Hydroponic fodder a replacement for concentrates & traditional fodder?

The livestock sector plays an important role in the national economy and socio-economic development of India. The contribution of the livestock sector to the agricultural gross value and allied sectors was 31.0 percent during 2020-21 and it provided 6.2 percent to the total added gross value (GVA) of India during the same period. Dairy animals are the pillars of the livestock sector which contributed 65.88 percent to the total output of livestock sector during the same year. Dairy is the single largest commodity in India and it is employing more than 8 crore farm families directly in our country. About 70 percent of the dairy cattle and buffaloes in India are reared by the rural people and it is in the hands of small and marginal farmers and landless laborers. 

While dairy and cattle farming seem to be a profitable business the biggest challenge is the economical and year-round availability of fodder. In general feed cost accounts for about 70 percent of the total cost of raising dairy cattle and buffaloes. Feeding is the most expensive aspect of rearing dairy cattle. Natural calamities in the form of flood and drought or fodder scarcity during the lean season greatly hamper the routine feeding schedule of the dairy animals leading to a reduction in milk production, health deterioration, and increased disease incidence and mortality in extreme cases. Therefore, animal nutritionist suggests different technologies for the storage of feed resources and feeding unconventional and modern feed types and ingredients, which can meet the challenges of feeding dairy cattle. 


The Total Mixed Ration (TMR) is a practice of feeding cows that combines all roughages, grains, protein feeds, minerals, vitamins, and feed additives to a specific nutrient concentration into a single feed mixture. Concentrate mixes evolved as a marketable source of providing high-energy feed, multi-nutrients, or missing nutrients. 

Usually, the forages have been supplemented to meet all known nonenergy requirements, with concentrates feed to supplement energy for what is hopefully the point of maximum net profit. When high levels of concentrates are fed, various metabolic and health problems may be exhibited. These include offered acidosis, or founder, tissue damage, decreased performance, and, in some instances, death. Concentrate mixes are relatively costlier and are ambiguous to choose unless otherwise advised. These further increase the cost of TMR per cattle.

The level of toxic chemicals, through the use of pesticides and environmental factors on standing crops in the sources of traditional and commercial fodder, cannot be ignored. This has an adverse effect on the health of cattle and the quality of milk produced. To address these challenges, alternative and more natural fodder resources need to be made commercially viable for farmers. 


The cutting-edge technology for feeding livestock to meet the nutritional demand during the harsh winter season or any natural calamities can be solved through effective fodder production without soil via hydroponic technology.

Most of the urban and periurban livestock farming may practice the hydroponic technique given the lack of land for the cultivation of fodder crops and the huge deficiency of concentrate feeds (28.9%), dry fodders (23.4%), and green fodder (11.24%) in India. This means that for every 100 kg required, India is short of 23.4 kg of dry fodder, 11.24 kg of green fodder, and 28.9 kg of concentrates(https://theprint.in/india/fodder-shortage-in-india-major-reason-behind-rise-in-milk-costs-says-govt-institute/347883/).

Studies on the partial replacement of Concentrate Mix with Hydroponic fodder have a positive impact on milk production. The milk yield is improved by 8- 14% by feeding hydroponic fodder. On daily feeding of 10 kg hydroponic fodder maize per cow, the farmer can save 1.0 kg concentrate mixture per cow with further enhancement of 1.0-litre milk per cow per day. The young calves fed with 1-2 kg hydroponic fodder gained higher body weight (350 gm vs. 200gm) with better skin coat.

Hydroponically sprouted fodder is rich in nutrient content which has better digestibility, ruminal enzyme activities as well as fermentation. Compared with intact grains, sprouted grains have elevated concentrations of CP, NDF, fat, and sugars on a DM basis. Studies have found a 9% higher milk yield through replacing 50% of the maize silage with 18 kg of hydroponic barley fodder.

Hydroponics fodder has more potential health benefits. Sprouts are the most enzyme-rich food and the period of peak enzyme activity lies between germination and 7-8 days of age. They are a rich source of natural antioxidants i.e. â-carotene, vitamin – C, E, and related trace minerals like selenium and Zn. Feeding of the sprouted grains improves the animals’ productivity by developing a stronger immune system due to neutralization of the acidic condition by supplementation of alkaline digestive enzymes through sprouted grains. Sprouted grains are good sources of pigments containing chlorophyll, xanthophylls, grass juice, and protein-sparing factors which improve the production and reproductive performance of the livestock. Besides this, helping in the elimination of the anti-nutritional factors such as phytic acid, oxalic acid, and other toxicants of the fodder.

It can be concluded that hydroponics maize fodder can be fed to the lactating cows by replacing maize of the concentrate mixture partially with improvement in the performance of the animals. Feeding hydroponically produced fodder enhances the digestibility of the ration’s nutrients, which helps improve the milk production.