Left to their own means, as long as environmental conditions are tolerable, most species manage to reproduce fairly effectively. It’s when we domesticate animals and hold them to performance standards, when things get both challenging and interesting, and certainly economically important. Reproductive performance is the most critical parameter affecting profitability and sustainability of virtually any food or fiber producing animal operation.
Many things can and do influence reproductive performance. Age, body condition, nutritional status, health status, breeding management, female:male mating ratios, detection of estrus, timing of insemination, quality of semen, disease; and that’s just the short list. Most of these factors influence reproductive performance directly, but also impact or interact with one of more of the other influencing factors.
Most authorities on the subject agree plane of nutrition, which involves energy, protein, minerals and vitamins and the nutrient balances and interactions present, is critical for good reproductive performance. Oh yes; let us not forget the most critical nutrient of all; water. Beyond quantity and quality of water, and among the above nutrient groups, energy seems to be the most critical.
Dr. Cliff Lamb at North Florida Research and Education Center sites work done by Short and Adams (1988) regarding the prioritizing or ranking of the metabolic uses of energy physiologically in ruminants as follows: 1) Basal metabolism; 2) activity; 3) growth; 4) energy reserves; 5) pregnancy; 6) lactation; 7) additional energy reserves; 8) estrous cycles and conception; and finally 9) excess energy reserves. Other researchers show similar metabolic prioritization for the other nutrient groups in production animal species.
The significance of this is, before anything happens to make sustainability and profitability of an animal group possible, which first and foremost depends upon reproductive performance, a number of higher metabolic priorities need to be satisfied. Certainly, within any animal group, reproductive performance between individuals will indeed be variable, but across the animal group, reproductive performance will be depressed if the plane of nutrition is inadequate.
Therefore, controlling the plane of nutrition of production animals at levels that support optimum reproductive performance just became the goal. It seems wise to have goals that are doable like this one. Controlling the plane of nutrition involves controlling the quantity and quality of nutrient delivery to the animal. Quantity and quality of nutrient delivery is influenced by things like ingredient cost, ingredient yield, weather, seasons, rainfall, availability of water, availability of manpower, soil quality, fertilizer and chemical costs, machinery costs, etc. Reproductive performance is influenced by plane of nutrition, which is influenced by quantity and quality of nutrient delivery, which are influenced by these and other variables, and you still need to be “in control”.
A pathway to strong reproductive performance can be mapped out, because the roadblocks are known, but controlling these many influencing factors is not easy. Technology might help.
Technology is available today that takes an ancient feed production practice and moves it to ultra-modern. This feed production practice is the growing of fodder from grains hydroponically. The technology is HydroGreen Global Technology’s fully automated hydroponic fodder growing system. And because of this technology, the part of an animal’s diet that is comprised of HydroGreen fodder is the part the producer actually has full control over. Interested?
What is Fodder? Fodder is the complete root mass, germinated seed layer and sprout of an infant plant grown hydroponically from grain. Generally, this plant will be 6 or 7 days old, from the soaking of the dry and dormant grain, to the harvesting of the complete plant.
Why does fodder support strong reproductive performance and therefore give you more control? Fodder is an excellent source of nutrition. In fact, the availability or digestibility of key nutrients from the key nutrient groups listed earlier, are at the highest levels of any time in the life cycle of the plant. In addition, some of the nutrient groups in fodder will be significantly higher in concentration compared with the parent plant that produced the seed, as well as the seed itself. Put another way, fodder is the most nutritious and digestible animal feed that can be produced from grain. Further, fodder is the most enzyme-rich feed on the planet…and it is totally natural.
Protein concentration will be significantly higher (dry matter basis) than the protein level of the parent grain and the protein form will be more digestible. Protein in fodder is made up of free amino acids and peptides that are just waiting to re-combined into new protein structures in the animal that consumes them. These free amino acids can also serve to chelate macro and micro minerals, making them less subject to mineral antagonism and more available for absorption in the small intestine. Amino acids are very important for maintenance, health, growth, production and reproduction!
Energy values will be slightly lower than the parent grain, due to some of the energy in the grain being used to drive the germination process, however the digestibility of the energy in fodder is far higher than in the parent grain, giving fodder a net advantage in terms of available energy for the animal. Moreover, the conversion of starch to sugar in the germination process means more of the energy in fodder is in the form of sugar. Starch in animal diets can lead to digestive issues. Sugar, on the other hand, does not lead to digestive issues, and in the case of ruminants and quasi-ruminants like horses, sugar supports better digestibility/utilization of the energy tied up in fiber. This will mean more energy being harvested by the animal from other ingredients in the diet and significantly more dietary energy available to support maintenance, health, growth, production, and yes, reproduction. As we talked about earlier, energy is very important for animal maintenance, health, growth, production and reproduction!
While we are focusing on energy, it seems important to point out an advantage fodder delivers regarding energy efficiency within the animal. Highly digestible and available feeds like fodder require less dietary energy to be expended in the digestive process and the mobilization of nutrients for important metabolic functions. If less energy is expended in digestion and nutrient mobilization, more of the energy consumed by the animal is available to support other metabolic functions…including reproductive functions.
Macro and Micro mineral levels in fodder will be similar to levels in the parent grain, however the minerals in fodder are far more available due to the absence of anti-nutritional factors like phytic acid, which is known to limit the availability of phosphorus and other macro and micro minerals. We talked about the chelation action of free amino acids and peptides on macro and micro minerals. Macro and micro mineral stability, availability and absorption are very important for animal maintenance, health, growth, production and reproduction!
While we are talking about the little nutrients that mean so much in animal diets, it seems appropriate to touch on vitamins. Of all the nutrients in grains and fodder, the vitamins are impacted the most in the process of germination and infant plant growth. Levels of B vitamins and vitamins A, E, and C are as much as 10 times higher in fodder compared with the parent grain. Vitamins are very important for animal maintenance, health, growth, production and reproduction!
There is increasing attention paid to fatty acid profiles as they pertain to reproductive performance before and after conception. Key unsaturated fatty acids, such as the Omega 6’s and Omega 3’s, play very important roles in animals that go far beyond simply supplying additional energy in the diet. Omega 6’s and Omega 3’s also play important roles in animal health, lactation, cycling, conception and even in reducing embryonic mortality after conception. Fodder will typically have higher levels of Omega 3’s, and more favorable Omega 6: Omega 3 ratios for properly influencing these systems associated with reproduction than the parent grain. Further, by influencing the blend of parent grains used to grow fodder, manipulating these fatty acid profiles to an even greater extent becomes quite easy to accomplish. Fatty acid profiles are very important to animal maintenance, health, growth, production and reproduction, and in this particular nutrient group, also in the composition of the food product that is produced by the animal.
OK; we have talked about what fodder is and why it is such an incredible source of nutrition for animals. We have made some connections between quality and quantity of nutrition delivered by fodder and the metabolic systems and the production periods of animals supported by this nutrition. It seems to make perfect sense that what a mature plant did to lay down the hope for a new generation (the seed or grain), and then, through the process of germination, bring the next generation to life and provide its first and most critical nutrition, would also be creating the best nutrition for an animal.”
Why does HydroGreen Global Technology’s fully automated grow system support strong reproductive performance and give you more control? Fodder production done manually is not easy, even if on a small scale, and on a larger scale, it is a big job. In addition to being very labor intensive, manual fodder production is fraught with a number of challenges like bacteria and mold prevention and control. The HydroGreen grow system supports strong reproduction performance and gives you more control, because it makes fodder production “doable” in terms of time and effort, as well as being excellent at managing production issues that manual systems struggle with. HydroGreen makes fodder production easy and elegant, and you get the benefits of fodder for your animals. “Doable” is very important for animal maintenance, health, growth, production and yes…reproduction!
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