Proponents of sprouted seeds claim that the sprouting activates nutrients, making them easier for the body to absorb. That’s why you’ll find them on the shelves of most healthfood stores. After hearing that they could have similar benefits for livestock, a field lab was set up to test the claims.
At Duchy College in Cornwall, groups of hens were fed their usual ration for six weeks and then a mixture of 50% sprouted barley and 50% layers pellets for a second six week period. The birds were fed the same weight of food over the whole trial, but the water content of the sprouts meant there was a big difference in dry matter intake. When on the diet of sprouted seeds, the hens were receiving 25% less dry matter, without affecting their weight or production. In fact, egg production was actually higher when the hens were fed on sprouted seeds, although this is more likely due to the birds’ age than their diet. More trials are needed, but it seems the hens were using the food more efficiently, to perform at the same level but with less input.
They seem to go down well with the chickens too! Thanks to Lee Parish for the film.
The challenge now is to establish whether these results can be repeated at scale. If so, and with cost-efficient growing systems, the benefits could be huge. Feeding sprouts could reduce the total land required for livestock feed, whilst producing high quality feed on-farm could protect your farms resilience and boost your bottom line.