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 6. Farm Facilities & Equipment
 Fodder-Pro Feed System
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Ian Watt

909 Posts

Posted - 01/23/2012 :  7:40:25 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
I just had the real pleasure of spending some time with Holly and her system on Sunday and am VERY impressed with both what she has done and her whole approach to running her alpaca and horse business!
I will be doing the sums and designs for a model that will deliver us 200 pound of green feed each day here on the central coast of California - I am excited at the prospects and indebted to Holly for being so generous with her time and information - Thanks Holly!!

Cheers

Ian Watt
Alpaca Consulting USA
www.alpacaconsultingUSA.com
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abacusfarms

26 Posts

Posted - 01/24/2012 :  1:06:36 PM  Show Profile  Visit abacusfarms's Homepage  Reply with Quote
Hay Ian!

You are very welcoms! If you need other clarification or pictures just let me know and I will be more than happy to help. I an very interested to see what your design will look like!

Holly

Holly Zech
Abacus Farms
Pleasant Grove CA
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Ian Watt

909 Posts

Posted - 02/03/2012 :  4:26:56 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Just an update for those interested.
The system we are trialling here on the central coast of California on an old dairy feedlot has been designed and work on the PVC framework for holding the trays has commenced and looking good! I have gone for a 100lb/day model using 7 bays of 12 18" x 12" trays. The framework is 6 feet high and 9 feet long and 40 inches deep built of 1.25 inch PVC piping.
The lighting is LED ropes which will be on for 24 hours a day with the same sprinkler system Holly uses in her system.
The whole system will be housed in a 7' x 10' x 44" cupboard-like insulated wooden structure lined with glued-on linoleum with two doors 7' x 5'.
The water system will be a 50 gallon drum fitted with a 12volt pump - I am using a tank to experiment with adding foliant fertilizer to the water to see if yield can be increased by weight or nutritionally.
The barley seed is available locally at $13/75lb bag and I am tempted to follow Holly's example of adding some lentils, mung beans or even alfalfa to see if they can increase volume of production for the same time frame of growing.
This is really exciting stuff!
Cheers

Ian Watt
Alpaca Consulting USA
www.alpacaconsultingUSA.com
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abacusfarms

26 Posts

Posted - 02/03/2012 :  5:33:29 PM  Show Profile  Visit abacusfarms's Homepage  Reply with Quote
OK Ian!

FAST WORK!!! Now, I want to see pictures :) There are some ag instructors from Butte college coming out to see my set up next week.

Word travels fast.

Holly Zech
Abacus Farms

Holly Zech
Abacus Farms
Pleasant Grove CA
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rip55jcp

254 Posts

Posted - 02/04/2012 :  01:23:48 AM  Show Profile  Visit rip55jcp's Homepage  Reply with Quote
I've been following this topic with a lot of interest. By my calculations, I would need to grow 660lbs of fodder per day. I'm feeding 80+ alpacas and 8 llamas and normally feed 4 55lb square bales a day. This is in addition to the pasture they still have available. I've planted annual rye for the winter. I would cut down the amount of hay (or fodder) during the summer, when the pastures have returned.

Does this sound right?


Also, Holly, there is a Fodder group on Facebook that is eagerly awaiting your arrival with any information you can provide.


Theresa Pitts
Deepstep Creek Alpacas and Anatolian Shepherds
Deepstep, GA

www.deepstepcreekalpacas.com
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KT

639 Posts

Posted - 02/04/2012 :  07:31:24 AM  Show Profile  Visit KT's Homepage  Reply with Quote
What is the typical time expected from the "planting" of a new frame of seeds to the harvest?
This is a really wonderful idea!

Kate

Beech Springs Alpacas
126 Arthur Majette Rd
Aulander, NC 27805
252-332-5642
252-333-9457 (c)
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abacusfarms

26 Posts

Posted - 02/04/2012 :  4:50:15 PM  Show Profile  Visit abacusfarms's Homepage  Reply with Quote
I use an 8 day cycle.

Holly

Holly Zech
Abacus Farms
Pleasant Grove CA
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abacusfarms

26 Posts

Posted - 02/04/2012 :  4:52:45 PM  Show Profile  Visit abacusfarms's Homepage  Reply with Quote
Hi Teresa

I would think your calculations are about right. I currently am growing 600+ lbs of fodder a day, and that feeds 18 horses and 22 alpacas HALF of their total daily rations in fodder.

I have tried to join the fodder group on FB...we can't figure out how! LOL I may need an invitation from someone already on there? There is no button for me to click to "join" I did friend the group though, so if you have any suggestions, let me know!

Holly Zech
Abacus Farms
Pleasant Grove CA
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ljohnstontx

10 Posts

Posted - 02/12/2012 :  11:22:11 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Does anyone know about how much the Fodder Solutions system runs? I think the system at FarmTek is about $3K.

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

909 Posts

Posted - 02/12/2012 :  1:59:09 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
The information Holly is sharing is invaluable indeed!

My own effort is moving along quite well with the 8-day PVC frame now finished and the cabinet in which that frame will go is almost finished. Luckily I have access to a landscaper who is designing the irrigation system for me which we hope will be ready to install late next week - this is a VERY exciting project let me tell you!

Since word of this got 'out' I have had three people come and see what I have done to date and four more booked for when it is up and running - all are interested in improving their sustainability as well as the economic benefits.

Just a word of warning - the feed that comes from this system is both rich in elements (protein, vitamins, etc) but is not rich in fiber, an essential component for alpacas. Usually grass sprouts in the field after opening rains and is that beautiful lime green color that is so welcome after winter. As soon as the first frost goes by the grass changes to a darker green as the cellulose in the cell walls hardens and turns into what we popularly call fiber. Alpacas need hard fiber, preferably with ticklish ends, to both balance the mess that is in their stomach as well as stimulate the stomach walls to secrete more acid and create vibrant micro-organism populations.

In my view there will always be a need for hay and, given the 20 - 22%CP of the green mass, the quality of the hay need not be as high as if there were no grass being fed.

Cheers

Ian Watt
Alpaca Consulting USA
www.alpacaconsultingUSA.com
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Claudia R Klaus

306 Posts

Posted - 02/13/2012 :  08:36:28 AM  Show Profile  Visit Claudia R Klaus's Homepage  Reply with Quote
Ian, are you coming to Phoenix this weekend? If so, bring pictures!

Claudia Klaus
Maricopa, AZ
www.alpacazonafarm.com
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azgottlieb

20 Posts

Posted - 02/16/2012 :  12:51:34 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Holly, can you tell me how much it cost to set up your system and how much it cost to run the operation?
Thanks,
Aaron
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abacusfarms

26 Posts

Posted - 02/16/2012 :  1:45:10 PM  Show Profile  Visit abacusfarms's Homepage  Reply with Quote
Hi Lisa

In response to your question, the Fodder Solutions systems start at about $7,000 (I think that one makes 4-6 "biscuits" oof fodder a day) then the unit that is most comperable to mine, making 32 of their biscuits a day is about $30,000. That is for an entire turn key unit, in an insulated self contained box.

Aaron, I built my growing unit for about $13,000 total. It makes 64 mats (they are each about 1/2 the size of the fodder solutions mats) per day.

Holly Zech
Abacus Farms
Pleasant Grove CA
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abacusfarms

26 Posts

Posted - 02/16/2012 :  1:52:44 PM  Show Profile  Visit abacusfarms's Homepage  Reply with Quote
If anyone knows how I can post pictures to this forum, just let me know and I will upload the pictures of my growing unit.

Holly Zech
Abacus Farms
Pleasant Grove CA
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azgottlieb

20 Posts

Posted - 02/16/2012 :  4:44:45 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Ok, thanks for the info Holly.
Aaron
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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

318 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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