We raise show quality breeding alpacas and proper nutrition is absolutely essential. With the economy, raising costs and droughts which did a number on our pastures, we've really been struggling to pay for pellets and hay for our herd.
Ten years ago when we started in the alpaca business, pellets were $10 for a 50 pound bag. Now that price is $15+ for a 50 pound bag. Back then good quality orchard grass hay bales were $3.00 each. This year I've been lucky to find marginal hay for $6.00 a bale.
So, we decided that there had to be a better way to care for our alpacas. Our research started at looking at available alternatives and we found Fodder.
So, what is fodder you might ask? The principle of a hydroponic fodder system is simple: Whole grains are watered and then sprouted in shallow trays. Systems can be purchased but we decided that we could build our own for a lot less money. The fodder is grown from grain or grass seeds for 5 - 8 days in a controlled environment. Once harvested, the fresh grass fodder is fed directly to your livestock as a replacement for grain and greatly reduces the amount of hay needed.
Since it's an indoor system, growing conditions are easier to maintain than for pasture, and the demands are somewhat flexible. Temperatures of 60 to 75 degrees fahrenheit are ideal, with humidity levels of 40 to 80 percent. We've spouted in our system with temperatures of 80 degrees and 90 percent humidity. Spouts will grow under artificial light and will do fine with as little as six hours of light a day. Spouts can even be grown without light but will be yellow instead of green and will contain less nutrients.
With our system we use 20 ounces of seed per tray with each tray producing 4 - 5 pounds of fodder. We produce 9 trays of fodder daily for a total of approximately 40+ pounds which our alpacas enjoy devouring every day. We have our system set up on timers to turn on and off the lights as well as water 4 times a day for 2 minutes each time.
Many types of seeds can be used for fodder. We prefer wheat and barley but others are growing rye, oats legumes and triticale. Our system was designed to operate year-round, so that we can minimize changes in our feeding program and provide fresh grass of our alpacas during the winter.
By supplementing with fodder, we've eliminated the need for pelleted feed and reduced the amount and quality of hay provided.
Fodder is highly digestible and packed with essential nutrients. By being able to feed fresh food, our alpacas are healthier and we've reduced our feeding costs significantly. An added benefit of fodder is that it requires no pesticides, herbicides or
Like everything else on a farm, there is a daily time requirement of about 20 minutes in which time I check the system, pull the spouted grain mats off the trays and feed them to our alpacas. To avoid mold, trays need to be cleaned daily. I wash my trays and wipe them down daily with a little bleach. Once clean, I reload the trays with seeds.
Please use this link to access additional pics and information regarding the system we built: https://plus.google.com/photos/101060369300102230337/albums/5889073889066116193?gpinv=AMIXal97n1KS2OlHlasuOs5aNIVheGBe53AZPvWDezqEbYCt7rPg12rDw36lOPiizzeWNKFyzRTySj2SOC3hcl0vRpvdI0QWwKXBhI5ChvhG7QH6X9ix5OI&authkey=CM631oywlduAFg&cfem=1#photos/101060369300102230337/albums/5889073889066116193/5889074161077138338?authkey=CM631oywlduAFg&pid=5889074161077138338&oid=101060369300102230337