Impact of including sprouted grains in the ration of beef cattle relative to animal performance, quality and nutritive value of meat, and economic via

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2023: $349,974.00
Projected End Date: 07/31/2026
Host Institution Award ID: G105-24-W9981
Grant Recipient: Utah State University
Region: Western
State: Utah
Principal Investigator:
Dr. Kara Thornton
Utah State University
Brady Blackett
Blackett Cattle Company
Kelly Crozier
Raise'm Right Ranch
Dr. Matthew Garcia
Utah State University
Dr. Korry Hintze, PhD
Utah State University
Dr. Clay Isom
Utah State University, Dept. of Animal, Dairy, and Veterinary Sc
Dr. Ryan Larsen
Utah State University, Dept. of Applied Economics
Jason Morgan
Morgan Ranching Company
Dr. Stephan van Vliet
Utah State University


  • Animals: bovine
  • Animal Products: meat


  • Production Systems: integrated crop and livestock systems

    Proposal abstract:

    One of the many challenges Western US beef producers face is climate change and drought conditions that negatively impact animal performance and economic viability. Drought conditions result in increasing price, decreasing yield and variability in nutrient density of feedstuffs. This is relevant because feed costs account for approximately 70% of the total costs of raising beef. In addition, rural areas are becoming more urban and producers are being forced to either move their operations to more rural areas, or transport their feedstuffs a greater distance. These are several of the largest challenges that beef producers currently face and will continue to face in the future. Feeding sprouted grains (fodder) is one method to alleviate some of the issues producers face. Hydroponic fodder systems are used to sprout cereal grains for approximately 6-10 days and are then fed to livestock. Hydroponic growing does not require as much soil, land, fertilizer or water as conventional farming systems and is not affected by changes in the climate, such as temperature or precipitation levels. This is advantageous as fodder can be produced year-round, results in a feed with higher nutrient density than traditional forages, and has a relatively low amount of inputs, which ultimately improves sustainability of beef production. However, to date, little research has been done to understand how including fodder in the ration impacts beef cattle production. As such, the proposed research will analyze the effects of including barley fodder in the ration of beef cattle on live cattle performance, carcass quality, rumen characteristics, nutritive value of the meat, and economic viability. Two different trials will be completed to determine the impacts of providing barley fodder to growing and finishing beef steers, as well as in developing heifers. Completion of these two different trials will provide important insight into two very different, yet important nutritional periods, for beef producers in the Western region of the US. Additionally, this research team believes that it is not only of the utmost importance that this research be conducted, but that this research be disseminated through different outlets. As such, the results of these two research trials will be disseminated to producers, county extension agents and other professionals through more traditional venues such as publication of fact sheets and peer reviewed journal articles and presentations at local, state, and nationwide producer meetings. Results will also be disseminated though less traditional methods such as recorded podcasts and presentations and social media. Furthermore, two different field days will be hosted to provide hands-on experience with including fodder in the ration of livestock. These opportunities will provide individuals with the appropriate knowledge to utilize this resource, as well as learn how to produce fodder and include it in their rations. Being able to provide a high-quality feed produced with less inputs (land, water, fertilizer, etc.) and an increased output (more forage with an improved nutrient density) will impact both economic viability of producers and sustainability of the whole beef industry.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    Research Objectives:

    1. Understand how including sprouted barley in the ration of beef cattle impacts live animal performance of both growing steers and developing heifers, as well as carcass quality.
    2. Determine how including sprouted barley in the ration of beef cattle impacts rumen fermentation characteristics.
    3. Use novel metabolomic approaches to assess animal health and nutritional quality of meat.
    4. Determine whether including hydroponic barley fodder in the ration of beef cattle is economically viable and impacts water usage of producers.

    Extension Objectives:

    1. Host two field days to show producers, extension agents and other professionals in the field how sprouted grains are produced and how they can be fed to cattle in order to give them hands-on experience with this technology.
    2. Present the results of the research trials at local, regional and national meetings.
    3. Publish the results of the research trials as extension facts sheets and peer reviewed publications.
    4. Develop and host training sessions and materials to share with county extension agents across the Western region of the US.
    5. Discuss and present the results of the research trials through several social media outlets including Facebook, Instagram and podcasts.
    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.