Fodder System for Wool Producing Small Ruminants

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2014: $7,481.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2015
Region: North Central
State: Missouri
Project Coordinator:
Brian Willsey
Rockin' W Alpaca Ranch

Annual Reports

Information Products


  • Agronomic: barley
  • Animals: bovine, sheep


  • Animal Production: feed/forage
  • Pest Management: prevention

    Proposal summary:

    Producers raising small ruminants for wool face challenges: increases in land costs and feed costs, reductions in prices for raw wool, inconsistent weather patterns, a reduction of effective wormers. Fodder production while utilizing dry lot for the majority of the year may help to reduce overall costs and overcome these challenges.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    Wool producers need pasture for grazing. Herd or flock sizes are frequently determined by the number of grazing acres available. Wool prices continue to be depressed (raw wool), meaning that to be sustainable, larger flocks are more profitable. As land prices continue to increase, purchasing additional acreage is not always feasible. Since fodder production has a significantly smaller footprint than pasture, a producer can increase flock size without being land-dependent.

    Wool production is different from meat production in that as protein levels increase, so does the micron size of the wool (both sheep and alpaca). Retail prices for wool are set by micron size, the smaller the diameter of fiber, the greater the worth. By selecting appropriate fodder, a producer can tailor the protein needs of the animals while still providing adequate dietary and nutritional needs. This should allow for a decrease in micron size of the wool. By providing fodder from September thru May and keeping the animals off pasture grass until peak grass production, the number of acres necessary for grazing can be significantly reduced. Since pastures are where internal parasites are cycled, fodder production should allow more aggressive pasture management and allow the parasite cycle to be broken. Worming medications are becoming less effective and by not having to prevent worms by drenching the herd, the flock should maintain increased health and vigor with a reduction in veterinarian costs.

    Weather patterns have changed significantly over the last 2 years and may continue to be inconsistent for the next decade. Since fodder production is enclosed, variations in weather can be held in check with HVAC for the greenhouse. Also, the water used for fodder sprouting is significantly less than that necessary to grow the same amount of forage in a pasture. We have calculated water needs at less than 200 gallons / day for 750 lbs of fodder per day, our maximum capacity with 3 units. Fodder production does not require the addition of fertilizer or chemicals. As such, waste water from the system has no negative impact on the environment and does not have to be contained. Our plan is to allow it to drain into a pasture. On a cost per pound basis, we are feeding out pelletized grain at a cost of $16 / bu. Organic barley seed can be purchased locally at a cost of $11 / bu. However, once sprouted, the sprouted barley seed increases weight to 6-7 times that of dry seed. As such, even if no health or fiber benefits are achieved, there should be a 500% decrease in feed costs, not counting the expense of the fodder system.

    With this project by feeding fodder we propose to:

    • Reduce average micron of herd by 3 microns, increasing our profit by at least $25 / animal per year $2975.
    • Reduced worming, save $500 per year.
    • Increase number of lambs / ewe per year, additional $200 per ram lamb born.
    • Dry-lot animals for 75% year, save on fertilizer and grass seed, $1000 / year. An additional benefit is that our pastures will increase production.
    • If the results are positive, we can increase the stocking rate without increasing costs significantly.

     Total cost savings or increased profit $4675 / year


    We will utilize laboratory testing for protein levels of barley after sprouting and growing for 7 days. We will also set up trials of barley, wheat, oats and sunflowers to determine if a mixture of seeds can provide a lower overall protein mix while providing necessary nutrients. Testing through Missouri Extension.

    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.