Fodder pods not a realistic option for us
As with grass, spring cereal growth has been disappointing to date. The obvious implication of this poor growth is likely to be reduced grain yields unfortunately.
However, world cereal prices seem to be under pressure due to increased production in the main grain growing regions. As always, this low grain price forecast is a double edged sword, with significant benefits for livestock farmers and obvious negatives for grain producers.
On a visit to my local supermarket last week my attention was caught by trays of vigorously growing cereal in the fruit and vegetable aisle. On further investigation I discovered that it was sprouted wheat, being marketed as wheatgrass. The benefits of this wheatgrass as a superfood for humans was being heavily promoted.
It reminded me of a number of curious enquires that I have recently received as to the latest fodder production units or pods that are now available in the country.
Those promoting this system are claiming that fodder can be grown in an environmentally controlled fodder unit, producing luscious green fodder for feeding after seven or eight days of growth. The whole plant, including roots, is fed to the animals.
This fodder is claimed to have high levels of protein (up to 22pc), supply a rich energy source and provide essential vitamins and omega 3 fatty acids. One tonne of seed barley grains is capable of producing up to 6.5t of fodder.
While I have yet to encounter one of these units being used commercially here in Ireland, on a recent visit to South Africa and Namibia I saw many large-scale fodder pods in operation. The primary issue in the region that I visited and the main reason for the installation of these units was severe drought.
This drought eliminated the ability of the farmers to grow any high quality fodder/energy source without hugely expensive irrigation systems. Another advantage to the use of the system was the relatively cheap energy costs due to the use of solar power.