Local Researchers Working to See if Fast Feed is Good For Animals

By: Cierra Putman
NewsWest 9

ALPINE - It looks like normal fresh green grass but Mother Nature has nothing to do with it. Instead, the magic happens inside a hydroponic chamber.

"One of the things in West Texas, one of the commodities that is so important is water," Jeff Pendergraft, a Sul Ross State University Associate Professor, said. "If we have a unit like this and it proves to be successful then we have an alternative feed source that we can feed cattle, sheep, wildlife. So, the possibilities are pretty big and broad for what we can do for the local producers."

There's no soil, they just need seeds and water, and they recycle the water. Pendergraft says the chamber can be expensive, but it saves money.

"In regards to how much we're going to have to spend moving hay around, bringing it in and handling it, right now in just labor costs, it's going to help save us a bunch," Pendergraft said.

So far, there's lots of pluses to the hydroponic feed the food grows in just 6 days.

Using the hydroponic chamber, the University can grow 600 pounds of feed per day. That's enough for them to feed their entire herd and the horses seem to think it's yummy.

"They're liking it," Graduate Student Rebecca Legere, said. "They're gobbling it right up."

Now, students like Legere will see if this fast food is also healthy. If it is, that could mean good things for ranchers and farmers.

"It's hugely important to have a reliable cheap consistent source of feed for your animals," Legere said.

"Actually, we've had a couple producers already contacting us wanting preliminary information," Pendergraft said. "So there's a lot of interest already."

So, if the research pans out, there may be more fast food heading to West Texas.