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 6. Farm Facilities & Equipment
 Fodder-Pro Feed System
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azgottlieb

20 Posts

Posted - 02/17/2012 :  6:58:01 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Holly or Ian,
Can you tell me if my math on this subject is somewhat accurate?
So from what I've gathered so far concerning the costs of the operation is: the unit itself cost around $13,000 to set up for a system that would feed about 50 alpacas daily (Holly said she can feed the equivalent of about 100 alpacas half their daily intake with her system that she set up for $13,000). The seed would cost around $5500 annually. The utility costs would be around $1100 annually.
From what I've heard from other farmers is that it costs about an average of $150 a year per alpaca for hay. So 50 alpacas times $150 is $7500 a year in hay.
So the savings seems to be around $1000 a year besides the cost of the Fodder system. Not a huge savings, but I still think it would be nice to be self sufficient.
Can you tell me about how much hourly labor you put into this system daily.
Thanks,
Aaron
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joeykatp

311 Posts

Posted - 02/18/2012 :  10:04:11 AM  Show Profile  Visit joeykatp's Homepage  Reply with Quote
Aaron,
I've been very interested in this thread and thought the system was a phenomenal idea, too. However, I looked through the posts and have digested that you will still need to feed hay to provide the necessary fiber in the alpaca diet, so you will not be self-sustaining unless you grow your own hay. Also, it may not be a problem for you, but I know that the grass produced by the fodder system has to be much heavier as it contains an enormous amount of water compared to hay. I am a hearty woman in my fifties, the sole caretaker of 19 alpacas, 3 llamas, 17 chickens and 2 cats, but my body is physically at its limit with tons of tendonitis already! Hence, there is no way I could take on the extra work. I am in debt to the people posting, though, so I can learn from their experiences. Just some things to consider...

Kathy Paternoster
Our Father's Farm
New Hampton, NY
(845)374-7712
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azgottlieb

20 Posts

Posted - 02/18/2012 :  11:14:05 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Yeah, I was pretty excited about this whole concept too, but after doing the math and realizing that you would still have to buy some hay, it seems that you would actually be paying more money per year for this system compared to how much you would pay to have hay delivered to your farm. There is also the cost of the system itself which is anywhere from $3000 to $30,000 which is money that you would never make back since you're not saving any money by using this system. And finally, the daily labor of the system is obviously much greater than that of just feeding hay and grain.
It's definitely an interesting concept, but it doesn't seem to be a way to save money on hay. Maybe a good additive though.
Aaron
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abacusfarms

26 Posts

Posted - 02/18/2012 :  4:51:48 PM  Show Profile  Visit abacusfarms's Homepage  Reply with Quote
Hi Again,

I spend probably 40 "extra" minutes a day feeding the fodder and reloading the trays than I would if I was just feeding grain.

I don't know if you could ever replace ALL your forage requirements with fodder, but you can replace a LOT, and what you are replacing it with has very high nutrition (and probably some things such as enzymes that you really couldn't get any other way). I am really curious to see what my fleeces look like this spring when I shear.

Holly Zech
Abacus Farms
Pleasant Grove CA
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ljohnstontx

10 Posts

Posted - 02/18/2012 :  5:17:48 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Holly, did you (prior to fodder) and do you now still feed grain to your alpacas? And have you seen any difference in the health of your animals since you started? May be too early to tell but thought I would ask since we are all weighing out the cost vs. benefit. Surely if our alpacas are healthier overall we can add reduced vet bills and healthcare to our calculations in conjunction with the initial savings in feed items.

Also, FarmTek recently sent out an email advertising a Hydroponic Fodder Workshop at their Technology Center in Dyersville, IA on April 4th. It's an all day seminar.

Thanks - Lisa

Lisa Johnston
Legends Ranch Alpacas
Princeton, TX
http://www.alpacanation.com/legendsranch.asp
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azgottlieb

20 Posts

Posted - 02/19/2012 :  12:52:40 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
I wonder if there is something that you can add to the mixture of seeds that would add enough fiber for the alpacas so you can completely eliminate hay. Or is there a type of grain or pellets that would provide the right amount of fiber so you could strictly feed them fodder and grain or pellets. I think that if you could completely eliminate hay this system would be well worth it and maybe the future of Alpaca farming. Maybe with enough research it could be figured out the perfect ratio of seed mix to provide the alpacas with the perfect amount of nutrition.
Aaron
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Ian Watt

909 Posts

Posted - 02/20/2012 :  3:54:23 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
The project is moving along steadily - the water-proofing (linoleum) is being glued on today and the structure put in place as well. Tomorrow it is all caulked and the pvc framing goes in for the irrigation fella to do his thing; the barley is sitting ready to go (a bit more expensive than I was led to believe but thems the breaks I guess!).

My barley is costing me 27c/lb (got to get that lower to somewhere near Holly's price of just under 14cents), the power to run the irrigation system an average of three minutes an hour and the 24 hour operation of LED lighting should be no more than a dollar a week - I am expecting a minimum of 10lb of feed for 1.25lb of grain. I haven't factored in the cost of the unit (about $2000 excluding labor) as I offset that cost against the loss of income from paying for all my hay up front each year - I guess I should also factor in the cost of the hay storage barn but where do you stop with all these little costs?) The end point is that my 10lb of grass costs me about 35 cents or 3.5 cents/lb.

if I feed that at 4lb/alpaca/day my cost per day will be 14 cents and I will save at least 2lb hay/day (which costs me $16.50/100lb bale or 16.5cents/lb) or 33cents/day; multiply that by the 25 alpacas that will be getting the grass per day and my savings will be (hopefully, I will admit!) $8.25 a day, $57.75 a week or $2887.50 a year. Put another way, I can pay for the whole thing in one year!!

Aaron asked the question about alternatives to hay - I think we should be feeding grass or grain hay as an essential part of the nutrition of these animals. The hay provides an excellent 'tickle' factor for the stomach, provides lots of bulk for rumination, fiber for the digestive system and provides a balance to our perception of what they need. For me, I will be trying oat , wheat or barley hay instead of the more expensive grass hays as the predominant need is the fiber and these hays have more digestible fiber than orchard grass hay - I will be looking for late cut hay at a discounted price as well as this hay is lower in protein (usually) and I have already provided a rich source of protein in the grass.

For my own benefit, I am feeding the two pens that will get the grass a measured quantity of hay for the two weeks prior to feeding and then for two weeks after they have been on the grass for a week or so, just to see what happens. Personally I am hoping that there will be significantly less waste as the alpacas do not have to chase after the better nutritous leaf and bypass the stems, etc. I will also bodyscore them (I don't use scales) before and after for six months or so to monitor any changes that might occur.

All systems go here folks!!

Cheers

Ian Watt
Alpaca Consulting USA
www.alpacaconsultingUSA.com
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abacusfarms

26 Posts

Posted - 02/20/2012 :  4:18:33 PM  Show Profile  Visit abacusfarms's Homepage  Reply with Quote
Hi Ian

Cant wait to see pictures! Actually, I purchased this last batch of barley at $18 per hundredweight, or .18 c a lb. Of course, I bought 17,000+ pounds! And that is about DOUBLE what it was in 2010 from what I can find. I am hoping that we see a reduction in frain prices this year across the board, but not counting on it.

Holly

Holly Zech
Abacus Farms
Pleasant Grove CA
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Doubletake Farm

258 Posts

Posted - 02/21/2012 :  12:09:23 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Holly and/or Ian,

Can you explain why you're using barley seed? Cheapest? Easiest to grow? Best nutrition?

Thanks

Kimberly Brummitt
Doubletake Farm
Orwell, Ohio
330.766.0152
www.alpacanation.com/doubletakefarm
alpacas@doubletakefarm.com
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Ian Watt

909 Posts

Posted - 02/21/2012 :  6:21:05 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
No particular reason Kimberly, although I suspect it may have something to do with price (as you suggest), availability and perhaps volume of grass produced - I will leave it up to Holly to answer as I am just following her practice which works so well!

After listening to the news (about gas and diesel prices) last night, reading several newspapers today and surfing the web I am more convinced than ever that this is an economically viable exercise. I have formed the view (I hope I am wrong) that hay prices will go through the roof this season (hay-making is a heavy user of dieseline) and fuel prices will stay high for the forseeable future so anything that reduces the impact of fuel prices on my productivity has got to be good - of course, grain prices will go up too but not, I suspect, in proportion to hay.

The next thing is to get the number of alpacas down which may well mean meeting the commercial market rather than sell, or try to, within the existing alpaca community.

Never rains, but it pours, eh?!!

Cheers

Ian Watt
Alpaca Consulting USA
www.alpacaconsultingUSA.com
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Diana K

6 Posts

Posted - 04/28/2012 :  05:55:59 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
I've been hoping for some pictures of your systems. Do you, Ian or Holly have pictures anywhere, facebook or somewhere. I have an old greenhouse that I'd like to convert for this purpose. I'm so worried about what the hay prices are going to be this year.

where are you purchasing your grow trays? I would love to start one of these, I'm pretty good at dyi'ing, but some pictures would help!

Diana Roemig
Middletown, PA
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abacusfarms

26 Posts

Posted - 04/28/2012 :  1:53:27 PM  Show Profile  Visit abacusfarms's Homepage  Reply with Quote
Hi Diana

you can friend me on FaceBook Holly Zech - I have some pictures posted there.

Holly Zech
Abacus Farms
Pleasant Grove CA
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Diana K

6 Posts

Posted - 05/01/2012 :  12:05:24 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Thank you! Where are you purchasing your trays?

Diana Roemig
Middletown, PA
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wirefence

6 Posts

Posted - 05/08/2012 :  9:35:12 PM  Show Profile  Visit wirefence's Homepage  Send wirefence a Yahoo! Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by jillmcm

That does look pretty cool, especially for those of us in areas with short growing seasons. But I wonder how much the lighting would cost for a system like that? It's pretty pricey for a small seed starting system, and this is much larger...I also wonder how much of the roots alpacas would eat, versus cows and horses.

The system apparently originated in Australia - wonder if any of our overseas farmers are familiar with it?


Same Question,I am aslo interested,maybe I can try retailing here

Dog Kennel/Horse Fence/Wire Fence
http://www.skynetting.com
http://www.apnetting.com
E-mail:luzara2000@gmail.com
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Ian Watt

909 Posts

Posted - 05/08/2012 :  10:06:11 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
If you are a customer of the OFDA 2000 fiber testing service, there are some photyographs and a paper in the library at www.alpacastats.com and the same article and photo's will be in the library at www.alpacaconsultingusa.com next week - and if you are a member of Calpaca, I will be giving a talk about the system that I have operating here, at the quarterly meeting in two weeks time.
My system has four (soon to be six) daylight fluro lights operating 18 hours a day which i anticipate will cost me about $6 a month (hopefully less!) so the electricity is a very small part of the overheads for growing the grass. I am buying barley at $9.50 for a 50lb bag and am getting between 7 and 9 poiunds of grass per one pound of grain whch grows me about 100 pounds of grass per day with 1 minute of water each 3 hours.
It is working for me!!

Cheers

Ian Watt
Alpaca Consulting USA
www.alpacaconsultingUSA.com
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bobvicki

2960 Posts

Posted - 05/09/2012 :  12:52:50 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Ian,

Have you done testing on your
quote:
about 100 pounds of grass per day

from your new setup.

What type of nutrition is it actually providing?

Bob

Bob & Vicki Blodgett
Suri Land Alpaca Ranch
10371 N 2210 Road
Clinton, Oklahoma 73601
641-831-3576
alpaca@htswireless.com
www.alpacanation.com/suriland.asp
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abacusfarms

26 Posts

Posted - 05/09/2012 :  1:25:26 PM  Show Profile  Visit abacusfarms's Homepage  Reply with Quote
The question was asked "how much of the root do alpacas eat?" ALL of it! I have been feeding fodder for almost a year now, and they eat it in different ways. Some start with the greens, but some start with the roots. They do eat it all however. I have started shearing and I will tell you that I have very healthy fleeces, one suri boy who has amazing fleece anyway, was so greasy it was like shearing a sheep! So I am seeing a real result from the fodder in the length of fleece and the condition. My shearing partner is sold, she is going to install a unit this summer.

The cost of the lighting is mininmal, as Ian mentioned. My biggest electric cost is from the air conditioning unit, I have a larger, more involved unit and to keep the temp controled I do have a HVAC installed. But even last summer in HOT Sacramento, I would saY that probably cost no more that $3 a day in total electric costs.

I am also putting together a complete manual for those who are interested in building a larger, more imnvolved system. and it will be available soon. I have been producing between 550-600+ lbs of fodder a day for almost a year now. I am feeding sheep, goats, horses and alpacas.

Holly Zech
Abacus farms

Holly Zech
Abacus Farms
Pleasant Grove CA
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Ian Watt

909 Posts

Posted - 05/12/2012 :  7:17:39 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Sorry not to have answered before now Bob but I was away in Minnesota late last week and only catching up today.

My understanding is that the protein level is about 20 - 22 % with a very high digestibility, the Ca:P ratio is spot on and all vitamins and minerals are in an easily digestible for together with, I was told by a human health guru, there are valuable benefits from certain enymes that are present in young growing grass but disappear as the grass ages.

I will get a more accurate analysis done when the Treasury allows it but for the time being i have no reason to doubt the numbers I have been told.

I do know that all of our animals now rush to the fence to get their daily offering and there is not a scrap left after they have consumed their 3 pound a head allowance (our numbers are down so the unit capability is feeding more per head than originally planned); our pellet demand has dropped and it appears that hay consumption is down too (I hope so because this is the BIG dollar consumer on our feedlot!.

Cheers

Ian Watt
Alpaca Consulting USA
www.alpacaconsultingUSA.com
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wildswan

2 Posts

Posted - 07/11/2012 :  01:16:47 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Holly -

I'm also considering implementing a fodder system for our horses. I checked out your photos on facebook, and I'm very impressed with your setup. From your descriptions, it appears that you start your trays on one end, then move the trays forward every day, so that by day 8 you are taking the finished biscuits off the racks at the other end. If this is correct, how do you move the trays forward each day?

The major problem I have with the Fodder Solutions desisgn is that it was difficult for me to push the row of trays forward into their new position. Therefore, if I were to build my own unit, I would like to have an easier way of handling this.

Would there be any advantage/disadvantage to just leaving a tray in the same position on the rack for the entire 8 day cycle? Any ideas on how to simplify this step?

Just so I can better understand your estimated power costs ($2-4/day), are you in the PG&E or SMUD utility district?

And finally, if you were to do it over again, is there anything you would do differently?

Thanks so much for posting. Your input is greatly appreciated and I am looking forward to the publication of your manual. Let me know where to find it.



Sherry
WildSwan Hanoverians
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Heidi Christensen

4211 Posts

Posted - 07/11/2012 :  02:25:43 AM  Show Profile  Visit Heidi Christensen's Homepage  Reply with Quote
Very interesting thread. Holly - I just sent a friend request.

Heidi Christensen
WingNut Farm
Graham, Wa
(253) 846-2168
http://alpacanation.com/wingnutfarm.asp
http://wingnut-alpacas.com
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