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Hydroponic Fodder System Step by Step Guide (7 days)

Posted On : July 13, 2021

What is Hydroponic Fodder?

Hydroponic fodder is a process that animal feed is grown from seeds without soil, and a small amount of water. every week after the seeds have sprouted, the nutritious seedlings are going to be up to 30 cm tall. they will be produced each day of the year, even within the dry season. Reduced availability of pasture and scarcity of water to cultivate fodder makes it hard to supply green fodder throughout the year. Hence, one can take a useful in of hydroponic fodder.

High-cost hydroponic fodder systems

The High-cost hydroponic fodder production systems with controlled environments, and are immune to natural weather variations. The needed water, light, temperature, humidity, and aeration are fully controlled by sensors. And recycling of water is also available and introduced a department and scheme to produce hydroponic green fodder. The department has distributed 24 hydroponic fodder units for farmers.

The production of hydroponic fodder comprises procuring clean, sound, intact, untreated, viable seeds/grains of high quality. The seeds should be soaked in 0.1-1.5% bleach solution sodium hypochlorite or 1-2% hydrogen peroxide solution for 30-60 minutes and washed in tap water. The seeds are soaked in freshwater for different periods: 4, 8 h, 12-16 h or overnight, 6-20 h depending on the hardness of the seed coat. The water Temperature or solution used for soaking may affect the germination rate. The right temperature for soaking the seeds is 23 ºC. After soaking, the seeds are spread in plastic or lightweight metallic trays with holes to drain the waste, and water can be collected in a tank and recycled. The seed also affects the yield of hydroponic grass fodder. The production of hydroponic barley, wheat or sorghum fodder is 4-6 kg/m2 and maize fodder is 6.4-7.6 kg/m2. The price of the seed gives 85-90% of the total cost of production of hydroponic fodder.

  • The trays are placed in hydroponic racks
  • And Hydroponic fodder irrigated with freshwater or nutrient solution
  • The trays should not be exposed to direct sunlight, strong wind, and heavy rain
  • In the growing period, the seeds are kept moist by drip or spray water but are not saturated
  • The optimum growth of a fodder temperature is between 19 to 22 ºC, humidity between 40-80% light between 12-16 h and aeration for 3 minutes after every 2 h
  • The nutrient and biomass yield was at the 6th day of sowing, and this is the stage for harvesting the fodder.
  • Hydroponic fodder 20-30 cm grass mat containing roots, and green shoots is ready for harvesting within 6-8 days and requires a small piece of land for production

The electricity for hydroponic fodder is much less than compared to traditional fodder production. There are many hydroponic fodders grass such as triticale, barley, wheat, rye, and oats. The barley has the highest forage quality.

The hydroponic barley produced by using tap water or nutrient solution the sprouts grown with nutrient solution had higher crude protein and ash contents. The Fe, Cu, Ca, K, P, Mg, Na, and Zn concentrations were higher in barley fodder produced using the nutrient solution. There was no difference between dry matter loss. Reports say that the nutrient needed of the seedlings are satisfied from the nutrients reserves in the seeds Use of nutrient solution gives the cost of fodder production. It was concluded that there was no advantage of using the nutrient solutions for producing hydroponic fodder.

Low-cost hydroponic fodder systems

In developing countries, hi-tech hydroponic fodder production systems are replaced by low-cost hydroponic systems. The cost depends upon the type of construction materials used. Any type of shelter, garage, basement, room or low-density plastic sheets, greenhouse or poly-hut with a solid floor of compacted earth, concrete, cobblestone etc., where the temperature, humidity, and light can be controlled for hydroponic fodder production. The IIT, Kharagpur developed a low-cost hydroponic system, two walls of which were built up of bricks, and the other two sides had double glazed glass windows, which permitted sunlight but prevented a rise in temperature inside the hydroponic system. Bamboos were used for the shelf racks. Owing to decreasing available land and the intensive labor and pesticide requirement, together with an inadequate supply of water states of India, Tamil Nadu Veterinary and Animal Sciences University developed a hydroponic system at Madhavaram Milk Colony the University Research Farm. This is a low-cost system producing 40 kg hydroponic fodder per day. The system is being sold to dairy farmers (INR) 48000.0 The ICAR Goa and Govind milk in Satara District in Maharashtra developing low-cost hydroponic systems and 17 dairy farmers are now producing and feeding hydroponic fodder.

Hydroponic fodder produced in a simple greenhouse containing wooden shelving on which trays containing seeds are stacked rack could be made up of wood, steel, or polyvinyl chloride pipes, and also used an existing wall of a building to construct a shade net greenhouse, it reduced the cost of construction. And It is difficult to handle control or adjust the humidity and air circulation in low-cost hydroponic units, especially during the dry hot summer months. And in Tanzania the humidity and temperature are controlled by a hydro-net and a hydro-cloth, to ensure good growth and nutritional value of the fodder. Freshwater is used for hydroponic fodder by using manual or automatic micro-sprinklers. Therefore, so many types of fodder to be grown hydroponically depend on the climatic condition of the region. And the seeds sprout in 24 h and grow up to 20-30 cm in 7-8 days after it ready for harvest and use for feeding. In hi-tech greenhouses, nearly 8-15 units of electricity are required to make 600 kg of hydroponic maize fodder per day.

Hydroponic Fodder Production Process

For hydroponic fodder production use only good qualities seed; never use broken or unhealthy seeds as they will not germinate properly.

You can use maize, wheat, pulses, and horse gram seeds to make hydroponic fodder , and do not use pearl millet and sorghum seeds because these sprouted leaves contain poison it makes harm your livestock.

Most of the farmer uses Maize seeds to produce hydroponic fodder in cold climatic conditions, wheat and oats seeds are well used for fodder, And in hot climatic conditions, maize seeds good for hydroponic fodder production.

How to Grow Hydroponic Fodder?

  • Add 5-7 liters of warm water in a bucket and remove floating seeds from the water because they will not germinate.
  • And add 50 -100 gm salt in water; it helps reduce fungus production on the germinated seed.
  • Allow this seed for around 12 hours to soak in the water.
  • Drain the water after 12 hours, and wash the seeds with clean water.
  • Transfer this washed seed and allow them to sprout. In a cold temperature, they will take more than 24 hours to germinate.
  • The tray must wash properly and you must check all holes whether blocked or not. If blockage removes the blockage.
  • The sprouted seeds are transferred from the gunny bags to trays and spread evenly, and place on the rack.
  • Every day pour a small amount of water is poured into sprouted seeds. use watering a sprinkler system.
  • In hot climate conditions, supply water every two hours, and in cold weather conditions, 4 hours it helps maintain moisture.

Always maintain cleanness in the shed; it reduces fungus.

Do not touch the trays’ sprouted seeds until they are harvesting.

After seven days one tray one kilogram of maize seed, that will produce eight kilograms of fodder.

Hydroponic fodder to make the rack according to your fooder need, if you need every day five trays of fodder so for seven day, a prepared shade accommodates 35 trays.

Feeding of Hydroponic Green Fodder:

After six to seven days the fooder ready to harvest, take it out from the tray, and cut it into small pieces before feeding the livestock because it is easier to eat the fodder.

Avoid keeping the fodder for nine days in the trays because after nine days the nutrient value decreases slowly, and fiber starts to develop.

Give this folder along with other dry fodder from the total quantity to livestock.

For cattle, farmers can give half hydroponic fodder and half-dry fodder.

Hydroponic fodder is soft and nutritious and tasty.

Construction of Hydroponic fodder system

To grow quality fodder, you have to control the temperature and humidity. The fodder grows well in environmental conditions with a temperature range of 15-32 °C and relative humidity of 80-85%.

And also, control light is useful to grow fodder very well and healthy, so you must build a small shed net or a greenhouse.

To make a shed net or greenhouse, you needed a bamboo log, iron rod, or plastic pipe for construction, and you needed shade netting or gunny bags to cover this structure.

Construction

  • fooder quantity demand, you can build a Hydroponic fodder system is required a little space of 10 ft x10 ft shade net to grow Hydroponic fodder, and choose a shed net location near the livestock because it becomes easy to operate.
  • For ventilation make some open space between the roof and side of the walls, you can easily maintain the temperature and humidity.
  • To grow hydroponic fodder needed medium-size tray 1.5 x 3 Ft. The fodder is made up of good plastic strong enough to hold the fodder’s weight.
  • And the seeds must be kept moist so avoid metal trays because metal trays easily rust, so use plastic trays.
  • Put 15-20 small holes in trays for draining excess water.
  • you can build a bamboo rack, plastic rack, or metal rack to hold the trays.
  • Make three to four layers rack , and the rack should not be too high because it is difficult to spray water.
  • Keep space between two layers for watering the seeds; and make a slight slope for each layer ; this helps water to drain from the trays.

Advantages of hydroponic fodder

Efficiency:

By Efficiency of fodder production is increased. Hydroponic systems decrease water wastage, mostly it is applied directly to the roots and recycled and used several times., the water must be clean because of bacteria and fungi. therefore, suggested going for infrared filtering before recycling the water. And reported that about 1.5-2 liters are required to make 1 kg of green fodder hydroponically when comparison with 73, 85, and 160 liters to make1 kg of green fodder of barley, Rhodes, and alfalfa grass under field conditions. Under hydroponic systems, this equates to only 2-5% of the water used in traditional fodder production. This is especially important of chronic water shortages or where the infrastructure for irrigation does not exist.

Space:

Hydroponic systems need small space and time than conventional systems, which makes the former ideal for urban dwellers with limited space. The root of plants in hydroponic fodder is less tiny than in traditional fodder, and It is also easy to start a hydroponic system indoors, wherein a number of racks with multiple vertical farming are used, It minimizing land requirement. Crop rotation is not needed for hydroponics, the same fodder can be grown throughout the full year. about 600-1000 kg maize fodder can be produced daily in 7-8 days, in only 45-50 m2 area compared with one ha needed in traditional farming. And only one square meter space is needed to produce fodder for two cows per day and the milk yield was increased by 13%.

Use of pesticides, insecticides, and herbicides:

Traditional farming must use herbicides, fungicides, and/or insecticides for optimum growth. Hydroponic fodder is grown without soil and, therefore, is not soil-borne diseases, pests, or fungi, thereby minimizing the use of pesticides, insecticides, and herbicides. Infections in hydroponically grown fodder can be quickly controlled by spraying the crops with pesticides or fungicides. Fresh and clean water is used for irrigation.

Fodder yield:

Fodder production is accelerated by the maximum amount of 25% by bringing the nutrients onto the plants, without developing large root systems to hunt out food. Plants were grown very faster and grown evenly under a hydroponic system. One kg of seed you get yields 8-10 kg green forage in 7-8 days. The hydroponics maize fodder yield is 5-6 times above that compare with traditional farm production, and it has more nutritious.

Fodder quality:

The crude protein, neutral detergent fiber, acid detergent fiber, and Ca content increased, but organic matter and non-fibrous carbohydrates content decreased (P<0.05) in the hydroponic green forage compared with the original seed on a DM basis. Hydroponic fodder is a rich source of vitamin A, vitamin E, vitamin C, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, biotin, free folic acid, anti-oxidants like β-carotene and minerals found that hydroponic fodder is also a rich source of bioactive enzymes, with the highest activities in sprouts being generally between germination and 7 days of age. The fatty acid concentration showed a (P<0.05) in the growth period. The concentrations of linoleic, linolenic, and stearic acids increased (P<0.05) in sprouting time. Besides, helping in the elimination of the anti-nutritional factors such as phytate in the grains, hydroponic fodders are good sources of chlorophyll and contain a grass juice that good for the livestock. The crop is free from antibiotics, hormones, pesticides, or herbicides.

Impact on animal production:

Hydroponic fodders are highly digestible, palatable, and relished by the animals. Feeding vitamin-rich hydroponic green barley fodder did not increase the bioavailability of nutrients for fattening calves. There was no effect of the fodder on average daily gain (ADG), but feed cost was increased by 24% found no adverse effects on ADG and feed conversion ratio (FCR) in goat kids and rabbit kittens fed hydroponic horse gram or sunn hemp fodder replacing 50% of a concentrated mixture. A feeding trial taken 90-day on lambs showed that feeding hydroponic barley fodder improved P<0.05 , ADG, and FCR compared to those fed a ration containing barley grains, Feeding hydroponic fodder to cattle resulted in leaner meat containing more omega-3-fatty acids and vitamins.

Consistency of feed:

One among the main obstacles being faced by many beef producers is that the variability/inconsistency of plant species within their pasture, mainly to seasonal fluctuation. By feeding hydroponic fodder, one is assured of the standard and quantity of fodder that's being consumed. This consistency of feed can cause better-tasting end products of consistent quality, which is one of the main goals of beef producers. Similarly, consistency in the feed also can increase the standard of meat and other products of swine and poultry. Hydroponic fodder production may improve the standard of animal products .

Reduced carbon footprints:

Hydroponics is environmentally friendly to compare with traditional agriculture because fertilizers are used very rarely.it reduces greenhouse gas emissions. In traditional farming lead to the degradation of the surrounding environment. Hydroponic systems help decrease the fuel consumption for transportation of products from distant agricultural farms and carbon emissions in turn.

Disadvantages of hydroponics

Loss in total dry matter:

Loss in total dry matter: A reported resulted in 7-47% loss in DM from the first seed after sprouting for a period of 6-7 days of growth, mainly thanks to respiration during the sprouting process. Seed soaking activates enzymes that convert starch stored in endosperm to an easy sugar, which produces energy and provides off CO2 and water, resulting in loss of DM with a shift from starch within the seed to fiber and pectin within the roots and green shoots.

Availability of nutrients:

Barley fodder showed that 3.4 times more costly per kg of DM than the original barley grains. Similarly, feed cost/kg live weight gain was 3.7, 2.2, and 2.5 times costlier using hydroponic fodders than the original grains, that hydroponic oat and barley grass maybe 2.1 and 3.8 times most costlier than rolled oats and barley in terms of food energy. Few years of research and farmer experience that the costs with hydroponic fodder production are 2 to 5 times those of the original grain Economics of hydroponics

Traditional fodder production needs a huge investment needed for the purchase of land, And additional investment needed for agricultural machinery, equipment, infrastructure needs for pre-and post-harvesting, including handling, conservation of fodder, and transportation.

And also need labor, fuel, lubricants, fertilizers, insecticides, pesticides, and weedicides.

Hydroponic fodder production needed only seed and water as production inputs with labor inputs.

Hydroponics reduces post-harvest losses, with no fuel needed for harvesting and post-harvesting processes.

And hydroponic systems take 7-8 days to develop from seed to fodder. In traditional systems, it takes 45-60 for fodder.

The initial amount needed for setting up hi-tech, sophisticated, automated hydroponic fodder production systems.

The environmental control, operational costs are higher than traditional soil-based fodder production farming.

Such hydroponic systems need more equipment and technical knowledge than is required in traditional farming.

Conclusion

In developed countries, there is no quality feed and fodder, hydroponic fodder production is low competitive than earlier fodder production when it is compared on per kg dry matter basis. Huge investment for fully automated hydroponic systems and so many labor and energy costs in maintaining the system adds substantially to the net cost of hydroponic fodder production. These methods are not successful in developing countries.

low-cost hydroponic systems have been growing by utilizing locally available fodder and water; local irrigation is not well established; fuel costs and transportation are very high, and seasonal fodder prices are very extreme high. And fewer periods of fodder production, the cost of controlling temperature and humidity is low, and so is the cost of labor. In such situations, the investment structure is shifted in favor of hydroponic fodder production, and it may increasing livestock production.


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