|Rice Straw for Livestock-80
Project Leader and Principal UC Investigators
Don Toenjes,UC Cooperative Extension farm advisor
Since rice straw ordinarily is not worth much, baling and hauling it out of
the field has never seemed to make economic sense. Formerly, alfalfa was so
abundant that it was a cheaper source of animal nutrients, and the cellulose
energy of rice straw was chemically tied up, so rice straw just was not a
good feed. With alfalfa now selling for $100 to $130 per ton, cheaper
roughage feeds for livestock are being sought.
Don Toenjes and Fremont "Monte" Bell, Cooperative Extension farm advisors in Glenn County, with supporting research funds from local cooperators and the Rice Research Board, are trying a new technique to improve the nutritional value of rice straw. It involves using a new type of baler to make dense, round bales that weigh half a ton or more and dousing the straw with super-cold ammonia gas during baling to break the lignincellulose bonding.
Scientists have long known that treating straw or other crop residues with ammonia makes them more palatable and digestible for livestock. But this is the first time it has been tried with rice straw under field baling conditions. The experiment on the Bob and Joe Alvernaz ranch near Williams has two goals - to work out a practical way of removing rice straw from the field and to see if "round baler ammoniation" increases rice straw's feed value enough to make the process worthwhile.
So far, the researchers and their cooperators have been successful in applying anhydrous ammonia during baling. They also have developed techniques to bale straw dry, with moisture from dew, and with stem moisture - although some problems remain. The bales were hauled out of the field with a tractor-mounted forklift, and the straw is being fed to groups of beef heifers. The weight gains they make compared with gains of heifers being fed untreated straw will determine how much the ammoniating technique is worth.
The field research is following up on laboratory and feedlot tests conducted by scientists at UCD and the USDA laboratory at Albany. Those trials, partially funded by the Rice Research Board, showed that whey rice straw makes up most of the diet for cattle or sheep, treating it with ammonia significantly improves feedlot performance. It could also be useful for range cattle and sheep, particularly in drought years.
Others cooperating with the research project are Dr. William Garrett, Department of Animal Science; Dr. Howard Walker, USDA, ARS, Albany; Cooperative Extension engineer Robert Curley; and Steven Scardaci, rice farm advisor in Glenn, Colusa and Yolo counties. Major funds for the research were provided by the Rice Research Board. Other contributors were Deere and Company, United States Steel, Mansfield Associates of Yuba City, and Glenn Fertilizer Company of Willows.