Sprouted Barley Fodder a Blessing for NY Farm

5/5/2012 10:00 AM
By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant New York Correspondent

WHITESVILLE, N.Y. — Be-a-Blessing Organic Dairy has discovered a way to slash feed costs with a minimal up-front investment. Owner and founder John Stoltzfus will host an open house to share how.

Stoltzfus’ grown sons, Jonathan and Joel, had seen videos online about farms in Australia using a different means of making green rations available to dairy cows: sprouted barley fodder.

Stoltzfus likens it to hydroponic growing. A timed watering system keeps the barley seeds on trays well hydrated. In seven days, Stoltzfus harvests seven times the pounds of green fodder from the original pounds of seed. The method can enable a dairy to feed cows green forage year round.

After an initial investment of $5,000 for equipment and renovating a barn to accommodate a heated growing system, Stoltzfus began sprouting barley in December. He anticipates recouping the cost within six months to a year of when he started.

Since he began feeding sprouted barley, Stoltzfus has eliminated the grain ration from his herd’s diet and has found that a 10-pound ration costs only 30 cents per pound instead of $4 per pound for the cornmeal and soybean meal mix he had been feeding. Stoltzfus continues to raise organic hay for nongrazing months.

“The health of the cow is unreal,” he said. “When you have green grass or sprouts, the nutrients are 95 percent available to the cow, so that is what makes it so attractive for us. We’re very excited about it.

“It drought-proofs your farm because you can have green grass for the cows year-round.”

The move to sprouted barley proved economically advantageous in other ways, too. “Organic Valley Co-op may move east for an all-grass milk. It will have a $4 premium above what we’re getting now,” Stoltzfus said.

He feels so strongly about sprouted barley and its ability to help farms decrease costs and boost herd health that he is slated to host the first of a series of free open houses presented by Cornell University.

The series will focus on several small farm operations in the region.

“I was on the phone nearly every day because people wanted to know about this,” Stoltzfus said. “I told Fay Benson (small dairy support specialist with Cornell) that I don’t have time. I’m a dairy farmer. I want to have an open house so people can come and see.”

The certified organic farm operates on 257 Stoltzfus acres and 200 acres of rented, tillable land. Jonathan and Joel have been part of the operation since its founding 16 years ago. Stoltzfus’ wife, Tammy, takes care of the books. Stoltzfus transitioned to organic farming in 2001.

Benson is enthusiastic about sprouted barley fodder.

“Dairy farmers work with cows that are ruminants,” he said. “More and more we’ve been feeding grains to them and that’s not like a ruminant. With the barley fodder, they’re taking a grain and sprouting it so more digestible material will be available.”

“Barley Fodder Feeding for Organic Dairies: Sprouting Small Grains to Increase Benefits” will include speakers Jerry Brunnetti and veterinarian Silvia Abel-Caines. The event will be held at Be-A-Blessing Organic Dairy, 1553 Heselton Gully Road, Whitesville, N.Y., from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday, May 9.

Register in advance by contacting Benson at 607- 745-3807 or afb3<\@>cornell.edu.

Cornell has planned the next small farm open house for June 8 (time to be announced) at DelRose Farm, 9635 Co. Highway 18, Bloomville, N.Y. Hosts Ernest and Barbara Hanselman will present “Adding Income Streams to a Small Dairy.”

The Hanselmans milk 75 Registered Holsteins and Brown Swiss. Since founding their farm 30 years ago, they have gradually added more income streams. They will discuss making the best use of on-farm resources and trends to create a diversity of income streams that add to farm income and farm viability.

Pre-register by contacting Mariane Kiraly at 607-865-6531 or mk129<\@>cornell.edu.

The next open house in the series is June 20, from 1 to 3 p.m., at Snofarm Dairy, 644 Buffalo Road, Brooktondale, N.Y.

Host farmers and father-and-son duo Calvin and Aaron Snow will present “Staying Small Through a Century of Dairy Farming.” The farm has been in the Snow family for three generations.

Eighteen months ago, the Snows started producing cheese from a small percentage of milk to sell locally. Snofarm is milking 35 cows, primarily Holsteins, a few Dutch Belts and a few Brown Swiss. The afternoon will consist of field, barn and cheese making facility tours and discussion.

Pre-register by contacting Monika Roth at 607-272-2292 or mr55<\@>cornell.edu.

Lowell “Jim” Davenport of Tollgate Holsteins, 136 Fox Hill Road, Ancramdale, N.Y., will present “Achieving Low Somatic Cell Count on Small Herds” from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. June 30.

The Davenports consistently produce high-quality milk from their herd of 60 cows with an average somatic cell count less than 100,000. Because of this low somatic cell count, Davenport has been able to capitalize on working cooperatively with some other dairy producers to process and market their milk under the Hudson Valley Fresh label.

Pre-register by contacting Stephen Hadcock at 518-380-1497 or seh11<\@>cornell.edu.

The final open house in the series will be hosted by Scheffler’s Farm, 643 Cobb St., Groton, N.Y., from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesday, July 11.

Ed and Eileen Scheffler will present “On Farm Energy Production: Oilseed Press/Grass Pellet Demonstration.” The Schefflers purchased an oilseed press through an Organic Valley project. They will demonstrate the oilseed press and talk about how their plans have evolved and what their goals are now for the oilseed press.

John Stoker, an organic dairy farmer from Cazenovia, N.Y., will talk about his business pressing oilseeds for human consumption. Matt Dedrick, a crop farmer form Lansing, N.Y., will bring his homemade grass pellet maker for demonstration.

Pre-register by contacting Fay Benson at 607-745-3807 or afb3<\@>cornell.edu.

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