Sprout feeding during drought

VIDEO: Green feed production has helped Wellington sheep producer retain stock

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Sheep producer Evan Frankham sprouts barley hydroponically, producing close to 2.5 tonnes of barley from 400kg of grain.

Sheep producer Evan Frankham sprouts barley hydroponically, producing close to 2.5 tonnes of barley from 400kg of grain.

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Is sprouting grain worth the investment?

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Wellington sheep producer Evan Frankham has been in drought for three years, but that doesn't mean he's in short supply of green feed.

Mr Frankham sprouts barley hydroponically in fodder sheds, producing close to 2.5 tonnes a day from 400 kilograms of grain.

While it was not a system he thought would be viable for every operation, in their business it had enabled them to retain stock during the drought.

"If I didn't have it I would have no stock," Mr Frankham said.

"Hay and grain would be too expensive to feed them to a production level."

The Frankhams have run around 500 Aussie White cross ewes at their Central West property since 2017, prior to that they were trading cattle.

Feeding out sprouted barley to 500 odd ewes

Mr Frankham said he spent two years researching the sprouting grain feeding system before he took the plunge in 2013 and invested in his first fodder shed.

The Frankham's second shed was completed in September last year.

Mr Frankham explained sprouting grain was a multi-day cycle of production.

"I soak the barley in tubs for about four hours, then I let it drain and sit in the tubs for the rest of the day," Mr Frankham said.

"Then I put the soaked barley onto tubes so they come out as eight different biscuits and they sit on the shelves for four days.

"After four days, I pull the biscuits onto pallets, then load them onto the truck with a bobcat and drop them off to the sheep."

Mr Frankham said the main daily expenses were grain and water but he found the system worth the investment.

Mr Frankham said the main daily expenses were grain and water but he found the system worth the investment.

Mr Frankham spoke about the system to close to 140 producers last week, at an event organised by Mid Macquarie Landcare.

Dr Ian Chivers from Little River Landcare Group was also involved in the day, informing growers of the potential nutritional benefits.

"It's not like you're feeding a mix of grain plus water, there's some substantial changes," Dr Chivers said.

"Carbohydrates break down from complex carbs to simple sugars making them more digestible.

"Protein breaks down into amino acids, fat becomes essential fatty acids and minerals become more readily available."

The barley is sprouted within four days.

Mr Frankham currently spends an average of two and a half hours a day on his sprouting barley system.

The expenses include grain, water and capital costs with each fodder shed costing around $80,000 to build.

"I spend around $200 a day in grain to feed the 500 odd ewes and their lambs for production," Mr Frankham said.

"There's not a lot of water involved, we only use around 4000 to 5000 litres a day and the electricity is just a couple of pumps and some fans, there's no air conditioning."

Since he first started Mr Frankham had learnt a lot about the factors that can affect sprouting, like mould.

"The mould normally comes from it getting too warm and the grain starts to ferment so airflow is important," Mr Frankham said.

Evan Frankham feeds out daily to keep his close to 500 ewes and their lambs productive.

Evan Frankham feeds out daily to keep his close to 500 ewes and their lambs productive.

"You've also got to have heavy weighted grain so it has plenty of energy in the seed to sprout well.

Mr Frankham aims to turn off lambs at around six months when they were close to 50kg.

It was this end result that made Mr Frankham's system worth the time and money invested, he said.

"Where I've just fed what I had to keep things ticking over, that was a pretty depressing scenario because you weren't getting anything out of it," he said.

"Now we've based our production system on having that reliable feed every day and I know the animals will be both healthy and productive."

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