Growing hydroponic fodder for dairy goats on a limited acreage farm

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2013: $7,500.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2015
Region: North Central
State: Illinois
Project Coordinator:
Linda DuShane
Heart's Quest Dairy Goats

Annual Reports


  • Agronomic: sunflower, wheat, grass (misc. perennial), hay
  • Animals: goats


  • Animal Production: feed/forage, winter forage
  • Education and Training: farmer to farmer, workshop, youth education
  • Farm Business Management: budgets/cost and returns, feasibility study
  • Production Systems: organic agriculture, transitioning to organic, integrated crop and livestock systems
  • Sustainable Communities: new business opportunities, sustainability measures

    Proposal summary:

    Small dairy goat farms – those with limited acreage – need to supply feed and hay from sources external to the farm. Less expensive feed and hay are not natural; they are created from pesticide impacted sources, and even from sources that are impacted by genetically modified organisms (GMO). Those sources are not suitable to a dairy farmer who wants to provide organic foodstuffs for dairy goats. But, providing organic (or pesticide/GMO free) food for a small acreage goat farm is very expensive and that puts the dairy goat farmer under severe financial pressures. The drought conditions of the summer of 2012 reduced the availability of grazing land, and increased prices of feed and hay. One of the goals of this project is to show that dairy goat farmers can be much more weather independent. Growing foodstuffs hydroponically is a way of providing organic (or pesticide/GMO free) food for a small acreage goat farm. A hydroponic setup can produce the same amount of organic (or pesticide/GMO free) foodstuffs, in the form of sprouted grains, that would otherwise take many acres of land. And, the sprouts can be produced all year long. This has a number of sustainability implications for dairy goat farmers who can produce grade-A milk, fudge and cheese from non-GMO and non-pesticide fed goats. This would let them become part of organic and natural food markets.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    The chief evaluation of the value of the project will be in the comparison of hydroponically produced sprouts to equivalent organic foodstuffs and non-organic foodstuffs during the course of project. We will calculate the costs of seeds used in the fodder system, their weight at time of harvest (after about one week), their sufficiency as food for the goats, and the need for any other type of food – such as hay – to satisfy the hunger needs of the animals once the hydroponically produced fodder is their main foodstuff. We'll check the prices of organic feed and hay monthly, as well as conventional feed and hay monthly. We'll compare them with the costs of the hydroponic fodder, plus any other food Linda must use in addition to the fodder. This monthly comparison will be posted on the website for interested parties to monitor. A secondary evaluation of the project will be milk production. Linda DuShane has quite a lot of experience with the milk production of the goats using conventional feed. She will use that baseline to determine the effect of the hydroponically produced sprouts on how much milk the goats produce.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.