Evaluating the feasibility, effectiveness and challenges of sprouted grains on grazing dairy farms
Two dairy farms in Pennsylvania are participating in this study designed to evaluate the feasibility, effectiveness and challenges of using a sprouted grain system with a third providing technical input and data as someone who used but has discontinued use of fodder. Data collection continued on both farms actively using fodder. One farm has a homemade system, the other has a purchased sprouting system. However, one farm discontinued use of fodder at pasture turnout and decided not to use fodder anymore (we are documenting the reasons, including cost and labor, and continued collecting milk and feed samples). We have learned that increased milk production is not the only reason to implement a sprouted grain system, in fact, in some cases milk production does not increase with fodder usage. Other perceived animal health benefits (such as reduced somatic cell counts) make sprouted grains more attractive to farmers to improve milk pay price. However, we are trying to determine whether the increased cost of sprout production, especially labor, makes these systems feasible. Each farm has resource challenges and opportunities that impact their ability to utilize sprouts in their rations. Our goal is to collect data and later interview the farmers to understand their reasoning for utilizing sprouted grains as well as to analyze feed and milk production/composition as well as evaluate the economic feasibility of these systems. Data collection will be completed at the end of 2015 and exit interviews will be conducted in early 2016.
- Monthly farm visits were made to each of the 2 fodder-feeding farms in 2015. Data collected included: milk sample from the bulk tank; sample of all feeds/pasture/fodder fed to the cows for nutritional analyses; milk production data from bulk tank receipts; and information from the farmer on feed ration, herd management, fodder management and any other pertinent information.
- The third farm (that no longer feeds fodder) has been contacted to arrange a visit in early 2016 to collect economic and production information. We have milk and feed samples from this farm to be analyzed per the protocol for the samples collected from the other 2 farms.
- The goal for early 2016 will be to summarize this information to develop an educational case study narrative of the farms for distribution to farmers and farm professionals. A peer-reviewed journal article will also be developed for dissemination to the scientific community.
Initiation of this project was delayed until late August 2014 when the actual agreement was put into place between UVM and USDA-ARS allowing the project to begin. In addition, all farms discontinued fodder feeding during the grazing season. We continued with our monthly visits, but also continued collecting data through December 2015 in order to capture any changes in animal productivity or milk composition when farmers started feeding fodder again.
- Jan-Dec 2015- Monthly farm visits were conducted for data collection. Feed/fodder/pasture samples were sent for nutritional analyses. Milk samples were sent for composition (protein, fat, lactose, somatic cell) monthly.
- Nov 2015- Meeting held with Dr. Abel-Caines to begin planning field day for spring 2016.
- Dec 2015- Milk samples were sent to lab for fatty acid analyses.
- Dec 2015- Dr. Soder began summarizing the animal productivity and feed data collected to date to begin summarization in early 2016.
Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes
Due to data collection just being completed, we have no impacts or preliminary results. However, we have learned of some new reasons why farmers may implement fodder that we had not heard before (i.e. decreased somatic cell count). While we may not be able to directly evaluate these reasons due to the design of this study as well as budget limitations, we will incorporate as much of the information into our report and recommendations as we can. Since one of the farmers discontinued fodder feeding altogether during this study, we will also collect information on his thought process, economics, and also animal productivity once fodder was no longer fed. While initial interest has waned somewhat for fodder systems, there are still enough inquiries that information from this project will provide valuable information to farmers considering the use of fodder from a feasibility and economic perspective.
Allensville, PA 17002
Allensville, PA 17002
Office Phone: 7174836382