Evaluation of fodder production systems for organic dairy farms

K. J. Soder, B. J. Heins, H. Chester-Jones, A. N. Hafla, M. D. Rubano

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


This study evaluated the feasibility and challenges of implementing sprouted fodder on organic dairy farms. In study 1, 5 grains (barley, oats, wheat, rye, and triticale) were sprouted for 7 d and analyzed for yield and nutritional content. In study 2, lactating cows were fed a TMR during winter and supplemented with either no fodder or 1.4 kg (DM) of sprouted barley fodder. In study 3, 3 organic dairies that fed sprouted barley fodder were monitored monthly for 12 mo to collect data on feed nutritional analysis, milk production and composition, and management. Data from studies 1 and 2 were analyzed as separate replicated complete block designs, and study 3 was a case study. Barley and oats had the greatest (P < 0.05) fresh weight in study 1, oats had the greatest (P < 0.05) DM yield, and barley had the least (P < 0.05) mold score. In study 2, milk production, milk fat, BW, and BCS were not affected by supplemental fodder. Cows fed fodder had lesser (P < 0.05) milk protein production but greater (P < 0.05) milk urea N. Income over feed costs favored not feeding fodder except when cracked corn prices increased by 50% over those used in the study. In study 3, labor, cost of production, lack of milk response, barley supply, and mold issues resulted in 2 of the farms discontinuing fodder. Fodder increased milk production slightly on the third farm, probably due to decreased forage quality. Fodder may provide some benefits on small-scale operations, farms with high land values where tillable acreage can produce high-value crops, or for producers experiencing severe, extended drought. Additionally, farms that have an excess of labor may benefit with a sprouted fodder system. However, in many situations, growing high-quality forage would be more economical.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)75-83
Number of pages9
JournalProfessional Animal Scientist
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors wish to thank the farm families who participated in this study. Without their willingness to open up their farms for our research, such work could not be accomplished. The authors would also like to thank J. R. Everhart (USDA-ARS) for data collection and D. Huot and coworkers at WCROC for their assistance in data collection and care of animals. Financial support was provided for this project by The Ceres Trust (Chicago, IL) and by a Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) Partnership grant (#ONE14-224-27806).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 American Registry of Professional Animal Scientists


  • dairy
  • fodder
  • organic
  • sprouted barley


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