Authors: Chandan Kumar Rai1, Arti2, Manish Kushwaha2 and Abul K. Azad1
1Ph.D. Scholar, Dairy Extension Division, NDRI, Karnal-132001, Haryana, India
2Ph.D. Scholar, DES&M, NDRI, Karnal-132001, Haryana, India
3Ph.D. Scholar, Forage Research & Management Centre, NDRI, Karnal-132001, Haryana, India

Indian agriculture has traditionally been a mixed farming system where crop production and livestock remained the major functional and complimentary components. The agriculture is supported with livestock production as a source of income, employment of family and ultimately the livelihood improvement of about 70% population of the country. However, the low productivity of livestock is a matter of concern which is usually attributed to poor fodder and feed resources and animal breeds. Production efficiency of the Indian livestock in many parts of the country is very low as compared to the states like Gujarat, Punjab and Haryana. Dairy animals producing up to 5-7 liters milk per day can be maintained exclusively by feeding green fodders. Inclusion of green fodders in ration of dairy animals decreases amount of concentrate feeding and thus increases profit. Therefore, for economical and sustainable dairy farming, fodder production round the year is highly essential.

Balanced nutrition to livestock through feed and fodder has been possible in selected milkshed areas, where intensive fodder production systems are practiced. Rest of the farming community maintains uneconomic large herds primarily on grazing, supplemented with stall feeding. Fodder based feeding strategies are cheaper which reduce the cost of livestock products since feed alone constitutes around 60% of the milk production cost. It has been postulated that fodders are 5-14 times cheaper source of digestible crude protein and total digestible nutrients than concentrates. In addition, forages also supply other essential nutrients/ minerals to the animals. In spite of high potentiality, the productivity of cultivated fodder crops is low in areas where these are getting least attention and share in production resources as well as applied inputs. The situation needs to be tackled by knowledge building of the farmers about the advantages of growing forages on one hand and maximizing forage production through adoption of appropriate forage species, varieties and management techniques to sustain forage yields and soil fertility on the other.

Livestock Status and Fodder Scenario

The livestock sector has been playing an important role in Indian economy and is an important sub sector of Indian agriculture. As per the Livestock Census (2003), the country is rearing 485 m livestock including 185.18 m cattle and 97 m buffaloes. The country supports about 15% livestock and 16% of world’s human population on 2% of world’s geographical area, which itself is an indication of over exploiting pressure of animals on land resources. As per the CSO estimates that in 1999-2000 the GDP from livestock sector was about 22.51% of the GDP from agriculture and allied sectors which increased to 24.72 % in 2004-05. Whereas, in the same duration, the contribution of agriculture to GDP decreased from 5.22% to 4.36% at current prices (Basic Animal Husbandry Statistics, 2006). Further, at global level, the trend in consumption of livestock products shows a rapid and massive increase indicating the spurt in export potential. It is predicted that meat and milk consumption will grow at 2.8 and 3.3 per cent per annum, respectively, in India. Accordingly, an increase in livestock population has been projected at various levels. The projected livestock population (on the basis of adult cattle unit- ACU) of the country till 2025 is presented in Table 1.

Table 1: Projected livestock population estimates (million adult cattle unit)

Year Cattle Buffalo Sheep Goat Total
2010 197.3 97.5 4.3 11.2 312.0
2015 202.3 102.4 4.4 11.8 322.0
2020 207.4 107.3 4.5 12.5 333.0
2025 212.5 112.2 4.6 13.2 344.0
* Source:

Figure 1
IGFRI, 2007

The fodder production in the country is not sufficient to meet the requirements of the growing livestock population and also the forages offered to animal are mostly poor in quality. At present, the country faces a net deficit of 61.1% green fodder, 21.9% dry crop residues and 64% feeds. A stagnant figure of nearly 4.4% (8.3 m ha) of the total cropped area in the country is under forages which is facing challenge from sectors like commercially important crops and industries and urbanization, for want of additional lands. The area under forages in most of the states is little (Table 2) on net cultivated area basis, mainly because of preference for food grain and cash crops. Secondly, the hilly states like NE states, J & K, Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh etc. and the states like Rajasthan, parts of Madhya Pradesh meet their forage requirement from forest areas and uncultivated lands. The states like Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra have comparatively more area under forages but poor in productivity and production which can be attributed to comparative preference offered to this group of crops. This situation offers a great scope for technological interventions to improve the productivity and sustainability in forage crop production. It is estimated that in the year 2025, the country’s requirement for green and dry fodder will be 1170 and 650 mt, respectively to meet the dietary requirement of 344 m ACU. However, with the present pace of growth in forage and roughages, deficits of 64.87% in green fodder, 24.92% in dry roughages, 25.38% in crude protein and 23.14% in total digestible nutrients have been postulated by 2025 (Table 3). Therefore, the deficit in all components of fodder, dry crop residues and feed has to be met either by increasing forage productivity through crop improvement & management or utilizing the potential niches, untapped feed resources, bringing land more area through utilization of degraded / waste lands.

Table 2: Area under fodder crops and estimated fodder production

State/Union Territory Area under fodder (‘000ha) Estimated green forage (‘000 t)
Andhra Pradesh 147 4410
Assam 3 120
Bihar 14 560
Gujarat 877 52620
Haryana 683 47810
Himachal Pradesh 8 320
Jammu & Kashmir 28 980
Karnataka 86 3440
Kerala 2 120
Madhya Pradesh 876 26280
Mharashtra 801 32040
Punjab 697 48790
Rajasthan 3100 62000
Tamil Nadu 124 4340
Uttar Pradesh 861 34400
West Bengal 4 200
Chandigarh 4 400
Dadra & Nagar Haveli 5 200
Delhi 6 600
All India 83.23 31963000

Table 3: Projected requirements, availability (million tons) and deficit of CP and TDN in the country

Year Requirement Availability Deficit (%)
2000 44.49 321.29 30.81 242.42 30.75 24.55
2005 46.12 333.11 32.62 253.63 29.27 23.86
2010 47.76 344.93 34.18 262.02 28.44 24.04
2015 49.39 356.73 35.98 273.24 27.15 23.41
2020 51.04 368.81 37.50 281.23 26.52 23.7
2025 52.68 380.49 39.31 292.45 25.38 23.14

Figure 1
IGFRI, 2007

Advantages of Feeding Green Fodder

  • Fulfils bulk of animal rumen.
  • Major source of vegetable protein.
  • Good source of carbohydrate (soluble and fibrous).
  • Good source of minerals.
  • Rich source of vitamins.
  • Good source of water (approx. 15-25% water).
  • Improves digestibility of dry residues fed
Limitations of Green Fodder Production under Conventional Practices

  • More land requirement.
  • Scarcity of water or water salinity
  • More labour requirement for cultivation
  • More growth time (approx. 60-75 days).
  • Non-availability of same quality green fodder round the year.
  • Requirement of manure and fertilizer.
  • Affected by natural calamities.
Hydroponics Green Fodder

In natural conditions, soil acts as a mineral nutrient reservoir but the soil itself is not essential to plant growth. Researchers discovered in the 18th century that plants absorb essential mineral nutrients as inorganic ions in water. The word hydroponics has been derived from the Greek word ‘water working’. Hydro means ‘water’ and ponic means ‘working’ and it is a technology of growing plants without soil, but in water or nutrient rich solution for a short duration.

In hydroponics system, green fodders produced by growing seeds without soil but in water or nutrients rich solutions are known as hydroponics green fodder. Hydroponics green fodders are mostly produced in green houses under controlled environment.

  • Hydroponics is a method of growing plants using mineral nutrient solution only or in an inert medium, such as perlite, gravel, mineral wool, expanded solutions, in water, without soil. Terrestrial plants may be grown with their roots in the mineral nutrient ay pebbles or coconut husk.
  • Hydroponics permits the regulation of plant growth conditions and the creation of a feeding regime for a root system that fulfills all the nutritional requirements of the plant.
Advantages of Hydroponics Green Fodder

  • No soil is needed for hydroponics.
  • The water stays in the system and can be reused - thus, a lower water requirement.
  • It is possible to control the nutrition levels in their entirety - thus, lower nutrition requirements.
  • No nutrition pollution is released into the environment because of the controlled system.
  • Stable and high yields.
  • Pests and diseases are easier to get rid of than in soil because of the container's mobility.
  • Ease of harvesting.
  • No pesticide damage.
Hydroponics fodder production with machine

Hydroponics Green Fodder Production Unit is inbuilt with a greenhouse (for growth of fodder) and a control unit, (for regulation of light, temperature, humidity and water) for optimum growth of fodder. The system is a hydroponic growing room that is specifically developed to sprout grain and legume seeds. A selection of grains and legume seeds are spread onto the specialized growing trays and are watered at pre-determined intervals with overhead sprays. A set temperature is maintained inside the growing chamber automatically, to ensure the best growth and highest nutritional value fodder possible. Fodders are Fodders are grown in trays in 7 days cycle excluding the day for seed soaking. The green house or machine size varies depending upon the output capacity.

Technical Specifications (in general)

  • Fodder machine are EPS / Puff insulated chamber having base frame of MS with two sections one for controls & other for cultivation.
  • Controller Room comprises of RO System, 0.5 HP open-well motor, 200 lt. water tank, heating & cooling system, micro-processor based automated temperature & humidity control panel with LCD screen. Control room requires power supply of Single Phase / 230 V AC / 50Hz.
  • Growing room having aluminium racks with FRP trays & fogger, sprinklers & mist systems with humidity & temperature sensors.
  • Tube lights are fitted both in walls and roof of the green house to optimise the light requirement of the plants. The control unit regulates input of water and light automatically through sensors.
  • The yield of the hydroponics green fodder is highly influenced by the type and quality of seed, cleanliness and hygienic condition of the green house.
  • Hydroponics fodder is more nutritious than the conventional green fodder. In the situations where fodders cannot be grown farmers can produce hydroponics green fodder for their animals.
Benefits of the Fodder Machine

  • High yield on a very small area (e.g. to produce 200 kg fodder/day you only need 8.2m²)
  • No need for tractors and expensive implements can be done anywhere in the world e.g. hot / cold desert
  • Extremely low water consumption compared to traditional irrigation methods
  • No need for highly skilled labour – unskilled labourers can operate the system
  • System is not labour intensive – 200kg feed out and re-seed by one person in 90 minutes
  • No need for rain or fertilizer prior to growing
  • Drought (no rain) resistant if limited water is available
  • Reduced growth time – it takes 7 days from seeding to feed out
  • Feed can be grown for 365 days a year
Procedure for green fodder production

  • Maize seed is the preferred choice.
  • Seeds should be good quality maize seeds with at least 85% germination rate and pesticide free.
  • Allow soaking of seed in water for 24 hours in soaking tray and then spread uniformly throughout it.
  • Load trays on ‘1st two rows’ of racks.
  • Next day, shift ‘1st day trays’ in ‘3rd and 4th rows’ of racks.
  • Then, every following day, shift these ‘two rows of trays’ to their respective below ‘two rows’ of racks till they reach ‘bottom two rows’, which coincides on 7th day.
  • On 8th day, ‘bottom two rows of trays’ containing optimum grown green fodder is removed for feeding dairy animals.
Yield, morphological and chemical composition of hydroponics green fodder

  • One tray containing 1.5 kg maize seeds produces 7-9 kg green fodder with fodder height of 20-25 cm.
Table 2: Chemical compositions (on % DM basis) of conventional green fodder Vs. hydroponics green fodder

Nutrient Conventional Green Fodder (Maize) Hydroponics Green Fodder (Maize)
Protein 10.67 13.57
Ether Extract 2.27 3.49
Crude Fiber 25.92 14.07
Nitrogen Free Extract 51.78 66.72
Total Ash 9.36 3.84
Acid Insoluble Ash 1.40 0.33
*Source : Naik et al.,2011

  • It looks like a mat consisting of roots, seeds and plants.
  • In comparison to conventional green fodders, hydroponics green fodders contain more protein, fat (ether extract) and soluble carbohydrates (nitrogen free extract); but less fiber, total ash and acid insoluble ash.
Feeding of hydroponics green fodder

  • Separate fodder matting into small pieces prior feeding to milch animals.
  • It is highly succulent and relished by dairy animals.
  • it is advised to feed 7-8 kg hydroponics maize green fodder to replace one kg concentrate mixture (maximum 20 kg to an animal).
  • Feeding mixture of hydroponics green fodder with other dry and green fodders to dairy animals is beneficial.
SWOT analysis

Strength Weakness Opportunity Threat
Potential technology Expensive Feasibility of producing green fodder in adverse climatic Conditions Poor acceptance
Useful for difficult areas and climate Very high initial cost Scope for intensification High initial cost
Can supply green fodder ‘X’ niches Requires amble resource Potential to produce green fodder in urban premises complex technology
Ample scope of fodder fertilization Continuous electricity supply requirements Modifications can reduce the cost; fixed and operational both Need mechanical expertise at local level
Less affected by climate conditions / change / calamities Limited scope ample scope for popularization Continuous power supply essential
Suitable for urban dairies
The technologies and structures has been attempted to produce green fodder in locally assembled structures to economise the costs and costly machines.

Locally Assembled (500 kg/ day) V/S Branded Fabricated

Fabricated locally assembled Branded Fabricated
Initial cost: Low 4-5 lakh High:18 – 27 lakh
Less complicated Electronically controlled
Local repairing possible Local repairing not possible
Manual operation in exigencies possible Manual operation in exigencies not possible
Operational cost (approx Rs. 2/kg green fodder) Rs. 4-7
Area required 15 – 20% more than fabricated
Fodder supply 7-8 months / year 365 days /
Resource limited power + water needed Continuous power: 5-7 KVA connection
Limitation: suitable in hot and humid regions No climatic limitation
Conventional green fodder Vs. hydroponics green fodder production locally assembled

Attributes Conventional Green Fodder Hydroponics Green Fodder
Area 10, 000 sq. mts 50 sq. mts
cost 20-80 lakh 5-25 lakh
Land fertility Essential Not Essential
Fertilizers Required Not required
Water Very high Very low
Labour requirement More Less
Growth period 60-90 days 7 – 10 days
Fodder yield dependency Based on climate Not based on climate but under limited controlled environment
Fencing and protection Required Not required
Seed requirement 0.1 to 0 .2 kg/q 0.10-12 kg/q
quality Well known Yet to be studied
Case study: Vitthal Narayan Sodmise

Material used

  1. Plastic Tray (3X 2 Ft.) having capacity 2.0 to 2.25 Kg (Single layer of Seed)
  2. Shed 20 X 15 Ft. having capacity of 250 Trays
  3. Iron rack (5 nos. of rows)
  4. Water tank (1000 liter.)
  5. Foggers system (Mini sprinkler)
  6. 1 Hp Electric motor with auto timer
  7. Maize seeds Var- Pioneers
  8. Plastic sheets (3 X 2 Ft.)
  9. Gunny Bags

  1. Soaking of Maize seeds in normal water for 24 hrs.
  2. On next day Putting of Maize seeds in Gunny Bags for 24 hrs.
  3. Cleaning of, Foggers, Trays, Plastic sheets with water.
  4. Keeping of Trays in Iron Racks on rows having slopes up to 5 %.
  5. Putting of plastic sheets in trays with holes on sloppy sides for draining of excess water.
  6. On third day spreading of Maize seeds from gunny bags to plastic trays in a uniform layer.
  7. At an Interval of every 3 hrs. Watering should be done for 1 minute with foggers system attached with motors having automatic timer system.
  8. The procedure mentioned in above point (No.7) followed up to 7 th day from spreading of seeds in a trays.
  9. At the end of 10 th day from soaking of seed harvesting should be done.
  10. At the time harvesting the height of plants up to 20 to 30 cm and yield obtained from each tray up to 18 to 20 Kg.
Feeding and Economics of the Crop:

  1. On an average of 10 Kg feed per cattle per day.
  2. Production cost Rs.1.00 to 1.25 per Kg of fodder
Benefits of hydroponically grown fodder

  • Feed is always fresh and tasty
  • Feed is always clean and free from parasites
  • It contains no pesticides, herbicides or agricultural chemicals
  • It is 100% organically grown and a 100% organic product
  • The feed quality is consistent
It is a high protein source and nutritious


1. Savvas, D., 2003. Hydroponics: A modern technology supporting the application of integrated crop management in greenhouse. JOURNAL OF FOOD AGRICULTURE AND ENVIRONMENT, 1, pp.80-86.

2. Schwarz, M., 2012. Soilless culture management (Vol. 24). Springer Science & Business Media.

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