Evaluation of Feeding Hydroponic Barley Fodder to Organic Dairy Cattle

By Brad Heins, U of MN WCROC and James Paulson, U of MN 

There is renewed interest in fodder systems for dairy production systems. Organic dairy producers are looking for information about fodder sprouting systems to supply essential nutrients to dairy cattle. The objectives of our study was to evaluate feeding hydroponic barley fodder at the U of MN WCROC, Morris, MN. 

Organic dairy cows (n=36) were compared for 70 days for production, body measurements, rumination, and milk fatty acid profile in two different feeding scenarios at the organic dairy. Cows were assigned to one of two treatments, fodder or no fodder included in a total mixed ration. The 20 lbs of fodder fed per day in the ration replaced 6 lbs of organic corn fed per day. 

The Fodder cows averaged 27.1 lbs of milk, 3.8% fat, and 3.0 % protein. The No Fodder cows averaged 29.4 lbs of milk, 3.7% fat and 2.9% protein. Average somatic cell score for the feeding groups was not different (203,000 ml for fodder cows, 217,000 ml for no fodder cows). The Fodder and No Fodder cows were not different for body weight or body condition score during the study period. As expected, the Fodder cows had higher milk urea nitrogen (MUN) than the No Fodder groups of cows because of the higher amounts of forage in the diet. The Fodder cows tended to have less rumination (519 min/day vs. 550 min/day) compared to the No Fodder cows. There was a tendency for the Fodder cows to have a lower Omega 6-3 ratio (1.16 vs. 1.40) than the No Fodder cows. The Fodder cows had less dry matter intake than No Fodder cows. Net income per cow per day was similar for cow groups. 

This information can be significant to organic dairy producers who are looking to reduce input costs during high grain prices.