Crude Protein in grass sprouts

Asked July 7, 2013, 12:31 AM EDT

Due to the drought in NM the price of local grass and legume hay is rising rapidly and the imported stuff is really high because of transportation costs. In an effort to combat this I have been investigating hydroponic fodder for our 3 horses. Two of them have laminitis problems. Which calls for low crude protein feeds, i.e. 10% or less.

As a grass hay orchard, timothy, bermuda and tall fescue are close at a max of 11% or less. So far I have not found any information on other grasses with regard to the protein. However, every thing that I am coming across on the net says that when these grains are sprouted the crude protein essentially doubles.

Are there any other forage plants that would not double upon sprouting or have a low enough percentage that if it did it would not matter?

Another idea. Grow the grass out to the 8 day mark (which is when most people seem to be harvesting their barely, wheat, and oats) either cut the grass stem off the root mass and put the stem in a solar oven to dry it for 2 or 3 days and then feed that with a fresh root mass or just put the whole thing in the oven for 2 or 3 days. Would the drying process bring the protein down to acceptable levels?

Thanks for your help. Robert Bruce

Hopefully I can replace the hay 100% with the fodder.

Sandoval County New Mexico

1 Response

Unfortunately, all forages are high in protein and energy when they are in the rapid growth phase - sprouting to just before flowering. The highest protein and energy are at the stage when you can almost see the plant grow. The more mature the plant, the lower the protein and energy content. Once the plant goes to seed, the seeds contain a lot of energy (and protein content dependent on the forage). The roughage left has little energy and protein left (straw).

Drying the plant does not change the protein content of the plant, just removes the water. When nutritional content of a plant is measured, it will be reported "as fed" (water content included) and as "dry Matter - DM" (water removed). For more information on these concepts, please visit which is the lab that I routinely use to analyze feed samples.

Please let me know if you have additional questions.