeks. The data used in this report is that recorded by the farmer.
The results provided by the farmer from sheep on the Fodder Replacement Diet, show that while the concentrate feed level drops the sheep show weight gain levels consistent with that expected from their normal diet. Weight gain normally expected from fattening lambs would be between 0.15 – 0.30Kg/day. When results from sheep on the fodder diet are compared to this standard there is no difference in productivity between them.
This confirms that the fresh sprouted barley fodder produced by the Fodder System is capable of replacing the concentrate ration in a sheep’s diet without detrimentally affecting their productivity. A longer term trial would be necessary to evaluate the health benefits provided by the feed and benefits to the business as a result of healthier stock.
The technical information on feeding livestock recommends feeding a specific amount of dry weight of feed, a percentage of the animals live body weight. This is something that all farmers follow, and for the most part provides farmers with good productivity from their livestock1.
Where feeding fresh fodder produced in a Fodder System is concerned, the main concern for farmers is the claim that 1 mat of fodder will replace 3-4Kg of concentrate feed. One mat of fodder weighs approximately 8Kg wet, produced from 1.2Kg of barley seed, and the concern is that the drop in dry weight fed will result in a decrease in productivity.
Another issue that farmers have with feeding fresh fodder is that they believe the level of nutrition won’t be as good as that in concentrate feed. This report contains feed analysis reports which show the level of protein available within fresh sprouted fodder. Coupled with the fact that some vets support the idea that the live fresh feed improves the digestive performance of the gut, this means that the animal actually digests the rest of their diet more efficiently due to the addition of fresh fodder to the diet2, 3.
A farmer who was interested in the potential of the feed, was willing to trial it on his sheep. For a period of six weeks 21 lambs were separated from the herd completely. They were then fed 4 mats of fodder, as well
as ad-lib silage and some all-purpose concentrate. The farmer holds around 200 sheep in total. The lambs, 9 months old, are normally out at pasture during the day, and brought indoors during the afternoon, when indoors they have access to ad-lib silage.
Materials and Methods
Water – Normal tap water, plumbed into the system
Scoop – 2L plastic scoop
Housing – The herds are separated and kept in different sheds of brick construction with metal roofing.
Daily Routine – The sheep being fed on the fodder diet are separated entirely. For the first four weeks they are fed 4 mats per day along with their ad-lib silage, 0.3Kg of concentrate and drinking water. For the last two weeks they were fed 6 mats of fodder plus ad-lib silage, 0.3Kg of concentrate and drinking water.
Sheep – The poorest 21 lambs were selected to be placed on the replacement diet. They varied in weight from approx. 18Kg to 24Kg at selection. Average weights are taken from the other lambs to compare the effectiveness of each diet.
Silage – Ad-lib – Concentrate feed – 2Kg – Water – Ad-lib
Fodder Replacement Diet:
Silage – Ad-lib – Concentrate feed – 0.3Kg – Fodder – 1.5Kg rising to 2.25Kg – Water – Ad-lib
Late Lambs – Born in May or June, they are used to clean the grass left on the grazing pasture over winter plus silage. They are roughly 20Kg in weight when taken into housing for fattening towards the end of January. They are then usually fed concentrate and silage until ready for sale at approximately 45Kg in April. The lambs are sold at approximately 11 months old.
For the purposes of the trial, the lambs were fed 4 mats of fodder between them (1.5Kg/head) from 25/02/2012 up to and including 30/03/2012. From 31/03/2012 they were fed 6 mats of fodder between them (2.25Kg/head) this also coincided with the lambs being put out in a field with no grazing available.
During period 3 weight gains lower, closer to the level in period 2.
During period 4 there is a very marked increase in weight gain. This increase coincided with the increase of the weight of fodder fed to the herd from 1.5Kg/head to 2.25Kg/head. Clearly the increase of 0.75Kg/head/day wet weight (0.11Kg/head/day dry weight) has increased the available nutrition to the level where the lambs are able invest the protein and starch into building muscle tissue.
The Herd average figures show a more balanced increase and decrease between periods 2 and 3, while reinforcing the increase during period 4.
The concentrate price paid by the farmer is £0.217/Kg as per Figure 1. The cost of producing fodder in a Fodder System is £0.06/Kg. Therefore, we have replaced £0.37 of concentrate with £0.14 of fodder, leading to a daily saving of £0.23/head at the higher fodder ration of 2.25Kg/head.
In fact, for the 6 week period of the trial, the farmer has saved a minimum of £200 on the herd of 21 lambs included in the trial. If these figures were extrapolated over a 9-month feeding period, and for a herd of 200 lambs the potential saving would be approx. £12,400. This shows how significant the savings could be.
This feeding system is being used in both Australia and United States of America, where farmers successfully feed their sheep with fodder produced in a Fodder System with excellent results, and previous trials have proven improved performance by including fresh sprouted barley in the sheep’s diet4.
Despite the reduction in dry weight matter fed, the lambs have performed well, and this may be because of a more balanced digestive system, leading to increased digestive performance2. The results of the trial confirm there is no detrimental effect in the productivity of the lambs when fattening on a diet based on fresh fodder. Either in the amount of weight gained, or the time taken to gain adequate weight ready for sale. The results section has highlighted the potential benefit from a business perspective, with reduced feed costs leading to increased profits when lambs are sold as the feed can be produced considerably cheaper in a Fodder System.
A possible extension of the hypothesis would be the effect of adding higher protein seeds, such as field beans, which would increase the available protein and potentially increase the weight gain within the same period for marginally increased costs.
2 – Dr J. A. Parish, Dr J. D. Rivera, Dr H. T. Boland (2009). “Understanding the Ruminant Animals Digestive System”. Mississippi State University Extension Service Report.
3 – Chavan, J. and Kadam, S.S. (1989). “Nutritional improvement of cereals by sprouting” Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, 28(5): 401-437.
4 – Eshtayeh, I (2004). “A new source of fresh green feed (Hydroponic Barley) for Awass sheep” An-Najah National University Faculty of Graduate studies.
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