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Fodder grown from the HydroGreen Global Technologies' system can provide feed for cattle using far less space other types of feed. (Michelle Rook/Special to Agweek)

HydroGreen provides feed option in drought areas

RENNER, S.D. — This year's drought in North and South Dakota has been devastating to cattle producers. The drought hit early in the season. Pastures quickly dried up, forcing producers to either sell off a portion of their herd or find ways to stretch their feed sources. However, a revolutionary Renner, S.D., company that exhibited at this year's Dakotafest in Mitchell is providing a welcome solution.

HydroGreen Global Technologies Inc. was founded by Dihl Grohs. The South Dakota rancher developed a way to grow fodder, or fresh green feed, through a patent-pending automated hydroponic system.

"It takes small grains like barley and wheat, and we sprout it, and we grow HydroGreen sprouted wheat, sprouted barley or fresh live green feed," HydroGreen Marketing Manager Brian McKinney says.

He says fresh feed is what cattle were meant to eat and they prefer it over grass. In fact, he says when they take this feed to the pasture, cattle and calves will select it over the lush green grass they've been grazing in.

"The nutrients are higher. The enzymes are higher. It's 80 to 90 percent digestible, it's 80 percent water. It's what they want, it's what they need. It's a healthier feed," he says.

During this time of drought in the Northern Plains, the HydroGreen system also provides a viable feed alternative producers can grow from seed to feed in six days.

"This is just another option for them instead of bringing in that expensive hay or selling their herds or shipping them south or wherever there's some grass at. They can grow this right on their ranch or their farm," McKinney says.

As a result, they've had inquiries from drought areas around the region.

"We've been getting three or four calls a day from all over the place. Up in North Dakota, from as far away as Missoula, Mont., Edgemont, S.D., just all over the place," he says.

However, after the drought breaks, this system will still be a cost-effective way to provide a better feed for livestock year-round, McKinney says. The system works for all sizes of operations and can pay for itself quickly, especially compared to buying or renting pasture.

"It can pay for itself in just a few years. It doesn't take very long at all," he says.

Fodder is not a new concept. In fact, McKinney says farmers have been growing it for years but found out it was labor intensive. He says this is where Grohs stepped in, believing there had to be a better way, and developed this fresh feed system.

"And so that's what we've done is we've built a better system, and we've taken the labor out of growing the fodder," he says. And the system works regardless of the size of operation.

"We can feed a few head up to several hundred, thousands of cows if we have to," McKinney says.

HydroGreen has studied many different types of small grains, but McKinney says so far barley works the best.

"They have been researching and developing this for the last two years, and they have grown about anything you can think of. They've done a lot of research with (South Dakota State University) up at Brookings. They have some nutritionists on board, and they've done all these tests and studies and the barley is probably the best one as far as the nutrients and the feed that you get per pound and per dollar," he says.

The other niche this product provides is a way to stretch valuable land resources to keep up with the growing global demand for food. The HydroGreen system replaces the feed potential of 250 acres in a 24-by-6-foot area. Since there isn't any more land being made, McKinney says it can also provide an option for the next generation of farmers.

"Land is getting more expensive, so you can't really afford to leave it in pasture. They're turning a lot of it into farm ground. I've got a couple of customers that have kids that want to come back and raise some cows and help farm, and if there is no land available, what is their option? They don't really have one. So, now this is an option for them," he says.

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