As we say with all that we do in our Sustainable Agriculture Education Program, we think that the way we can best teach is by doing first. We want to “Walk the Walk and not Talk the Talk”. So, we are Doer/Teachers who hope to break the paradigm of “those that can do and those that can’t teach”.
In the livestock nutrition area, we are farmers and ranchers. We feed the largest elite breeding herd of alpacas in Colorado (over 180 animals). When hay prices started to exponentially increase in 2011 we started to research alternative feeding strategies, and we became most excited about producing aquaponically grown micro-greens from grasses like barley, wheat or oats. We started operating a small scale research system producing about 50-75 lb. per day in early December, 2011 and began to feed 12 of our young alpaca males.
We were almost immediately encouraged by the results. They very quickly became very fond of this luscious green feed and we began to gradually decrease both the quantity of their hay and its quality. Within a month we had reduced their hay ration by 2/3 and were feeding them between 4-5 lb./day per animal of our barley or wheat micro-greens. We collected fleece samples from them on a regular basis to monitor any possible changes in their fleece quality and we monitored their health carefully (weight, body scores, fecal material, behavior, etc.). In June we sheared them and got even a better analysis of their fleece quality. Bottom line, their health was excellent, and their fleece quality did not change significantly, and in fact it probably improved.
Encouraged by these results we developed detailed plans to build a system that would feed our entire herd using a 40 fr. shipping container. We completed the construction of this system in late September, 2012 and have been feeding 1000 – 1500 lb. of micro-greens per day to our herd since. Watch the video below to see a depiction of the system we designed and built that is now successfully operating at Mountain Sky Ranch in northern Colorado.