Green fodder is an essential component of the dairy
ration, otherwise the productive and reproductive
performance of the dairy animals is adversely affected.
Therefore, for a sustainable dairy farming, quality green
fodder should be fed regularly to the dairy animals (Naik
et al. 2012a). However, the major constraints in production
of green fodder by dairy farmers are unavailability of land
for fodder cultivation due to small land holding size, scarcity
of water or saline water, labour required for cultivation
(sowing, earthing up, weeding, harvesting etc.), requirement
of manure and fertilizer, more growth time (approx. 45–60
days), fencing to prevent fodder crops from wild animals
and natural calamities etc. Further, the non-availability of
quality fodders round the year aggravates the constraints
of the sustainable dairy farming (Naik et al. 2013a). Due to
the above constraints in the conventional method of fodder
cultivation, hydroponics technology is coming up as an
Present addresses: 1Senior Scientist (Animal Nutrition), ICAR
Research Complex for Goa, Old Goa-403402, Goa (pknaikicar
@gmail.com); 2Manager, Goa State Co-operative Milk Producer’s
Union Limited, Curti, Ponda, Goa (firstname.lastname@example.org);
3Senior Scientist, Eastern Regional station, NDRI, Kalyani, West
Bengal (email@example.com); 4Principal Scientist,
Regional Centre, CARI, Bhubaneswar (bkswain_icargoa
@rediffail.com); 5Director, ICAR Research Complex for Goa,
Old Goa (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Indian Journal of Animal Sciences 84 (8): 880–883, August 2014/Article
Effect of feeding hydroponics maize fodder on digestibility of nutrients
and milk production in lactating cows
P K NAIK1, R B DHURI2, M KARUNAKARAN3, B K SWAIN4 and N P SINGH5
ICAR Research Complex for Goa, Old Goa, Goa 403 402 India
Received: 23 July 2013; Accepted: 5 March 2014
Hydroponics maize fodder of 7 days growth was fed to 6 dairy cows divided into two equal groups (BW 442 kg;
avg. milk yield 6.0 kg). Animals were offered 5 kg concentrate mixture and ad lib. jowar straw along with either 15
kg fresh hydroponics maize fodder (T-HF) or conventional napier bajra hybrid (NBH) green fodder (T-CF) for 68
days. The hydroponics maize fodder (HMF) had higher CP (13.30 vs 11.14, %), EE (3.27 vs 2.20, %), NFE (75.32
vs 53.54, %) and lower CF (6.37 vs 22.25, %), TA (1.75 vs 9.84, %) and AIA (0.57 vs 1.03, %) than NBH. HMF
intake was low (0.59 kg DM/d) than NBH (1.19 kg DM/ d) by the cows. However, the DMI (2.05 and 2.17 %) was
similar in both the groups. Digestibility of CP (72.46 vs 68.86, %) and CF (59.21 vs 53.25, %) was higher (P<0.05)
for cows fed HMF. The DCP content (9.65 vs 8.61, %) of the ration increased significantly (P<0.05) due to feeding
of HMF; however, the increase (P>0.05) in the CP (13.29 vs 12.48, %) and TDN (68.52 vs 64, %) content was non-
significant. There was 13.7% increase in the milk yield of T-HF (4.64, kg/d) than the T-CF group (4.08 kg/d). The
feed conversion ratio of DM (2.12 vs 2.37), CP (0.29 vs 0.30) and TDN (1.45 vs 1.52) to produce a kg milk was
better in the T-HF than the T-CF group. There was higher net profit of Rs. 12.67/- per cow/d on feeding HMF. It can
be concluded that feeding of HMF to lactating cows increased the digestibility of nutrients and milk production
leading to increase in net profit.
Key words: Cows, Digestibility, Feeding, Fodder, Hydroponics, Lactating, Maize, Milk, Nutrients
alternative to grow fodder for farm animals (Sneath and
Mclntosh 2003, Naik et al. 2011a, Naik et al. 2012b, Naik
et al. 2013b). However, only a few reports are available on
the feeding value of the hydroponics green fodder to dairy
animals in India (Reddy et al. 1988, Pandey and Pathak
1991). Therefore, an experiment was conducted to find out
the effect of feeding hydroponics maize fodder on
digestibility of nutrients and milk production in lactating
MATERIALS AND METHODS
Production of hydroponics maize fodder: Hydroponics
fodder maize was produced in a hydroponics chamber
measuring about 25 ft × 10 ft × 10 ft with a daily production
potential of 600 kg fresh hydroponics maize fodder and
equipped with automatic sprayer irrigation of tap water.
Clean seeds of maize (Zea mays) were soaked in tap water
for 4 h and were then distributed in the greenhouse trays
with a seed rate of 7.6 kg/ m2. On first day, the trays
containing the soaked seeds are put on the top most rows
of the rack and then every day these are shifted to their
respective below rows till they reach the down last row on
seventh day. Inside the green house, the plants are allowed
to grow for 7 days and then on eighth day, these are
harvested and fed to the dairy animals.
Experimental animals, feeding and management: Six
August 2014] FEEDING OF HYDROPONICS MAIZE FODDER TO LACTATING COWS 881
dairy cows (avg. BW 442 kg; avg. milk yield 6.0 kg) were
divided into 2 equal groups on basis of their body weight
(mean BW 449.12 kg and 435.48 kg) and daily milk yield
5.92 kg and 6.08 kg). All the animals were kept in well
ventilated, clean cement floored shed. A standard
conventional concentrate mixture (CM) containing maize
grain 35, rice polish 25, soybean meal 15, cotton seed cake
22, mineral mixture 2 and common salt 1 parts by weight
was prepared. All the animals were offered daily 5 kg CM
along with ad lib. jowar straw and 15 kg hydroponics maize
fodder (T-HF) or conventional green fodder (napier bajra
hybrid, CO-3) fodder (T-CF) harvested on 45 days of
growth, to meet their nutrient requirements (Ranjhan 1998)
for a period of 68 days. The daily ration was offered twice
daily in equally divided doses, while clean drinking water
was made available ad lib. throughout the experiment.
Milking of the animals was performed twice daily at 6.00
am and 3.00 pm by machine milking.
Digestion trial: At the end of the feeding period, a 6-d
digestion trial was conducted on all experimental animals.
During the digestion trial, the feeding schedule of the
animals remained the same as earlier. The feed residues
after 24 h consumption of each animal were weighed to
determine the daily feed intake. Faeces were collected
quantitatively from the animals immediately after
Recording of data and analytical procedures: The feed
offered and residues left were recorded daily. The body
weight changes of the experimental animals were recorded
at fortnight intervals. The daily (morning and evening) milk
yield of the animals was recorded and the feed conversion
ratio was calculated as ‘kg intake per kg milk production
per day’. The feeds and fodder offered were analyzed for
proximate principles (AOAC 2000). The data were analyzed
statistically for the test of significance (Snedecor and
RESULTS AND DISCUSSION
Chemical compositions of feeds and fodder: The nutrient
contents of the concentrate mixture is as per the BIS
specifications of the compounded cattle feed (Table 1). The
compositions of the conventional NBH (CO-3) green fodder
and jowar straw were within the normal range and similar
to the reports of the earlier workers (Naik et al. 2013c).
The HMF looked like a mat of 20–30cm height consisting
of germinated seeds embedded in their white roots and green
shoots (Naik et al. 2011a, Naik et al. 2013b). The increase
in weight of the hydroponics maize fodder than the seed
weight on fresh basis was 5.5 folds. The DM content (on
fresh basis) of the hydroponics maize fodder was slightly
higher than the conventional CO-3 green fodder and the
hydroponics barley fodder reported by Reddy et al. (1988).
However, Dung et al. (2010b) observed 3.7 times increase
in the fresh weight of the 7-d hydroponics barley fodder
with DM% of 19.7%. According to Sneath and Mclntosh
(2003), various commercial hydroponics fodder producers
claims yields of 6–10 times with DM% from 6.4–20; while
trial yields range from 5–8 folds. Naik and Singh (2013)
reported that yields of 5–6 folds on fresh basis (1 kg seed
produces 5–6 kg HMF) and DM content of 11–14% are
common for HMF; however, sometimes the DM content
up to 18.3% was observed as in the present study. The
hydroponics maize fodder had higher CP, EE, NFE and
lower CF, TA and AIA percentage than the napier bajra
hybrid (CO-3) green fodder. Earlier, Naik et al. (2012b)
also reported higher CP, EE and NFE; and lower CF, TA
and AIA percentage in hydroponics maize fodder than the
conventional maize fodder. In hydroponically produced
barley fodder, CP content of 16.3% (Snow et al. 2008) and
14% (AI-Ajmi et al. 2009) were reported by the earlier
workers. Sneath and Mclntosh (2003) reviewed the
composition of sprouted barley and reported that the CP
ranged from 11.38 to 24.9%. As per Pandey and Pathak
(1991), the artificially grown barley fodder had 14.69% CP,
3.18% EE and 78.55% total carbohydrate. Similarly, Reddy
et al. (1988) observed 13.72% CP, 16.33% CF, 3.72% EE,
62.12% NFE and 0.17% Ca and 0.48% P in the artificially
grown barley fodder and concluded that it was superior to
certain common non-leguminous fodders, but comparable
to leguminous fodders.
There was no difference (P>0.05) in the DM intake of
concentrate mixture and jowar straw between the groups
(Table 2). Although nonsignificant, there was reduced intake
of hydroponics maize fodder than the CO-3 green fodder
by the animals, which lead to lower (P<0.05) total roughage
and DM intake in T-HF group than the T-CF group.
However, the DM intake per 100 kg BW was similar
(P>0.05) in both the groups. The roughage: concentrate ratio
Table 1. Chemical composition (on % DM basis) of feeds and fodder
Parameters Concentrate Conventional Jowar straw Hydroponics
mixture napier bajra hybrid maize fodder
green fodder (CO-3)
Dry matter (on fresh basis) 92.40 15.12 89.84 18.30
Crude protein 21.68 11.14 3.40 13.30
Ether extract 4.83 2.20 0.84 3.27
Crude fiber 8.39 22.25 34.19 6.37
Nitrogen free extract 58.27 53.54 52.43 75.32
Total ash 6.83 9.84 9.14 1.75
Acid insoluble ash 1.16 1.03 5.32 0.57
882 NAIK ET AL. [Indian Journal of Animal Sciences 84 (8)
in T-HF group (48: 52) was lower (P<0.05) then the T-CF
group (52: 48). Pandey and Pathak (1991) reported
voluntary intake of 50.38 kg fresh hydroponics green
fodder/ d, which supplied 7.13 kg DM and concluded that
DM intake is a limiting factor on sole feeding of
hydroponics green fodder. Lower DM intake associated with
the feeding of hydroponics green fodder has also been
reported by the earlier workers, which may be due the high
water content of the hydroponics green fodder that might
have made it bulky leading to limited DM intake by the
animals (Fazaeli et al. 2011). Reddy et al. (1988) used
artificially grown barley fodder vs NB-21 (10 kg/d) as a
constituent of the ration of the milch cows and observed
similar DM intake (2.74 vs 2.84, kg/100 kg BW) and
roughage: concentrate ratio (65: 35 vs 63: 37) in both the
groups. It was observed that sometimes, the animals took
the leafy parts of the hydroponics green fodder and the roots
portions are left (Reddy et al. 1988), which can be avoided
by mixing the hydroponics green fodder with the other
roughage components (chopped straw or conventional green
fodder) of the ration.
There was increase (P<0.05) in the digestibility of CP
and CF of the cows due to feeding of hydroponics maize
fodder; however, the increase (P>0.05) in the digestibility
of DM, OM, EE and NFE was nonsignificant (Table 2).
Reddy et al. (1988) also observed significant increase in
the digestibility (%) of DM, OM, CP, CF, EE and NFE and
concluded that the increase in the digestibility of the
nutrients may be due to the tenderness of the fodder due to
its lower age. According to Shipard (2005), sprouts are the
most enzyme rich food on the planet and the period of
greatest enzyme activity in sprouts is generally between
germination and 7 days of age (Chavan and Kadam 1989).
Another reason of the increase in the digestibility of the
nutrients due to feeding of hydroponics maize fodder may
be its high enzyme activities. Pandey and Pathak (1991)
reported that the digestibilities of the nutrients of the
hydroponics green fodder are comparable to the highly
digestible legumes like berseem and other clovers. The DCP
content of the ration increased significantly (P<0.05) due
to feeding of hydroponics maize fodder; however, the
increase (P>0.05) in the CP and TDN content was
nonsignificant. The improvement in the nutritive values (CP,
DCP and TDN, %) in T-HF may be attributed to the high
digestibility of the nutrients of the ration. Reddy et al. (1988)
observed higher (P<0.05) DCP% and TDN% in the
artificially grown barley fodder based ration than the NB-
21 based ration and suggested that the former ration is
optimum to meet the production requirement of the lactating
There was 13.7% increase in the milk yield of T-HF
group than the T-CF group due to feeding of hydroponics
maize fodder, which may be due to the higher DCP and
TDN content of the ration (Table 3). Similar to this
experiment, an increase of 7.8% in milk production was
observed in cows fed ration containing hydroponics barley
fodder (Reddy et al. 1988). The feed conversion ratio (FCR)
in terms of DM, CP and TDN was better in the T-HF group
than the T-CF group. It is reported that the hydroponic
sprouts are rich source of nutrients and contain a grass juice
factor that improves the performance of livestock (Finney
1982). The DM required per kg milk production also
reduced by 11.6% on the ration containing artificially grown
fodder (Reddy et al. 1988). Pandey and Pathak (1991) fed
artificially grown barley fodder ad lib. to lactating crossbred
cows and concluded that the mean daily intake of CP, DCP
and TDN are higher than the maintenance requirement, but
lower than the total requirement for maintenance and milk
production; therefore, for maintenance, hydroponics barley
fodder should be fed; but for high yielding cows,
supplementation of adequate quantity of concentrate is
necessary. The cost of the feed/d (P<0.05) and feed cost
Table 2. Effect on dry matter intake and digestibility of
nutrients and nutritive value
Parameters T-HF T-CF
Mean BW 435.48±40.83 449.12±23.58
Dry matter intake (kg/day)
Concentrate mixture 4.62 4.62
Green fodder 0.59±0.08 1.19±0.43
Jowar straw 3.64±0.39 3.89±0.49
Total roughage* 4.23±0.43 5.08±0.57
Total DM* 8.85±0.43 9.70±0.57
DM intake/ 100 kg BW 2.05±0.10 2.17±0.17
Roughage: concentrate ratio* 48: 52±2.69 52: 48±2.97
Dry matter 65.39±1.54 61.15±0.38
Organic matter 68.47±1.37 64.19±0.66
Crude protein* 72.46±0.84 68.86±1.13
Ether extract 87.69±1.35 82.05±0.64
Crude fiber* 59.21±0.41 53.25±0.73
Nitrogen free extract 70.47±2.44 67.37±1.02
Nutritive value (%)
CP 13.29±0.53 12.48±0.54
DCP* 9.65±0.49 8.61±0.52
TDN 68.52±1.03 64.00±0.78
*Significantly different (P<0.05).
Table 3. Effect on milk yield, feed conversion ratio and
economics of feeding
Parameters T-HF T-CF
Milk yield (kg/day) 4.64±1.21 4.08±0.11
Feed conversion ratio (kg feed/ kg milk yield)
DM 2.12±0.40 2.37±0.08
CP 0.29±0.06 0.30±0.00
DCP 0.21±0.05 0.20±0.01
TDN 1.45±0.27 1.52±0.05
Economics of feeding
Cost of feed 144.88±4.55 137.51±5.02
Feed cost/kg milk production 34.98±7.14 33.69±0.53
Cost of milk (@ ` 36/kg) 166.92±43.73 146.88±3.85
Net profit/animal/day 22.04±40.98 9.37±2.08
*Significantly different (P<0.05).
August 2014] FEEDING OF HYDROPONICS MAIZE FODDER TO LACTATING COWS 883
per kg milk production (P>0.05) was higher in the T-HF
group (` 144.88 and Rs. 34.98) than the T-CF group
(` 137.51 and ` 33.69). The higher cost of the hydroponics
maize fodder (` 4/kg) than the conventional green fodder
(` 1.50/kg) might be the reason for the higher cost of the
feed in the T-HF group than the T-CF group (Naik et al.
2012c). The cost of milk increased non-significantly
(P>0.05) in the T-HF group (` 166.92) vs than the T-CF
(` 146.88) group, which led to the higher net profit of `
12.67/ cow per day due to feeding of hydroponics maize
fodder. Reddy et al. (1988) also reported that the cost of
feed per kg milk production increased by 20% on the ration
containing artificially grown fodder; but in spite of the cost
variations, it was concluded that being superior fodder than
NB-21, it could be a good feed component of high yielding
cows stationed in hilly areas. A farmer at Mandrem village
in Pernem Taluka of Goa also observed that on daily feeding
of 10 kg hydroponics fodder maize per cow, 1.0 kg
concentrate mixture per cow per day was saved and
experienced enhancement of approximately 1.0 litre (from
8 litres to 9 litres) milk per cow per day, earning additional
net profit of ` 10/ cow/ day (Anonymous 2012).
It can be concluded that feeding of hydroponics maize
fodder increased the digestibility of nutrients, milk
production and net profit in lactating cows.
The authors are thankful to Indian Council of
Agricultural Research (ICAR), New Delhi; Rashtriya Krishi
Vikas Yojana (RKVY), Govt. of India and Goa State Co-
operative Milk Producer’s Union Limited, Curti, Ponda,
Goa for providing financial support to conduct the study.
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