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Compendium

of
Model Training Course

Management Strategies for Sustainable Livestock Production


against Impending Climate Changes

Sponsored by
Directorate of Extension, Department of Agriculture and Co-operation,
Ministry of Agriculture, Govt. of India, New Delhi

Course Director
Dr Satish Kulkarni
Head, SRS of NDRI

Course Co-Director
Dr Mukund A. Kataktalware
Scientist (Senior Scale)
Dr S. Jeyakumar
Senior Scientist
Dr K.P. Ramesha
Principal Scientist

Edited and Compiled by


Dr. Mukund A. Kataktalware
Dr. S. Jeyakumar
Dr. K.P. Ramesha
Dr. Satish Kulkarni

Southern Regional Station

National Dairy Research Institute


Adugodi, Bengaluru - 560 030. Karnataka Tel: +91-80-25710661-64
Fax : +91-80-25710161. Website: http://www.ndri.res.in

Published by
Head
Southern Regional Station
National Dairy Research Institute
Adugodi, Bengaluru - 560 030.

Copyright 2013, SRS of NDRI, Bengaluru- 560 030 (India)


All Rights Reserved. No part of it may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any from or by any means,
electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise without written permission from the publisher.
Disclaimer
No responsibility is assumed by the Course Director and Course Co-Directors for the statement made by the authors
in this compendium.

MTC on Management Strategies for Sustainable Livestock Production against Impending Climate Changes

Hydroponics Fodder Production: An Alternative Technology for Sustainable Livestock


Production against Impeding Climate Change
P.K. Naik and N.P. Singh
ICAR Research Complex for Goa,
Old Goa, Goa-403 402

In India, livestock plays an important role for the nutritional security, particularly of the small and marginal
farmers. The livestock population of the country is 529.70 million including 199.08 million (37.59%) cattle,
105.34 million (19.89%) buffaloes, 71.56 million (13.51%) sheep and 140.54 million (26.54%) goats. The
growth rate during last 56 years (1951-2007) shows increasing trend in cattle (28.19%), buffaloes (142.72%),
sheep (83.02%) and goat (197.76%) and the overall growth rate in livestock is 80.91% (GoI, 2010). The
increase in the livestock population along with the intensive rearing system has resulted in the increase demands
for feeds and fodder in the country. The feed scarcity has been the main limiting factor in improving the
livestock productivity (Brithal and Jha, 2005). The land allocation for cultivation of green fodder is limited to
only 5% of the gross cropped area; but by 2020, India would require a total 526, 855 and 56 million tons of dry
matter, green fodder and concentrates (Dikshit and Brithal, 2010).
The productive and reproductive efficiency of the livestock is adversely affected due o the unavailability of
good quality green fodder. Besides the unavailability of land, more labour requirement for cultivation (sowing,
earthing up, weeding, harvesting etc.), more growth time, non-availability of same quality round the year,
requirement of manure and fertilizer; the uncertain rain fall, water scarcity and natural calamities due to climate
change are the major constraints for green fodder production by the livestock farmers. Due to the above
constraints of the conventional method of fodder cultivation, hydroponics technology is coming up as an
alternative to grow fodder for farm animals (Naik et al., 2011; Naik, 2012; Naik et al., 2013a). Further,
hydroponics technology for fodder production will be very effective for rearing small ruminants (sheep and
goats) as these animals have lesser dry matter requirement and are being shifted from extensive to intensive
rearing system.
Hydroponics technology for fodder production
The word hydroponics has been derived from the Greek word water working. Hydro means water and ponic
means working and it is a technology of sprouting grains or growing plants without soil, but only with water or
nutrient rich solution. However, hydroponics fodder can be well produced with the use of fresh water only and
the use of nutrient rich solution is not obligatory. The added expenses of the nutrient solution also do not justify
its use rather than the fresh water, unless there is significant improvement in the feeding value of the
hydroponics fodder due to the use of the nutrient solution. The metabolism of the nutrient reserves of the seeds
is enough to fuels the growth of the fodder plant for a short duration. The water used for sprouting of grains
should be clean and free from chemical agents as the major source of microbial contamination is water. Fodder
crops produced by hydroponics technology are also known as hydroponics fodder, sprouted fodder or sprouted
grain. Sprouting of the grains is made inside a greenhouse within a short period of approximately seven days. A
greenhouse is a framed or inflated structure covered with a transparent or translucent material in which the crops
could be grown under the conditions at least partially controlled environment and which is large enough to
permit a person to work within it to carry out cultural operations (Chandra and Gupta, 2003).
Earlier, it was perceived that hydroponics fodder can only be grown in hi-tech greenhouse, which is very much
costly. The hi-tech hydroponics fodder production unit of ICAR Research Complex for Goa, Old Goa is being
visited by many farmers and officials from all over the country. Although, the production of fodder by the
hydroponics technology is impressive; but the only constraint was the high cost of the structure and hence there
was a need for a low cost device to produce hydroponics fodder. Finally, ICAR Research Complex for Goa, Old
Goa and Govind Milk and Milk Products Pvt. Ltd., Phaltan, Satara, Maharastra, played major roles in
facilitating the farmers of the Satara district of Maharashtra in developing low cost devices (greenhouses) for
production of hydroponics fodder.

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MTC on Management Strategies for Sustainable Livestock Production against Impending Climate Changes

(i) Hi-tech greenhouse: This type of greenhouse is highly advanced, fully automatic and costly. The requirement
for water, light, temperature and humidity is maintained by water fogging or sprinkling and tube lights,
controlled automatically through the sensors of the control unit. To save water, provision for recycling of water
is made inside the greenhouse with water tank and pump facility. The hi-tech greenhouse may be with or
without air conditioner. Even if manufactured in India, the cost of a hi-tech greenhouse without air conditioner
and with daily production potential of about 600 kg hydroponics maize fodder is approximately Rs. 15 lakhs.
Although all types of fodder crops can be grown in the hi-tech greenhouse, the routine operational cost is more,
particularly for growing rabi type of crops (barley, oat, wheat etc.) due to requirement of air conditioner in the
hydroponics system to maintain cold and dry environment.

Fig. 1. Hi-tech greenhouse for production of hydroponics fodder


(ii) Low cost device: Hydroponics fodder can be produced in low cost devices (Naik et al., 2013b). The cost of
this type of structure depends upon the type of construction material; but is significantly lower than the hi-tech
greenhouse. The shade net structure can be constructed with bamboo or wood or MS or GI pipes or brick
masonry. The existing wall of a house can also be used to construct lean-to-shade net greenhouse, which reduces
the cost of fabrication. The irrigation of the hydroponics fodder can be made by micro-sprinklers (manual or
automatic) or a knapsack sprayer at frequent intervals. In shade net structure, the internal environment of the
greenhouse is more influenced by the outside climatic condition and therefore, the types of fodder to be grown
hydroponically depends upon the season and climatic condition of the locality. About 17 farmers of the Satara
district of Maharashtra are producing hydroponics fodder by different types of low cost shade net greenhouse
and feeding to their dairy animals. Besides, about 10 farmers have taken initiation for producing hydroponics
fodder by low cost shade net greenhouse. The cost of the wooden shade net greenhouse with daily production
potential of about 30-350 kg fresh hydroponics fodder was approximately Rs. 6000-50000/-; while the cost of
the MS shade net greenhouse with daily production potential of about 150-750 kg fresh hydroponics fodder was
approximately Rs. 25000-150000/-.

Fig 2. Low cost shade net wooden greenhouse for production of hydroponics fodder
Different types of fodders viz. maize, wheat, cow pea, etc. can be grown by hydroponics technology. However,
the choice of grain for hydroponics technology depends up on the geographical and agro-climatic conditions and

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MTC on Management Strategies for Sustainable Livestock Production against Impending Climate Changes

easy availability of seeds. In India, maize should be the choice grain for production of hydroponics fodder due
to its easy availability, lower cost, good biomass production and quick growing habit. The grain should be clean,
sound, undamaged or not insect infested, untreated, viable and good quality. For the production of hydroponics
fodder, seeds are soaked in normal water for 4-24 hours, depending upon the type of seeds followed by draining
and placing it in the individual greenhouse trays for growing inside the greenhouse. For maize, 4 hours soaking
in normal water is sufficient. The seed rate (quantity of seeds loaded per unit surface area) also affects the yield
of the hydroponics fodder, which varies with the type of seeds. Hydroponics maize fodder can be well produced
with seed rate of 6.4-7.6 kg/m2 (Naik, 2013a). If seed density is high, there is more chance of microbial
contamination in the root mat, which affects the growth of the fodder. The starting of germination and visibility
of roots varies with the type of seeds. In case of maize and cowpea seeds, germination start on about 2 nd and 1st
day and the roots were clearly visible from 3 rd and 2nd day onwards, respectively. Maintenance of clean and
hygiene is very much important in the production of hydroponics fodder as greenhouse is highly susceptible to
microbial contamination, particularly of mould growth due to high humidity. Inside the greenhouse, generally
the grains are allowed to sprout for seven days and on day eight, these are fed to the dairy animals.
Advantages of hydroponics technology
The major limitations of the conventional method of fodder cultivations are overcome by the hydroponics
technology. Less land is required as the vertical growing process allows the production of large volume of
hydroponics fodder on a fraction of the area required by conventional cultivation and thus there is high yield in
small area with increase in stocking capacity. Under hydroponics technology, about 600 kg maize fodder can be
produced daily in seven days only in 50 sq. m. area. It is estimated that to produce the same amount of fodder,
about 1 ha land is required. The water requirement in hydroponics technology is very less as water can be
applied and replied continuously. To produce one kg of fresh hydroponics maize fodder (7-d) about 1.5 litre (if
water is reused) to 3 (if water is not reused) liters of water is required (Naik et al., 2013c) against about 30 liters
of water per kg of fresh green fodder grown in laterite soil under conventional practices. However, if water is
not reused the regular drained water of the hydroponics system can be used in a garden near to the unit. Only
one person is sufficient to work in the hydroponics system to produce 600 kg hydroponics maize fodder daily.
Besides, there is no need of costly soil preparation for fodder production, constant weed removal, fencing etc.
There is no post-harvest loss of fodder as seen in the conventional practices as the hydroponics fodder can be
produced as per the daily requirement. There are added advantages of round the year similar high quality fodder
supply to the farm, which are free from antibiotics, hormones, pesticides, or herbicides. Besides, in this
technology, there is no need of fuel for harvesting and post harvesting processes and no damage from insects or
roaming animals, etc. leading to low maintenance requirement. The electricity requirement for the production of
hydroponics fodder is lower than the conventional fodder. In hi-tech greenhouse, about 8-15 units of electricity
are required to produce 600 kg of hydroponics maize fodder daily, which can be reduced significantly in low
cost shade net structure.
Yield and feeding value of the hydroponics fodder
There is increase in fresh weight and decrease in the dry matter content during sprouting of seeds. Yields of 5-6
folds on fresh basis (1 kg seed produces 5-6 kg fodder) and dry matter content of 11-14% are common for
hydroponics maize fodder; however, sometimes dry matter content up to 18% has also been observed (Naik,
2013b). Famers of the Satara district of Maharashtra revealed fresh yield up to 8-10 folds for hydroponics maize
fodder in shade-net greenhouse system. The yield and dry matter content are influenced by many factors, mostly
the type and quality of the seed; degree of drainage of free water prior to weighing; and clean and hygienic
condition of the greenhouse. The hydroponics maize fodder looks like a mat of 20-30cm height consisting of
germinated seeds embedded in their white roots and green shoots. In Goa condition with hi-tech greenhouse, the
cost of production of fresh hydroponics maize fodder is about Rs. 4.-4.50/- per kg (Naik et al., 2012a), in which
the seed cost is about 90-98%. However, farmers of the Satara district of Maharashtra revealed that in low cost
shade net system with home-grown or locally purchased seeds, the cost of production of the hydroponics fodder
is very minimal and reasonable (about Rs.2-3.50/-).

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MTC on Management Strategies for Sustainable Livestock Production against Impending Climate Changes

The hydroponics fodder is more nutritious than the conventional fodder (Table 1). The nutrient changes during
the growth (sprouting) of hydroponics fodder are increase in the crude protein (CP), ether extract (EE), nitrogen
free extract (NFE) and decrease in crude fibre (CF), total ash (TA) and insoluble ash (AIA).
Table 1. Nutrient content of hydroponics maize fodder
Nutrient

CP*
EE*
CF*
NFE*
TA*
AIA*

Maize
Seed
(0 day)
8.60a
2.56abc
2.50a
84.49h
1.57a
0.02a

1
8.88a
2.49ab
2.55a
84.15h
1.67a
0.03a

Days of sprouting under hydroponics system


2
3
4
5
6
9.14ab
2.57abc
3.07a
82.87g
1.84ab
0.08a

9.65b
2.88bcd
4.72b
79.20f
1.92ab
0.09a

11.27d
3.08cde
5.51c
77.65e
2.19bc
0.13a

11.58d
3.06cde
7.56d
74.04d
2.44c
0.14a

12.89e
3.21de
10.67e
69.21c
3.34d
0.24a

Conventional
maize fodder

13.57f
10.67c
e
3.49
2.27a
f
14.07
25.92g
b
66.72
51.78a
d
3.84
9.36f
a
0.33
1.40b
(Naik et al., 2012b.)

Besides, hydroponics fodder has more potential health benefits. Sprouts are the most enzyme rich food on the
planet and the period of greatest enzyme activity is generally between germination and 7 days of age. They are
rich source of anti-oxidants in the form of -carotene, vitamin-C, E and related trace minerals such as selenium
and Zn. As sprouted grains are rich in enzymes and enzyme-rich feeds are generally alkaline in nature, feeding
of the sprouted grains improve the animals productivity by developing a stronger immune system due to
neutralization of the acidic condition. Besides, helping in the elimination of the anti-nutritional factors such as
phytic acid of the grains; sprouted grains are good sources of chlorophyll and contain a grass juice factor that
improves the performance of the livestock. However, the energy content is decreased during sprouting as the
stored energy inside the grain is used and dissipated during the process (Finney, 1982; Cuddeford, 1989; Chavan
and Kadam, 1989; Sneath and Mclntosh, 2003; Shipard, 2005).
The hydroponics fodders have good palatability. The germinated seeds embedded in the root system are also
consumed along with the shoots of the plants, so there is no nutrient wasting. The intake of fresh hydroponics
maize fodder by dairy cows may be up to 25 kg/ animal/ day along with limited concentrate mixture and jowar
straw. Supplementation of the hydroponics fodder in the ration of the dairy cows improves digestibility of
nutrients in dairy cows (Table 2).
Table 2: Effect of supplementation of hydroponics maize fodder on digestibility of nutrients and milk
yield of dairy cows
Parameters

Dry matter
Organic matter
Crude protein*
Ether extract
Crude fiber*
Nitrogen free extract
CP
DCP*
TDN
Milk yield (kg/ day)

Hydroponics Fodder
% Increase
(-)
(+)
Digestibility (%)
61.15
65.39
6.94
64.19
68.47
6.67
68.86a
72.46b
5.23
82.05
87.69
6.88
53.25a
59.21b
11.20
67.37
70.47
4.61
Nutritive value (%)
12.48
13.29
6.49
8.61a
9.65b
12.08
64.00
68.52
7.07
Milk yield
4.08
4.64
13.73
* Means bearing different superscripts in a row differ significantly (P<0.05).
(Naik et al., 2013d)

There are reports of increase in milk yield of 7.8% and 9.3% (FCM yield) (Reddy et al., 1988); 12.5%
(Anonymous, 2012) and 13.73% (Naik et al., 2013d) due to feeding of hydroponics fodder to lactating cows.
The feedback from the farmers of the Satara district of Maharashtra revealed increase in the milk yield by 0.5-

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MTC on Management Strategies for Sustainable Livestock Production against Impending Climate Changes

2.5 litres per animal per day and net profit by Rs. 25-50/- per animal per day due to feeding of hydroponics
fodder to their dairy animals. Besides, the other advantages observed by the farmers were increase in fat and
SNF content of the milk, improvement in health and conception rate of the dairy animals, reduction in cattle
feed requirement by 25%, increase in taste (sweetness) of the milk, whiter milk, reduction in labour cost,
requirement of less space and water, freshness and high palatability of the hydroponics fodder etc (Naik et al.,
2013b).
Conclusion
Hydroponics fodder is nutritious, palatable and digestible and can be grown in low cost devices with locally
home grown grains. Against impeding climate change, hydroponics fodder production is an effective alternative
technology for sustainable livestock production in different regions of India.
Acknowledgements
The authors are thankful to Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), New Delhi; Rashtriya Krishi Vikas
Yojana (RKVY), Govt. of India and Goa State Cooperative Milk Producers Union Limited, Curti, Ponda, Goa
for providing financial support to conduct the study. Thanks are also due to Govind Milk and Milk Products Pvt.
Ltd., Phaltan, Satara, Maharastra and farmers of the Satara district of Maharashtra for providing valuable
information on the hydroponics technology for fodder production.
Selected references
Anonymous. 2012. Moo-ve aside, hydroponics technology is here. Gomantak Times, 11-10-2012.
Brithal, P.S. and Jha, A.K. 2005. Economic losses due to various constraints in dairy production in India. Indian
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Chandra, P. and Gupta, M.J. 2003. Cultivation in hi-tech greenhouses for enhanced productivity of natural
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Chavan, J. and Kadam, S.S. 1989. Nutritional improvement of cereals by sprouting. Critical Reviews in Food
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MTC on Management Strategies for Sustainable Livestock Production against Impending Climate Changes

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