Hydroponic system delivers complete nutrition cheaply
By STEVE BROWN
Livestock owners looking for a cheaper source of feed are taking advantage of an innovative cropping system.
David Cappoci, owner of Paca Pride Guest Ranch near Granite Falls, Wash., said growing barley hydroponically takes a crop from seed to feed in six to nine days.
"If sprouts are good for humans, they're good for animals," he said. The sprouts are fresh and digestible, the grain is cheap and the only input is water. Barley sprouts are nutritionally complete, and all his animals require in addition is dry hay for fiber and roughage.
Capocci said he uses a temperature-controlled, 6-by-7-by-6-foot grow box to feed his 14 alpacas and two llamas. He figured that a year's worth of barley grain at 16 cents a pound costs him $700. At 18 cents, it's $788; at 20 cents, $876.
Every day he starts the grain in a pair of 13-by-40-by-3-inch trays. The sprouts appear on Day 2, and by Day 9 or earlier, the sprouts are 9 inches tall and at their maximum protein -- 18 percent. He pulls the matted sprouts from the tray and feeds his animals.
"They devour it -- mats, unsprouted seed and all," Capocci said. There has been no change in his herd's health or energy levels. "I look at poop. And (their) poop is looking good."
The system is scalable to whatever size herd. He said a dairy farmer in Skagit County reported increased milk production with sprouted barley.
Paca Pride Guest Ranch: www.pacapride.com