The barley seed is one of nature’s marvels. Protected by a waxy bran husk the seed itself comprises elements of starch, protein and fat whose interactions are inhibited until the seed is presented with the right climatic mix.
That mix combines the elements of heat and water encouraging the plant to sprout. When the seed sprouts, enzymes within the seed breakdown the grain into simple digestible fractions. The starches in the grain convert to soluble carbohydrate, in the main consisting of simple sugars.
The protein element of the grain combines with amino acids producing soluble protein which like the simple sugars, is readily digested within an animal’s intestinal tract. A number of minerals and essential fatty acids are also found in the powerhouse that is a barley seed. These merge with the protein molecules in a way that increases their availability to an animal’s digestive system.
In summary the sprouting of the seed greatly enhances the digestibility and nutrient value of the plant above that of dry grain, whether or not the grain has been fed in its natural state or ground down and added to some other form of meal concentrate.
As the sprouting plant continues to grow, particularly between days three and six, subject to exposure to the correct part of the light spectrum, chlorophyll develops in the sprout which is an essential part of the nutritional matrix necessary to provide a balanced diet to livestock.
The sprout when reaching day five in the Fodder NZ system is at an optimal nutritional point balancing ME, crude fibre and protein in an appetising bio-available delivery system. Sprouts will continue to grow beyond five days however the longer they are left after this point the greater the trade-off becomes between an increase in dry matter (fibre, leaf height and size) and a reduction in ME. For the farmer, the decision as to when to feed out the fodder, becomes one of quantity versus quality.