Calves enjoying Fodder SolutionsFarmers and livestock managers travelled from around the country to the Fodder Solutions seminar and workshop for the opportunity to see the system in operation and speak first hand with vets and livestock owners. The day was hosted by dairy farmer, Simon Hughes, at Walton Farm, near Stourbridge in September and attracted an audience of 35 from as far afield as Devon and Lincolnshire. As many farmers look for a more reliable and cost effective source of forage to meet their feed demands, interest in the system ranged from use for cattle, sheep and pigs, to polo ponies, racehorses and game birds.
Simon Hughes shows his Fodder Solutions SystemFodder Solutions has introduced a revolutionary new system that will provide livestock owners with fresh, clean and reliable feed solutions, no matter what the weather, all year round. The system offers a viable alternative to traditional forage with cost savings, added health benefits and improved production performance.
Liam McGreevey, Sales Development Manager for Fodder Solutions, explained the system as a stand-alone thermal room, providing the optimum conditions, temperature and irrigation control, for sprouting grains. The feed, or "Fodder", is grown from barley seed and as it grows it forms a mat, which can be fed whole, on the ground, through a mixer or in feeders, and the barley seed used can also be supplemented with sunflower, lupine or mung beans to add protein. It takes 6 days from seed to feed and provides consistent, high quality green Fodder, 365 days of the year.
Fodder is easy to digest and, being alkaline, it balances any acidic condition in the gut. Soaking and sprouting grain increases moisture content and enzyme activity, breaking down compounds into more digestible elements such as starch to sugar, proteins to amino acids and lipids to fatty acids. Concentrate, or "dead" feed, is acidic and low in moisture and therefore energy is wasted in the process of digestion. It is possible to be flexible about how to make Fodder work on the farm and some farmers choose to feed Fodder alongside concentrate which will, in fact, improve the digestion of the hard feed.
"The Fodder Solutions system gives lower costs per day, is cheaper than concentrate and cheaper than land. In addition, it helps to improve health of animals, so should lead to lower veterinary bills and improved performance of animals", explained Liam.
Sophie Aylett of Meadow Farm Vets explained that they have seen the benefits of Fodder on the farm. "When Simon switched from organic dairy to calf finishing, we started working with him to develop a management regime, incorporating Fodder Solutions in conjunction with a veterinary health plan. We now carry out more preventative veterinary attendance, there are fewer problems, less parasites and there is improved condition of the calves. In terms of calf health, we have definitely seen a reduction in anti-microbials on farm – antibiotic use dropped by 60% when they switched to Fodder - and the vets have been out less often".
"Live, green feed is natural – it sets up the rumen efficiently, maintains the right balance of bacteria in the gut and provides more digestible protein", said Sophie, adding that this would be very important for anyone looking to increase stocking density.
Ringworm was a problem on the farm and Sophie explained, "ringworm is a sign of poor thrift, so supporting the calves nutritionally makes them less likely to get it. The biggest benefit we are seeing here is adequate live nutrition improving rumen function to get healthier calf".
Simon then demonstrated the system, showing how the mats come out of the system ready to feed, how the trays are washed down, reseeded and put back into unit. Visitors took advantage of the opportunity to see how the system worked, ask questions and watch a pen of calves as they tucked in greedily.
Hughes, who farms 500 acres near Bromsgrove, West Midlands, says "I can honestly say the cattle are doing brilliantly on the feed from the Fodder Solutions system. We are weaning at 6 weeks and putting them out to grass with it and they are doing really well, not missing their milk at all. It has quickly become part of our routine – it is clean and easy to do and I wouldn’t go back to miller mixing!"
A number of the visitors liked the idea of providing more natural nutrition and the corresponding health benefits to animals as well as the cost savings.
Richard Machin of Kirby Bellars, Leicestershire, farms 120 acres arable and rents land for sheep. "Grass keep is costly and this might be an alternative. I like to try things that are a bit different. Principally it would be for sheep and I would like to keep some pigs. We also live in horse country so there might be some mileage in producing it to sell to local horse owners", he said.
Toby Rosser, Farm Manager, Heart of England Farmers, Claverdon, Warwickshire, was at the seminar looking at the potential use of Fodder for raising young partridges. "It is natural for the birds to be on grass, and Fodder would be more natural nutrition for them. They are in units and I want to keep them in smaller numbers and reintroduce grass to their nutrition – Fodder seems to be a way we could do this. I am running some trials this spring looking at overall production cost. We need to provide healthy partridges that the keepers will be happy with and green feed helps them look their best", he said.
Dai Williams is a racehorse trainer from Abberley, near Worcester and was interested in the concept when it was introduced some years ago. "Horses are horses and if competing at top class level they have to spend time shut in an environment they are not designed to be in. Ours get out in the paddock as much possible but it can’t always be done especially in winter. Fodder Solutions is an alternative, and it provides protein that is broken down so they can use it. I am convinced that we should get back to basics with what we feed", he said.
The range of Fodder Solutions systems available will suit anyone from smallholders to large producers, providing a cost efficient and time saving feed solution.
The price of traditional forage looks set to remain high as farmers struggle to meet demand in the wake of last year’s poor yield. The Fodder Solutions system provides a realistic and viable alternative that takes the uncertainty out of providing good quality forage for your animals.
For more information, visit www.foddersolutions.co.uk, or call 024 7660 8088
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