Fodder, a type of animal feed, is any agricultural foodstuff used specifically to feed domesticated livestock, such as cattle, rabbits, sheep, horses, chickens and pigs. "Fodder" refers particularly to food given to the animals (including plants cut and carried to them), rather than that which they forage for themselves (called forage). Fodder is also called provender and includes hay, straw, silage, compressed and pelleted feeds, oils and mixed rations, and sprouted grains and legumes (such as bean sprouts, fresh malt, or spent malt). Most animal feed is from plants, but some manufacturers add ingredients to processed feeds that are of animal origin.
The worldwide animal feed industry produced tons of feed (compound feed equivalent) in 2011, fast approaching 1 billion tonnes according to the International Feed Industry Federation, with an annual growth rate of about 2%. The use of agricultural land to grow feed rather than human food can be controversial; some types of feed, such as corn (maize), can also serve as human food; those that cannot, such as grassland grass, may be grown on land that can be used for crops consumed by humans. In many cases the production of grass for cattle fodder is a valuable intercrop between crops for human consumption, because it builds the organic matter in the soil. When evaluating if this soil organic matter increase mitigates climate change, both permanency of the added organic matter as well as emissions produced during use of the fodder product have to be taken into account. Some agricultural byproducts fed to animals may be considered unsavory by human consumers.
In the past, bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE or "mad cow disease") spread through the inclusion of ruminant meat and bone meal in cattle feed due to prion contamination. This practice is now banned in most countries where it has occurred. Some animals have a lower tolerance for spoiled or moldy fodder than others, and certain types of molds, toxins, or poisonous weeds inadvertently mixed into a feed source may cause economic losses due to sickness or death of the animals. The US Dept. of Health and Human Services regulates drugs of the Veterinary Feed Directive type that can be present within commercial livestock feed.
Fodder in the form of sprouted cereal grains such as barley, and legumes can be grown in small and large quantities. Hydroponic systems can grow up to tons of sprouts to each day; year round in a carefully controlled environment.
Sprouted grains can increase the nutritional value of the grain compared with feeding the ungerminated grain to stock. In addition, they use less water than traditional forage, making them ideal for drought conditions. Under hydroponic conditions, sprouted fodder at tall with a root mat is at its peak for animal feed. Although products such are barley are grain, when sprouted they are approved by the American Grassfed Association to be used as livestock feed.
Mr Pow said his innovative farming system could help livestock producers become more profitable while helping to address the impact of climate change.
Hydroponic sprouts may have profitable application in intensive, small-scale livestock situations with high value outputs, where land and alternative feed costs are high, and where the quality changes (eg less starch, more lysine, vitamins, etc) due to sprouting are advantageous to the particular livestock.