Hydroponics: Feed grown inside for dairy cows
Growing 28.10.21

Hydroponics: Feed grown inside for dairy cows

Homepage Resource Center Hydroponics: Feed grown inside for dairy cows

Correspondent Treena Hein reports for Dairy Global on why cattle farmers all over the world are choosing HydroGreen to supplement rations.

HydroGreen Automated Vertical Pastures, three hydroponic units growing sprouted grain for livestock
Dairy farmers in Italy, Japan, Canada and the US, are already using their own fresh sprouted greens, grown with hydroponics, to supplement rations.

It may seem far-fetched, but a few dairy farmers around the world are growing some of their own feed – inside.

There are now ‘HydroGreen’ hydroponic sprouted grains growing systems on dairy farms in Agropoli, Italy (a water buffalo dairy called Massaria Cielentana near Naples), Japan, Canada and the US. These systems are already installed on several beef farms in the US and Canada.

Hydroponics harvested at 6 days

In a HydroGreen system, wheat or barley seed is continually sprouted and harvested at 6 days. Cultivation is very simple to manage, with automated seeding, watering, and harvesting. No fertiliser is required. Once ready for harvest, the sprouted wheat or barley rolls off an automated belt like a carpet and is shredded, ready to add to the cattle ration.

The percentage of the ration that can be met with fresh HydroGreen feed is at least 15% for dairy cattle and up to about 30% for beef. The sprouts are also suitable for other livestock categories such as poultry and goats.

Some cattle farmers have chosen HydroGreen because of the droughts that have become more common across many parts of the US and the Canadian Prairies. The system was invented several years ago by a US rancher named Dhil Grohs, who wanted to develop a low-maintenance feed production system he could rely on to meet some of his cattle’s needs.

HydroGreen was acquired in 2019 by CubicFarm, a maker of indoor greenhouse food crop growing systems. CubicFarm (founded in 2015) is based in Langley, British Columbia, Canada and HydroGreen in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, USA.

Two systems

The HydroGreen ‘DGS 66’ unit is geared towards operations of 100 to 200 cattle. One unit costs US$139,000. It must be housed in an existing or newly-constructed building of at least 140 sqm outfitted with the appropriate plumbing and electrical infrastructure.

Recently, to address the needs of larger operations, HydroGreen created vertical pastures. As the name suggests, it’s a vertical growing system consisting of groupings of a larger module called the GLS 808.