Ammoniation of Feed

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Knowledge Nuggets

  • Anhydrous ammonia contains nitrogen that can be used to improve feed value of low quality forages like straw as well as act as a preservative. Most feeds that are less than five percent crude protein and less than 45 percent TDN on a dry matter basis are candidates for ammonia treatment. Treatment of medium-to high quality feeds with anhydrous ammonia results in only small changes in digestibility and intake, and may actually cause toxicity problems when fed.
  • Treatment of low quality crop residues with anhydrous ammonia improves digestibility or total digestible nutrients (TDN) and increases consumption. The positive effects of ammonia treatment on digestibility and intake of low quality forages make them a viable possibility in feeding programs.
  • The ammoniation procedure is relatively simple and easy to accomplish. The stack of forage must be totally covered and sealed with plastic to make an airtight environment for the anhydrous to be added into.
  • Remember anhydrous ammonia is dangerous. If misused it can burn skin, eyes or throat, it can explode and bum, and is maintained under pressure. Be aware of all precautions.
  • To calculate the amount of anhydrous needed, you need to know the approximate weight of the bales and the moisture content of the residue. It is important to have the moisture content of the residue to be treated greater than 10 percent, with ideal being 15 — 20 percent. When being used to improve the protein content of low quality forages, ammonia should be added at 3.0 – 3.5 per cent of the dry matter weight. When ammonia is to be applied strictly as a preservative for high moisture hay, the level can be decreased to 2 per cent of forage dry weight.
  • Anhydrous ammonia acts as a preservative, allowing producers to safely harvest forages at high moisture levels. Overheating is prevented as bacteria and mold growth are inhibited.
  • When protein requirements are high, nitrogen needed by rumen bacteria can be supplied using ammoniated forages as well as an additional source of bypass protein.
  • Three to five days before feeding ammoniated forages, open up one end of the stack and allow any ammonia remaining to escape.
  • Items that need to be considered when determining the cost of ammoniating low quality forages: cost of anhydrous ammonia, plastic, quality and cost of low quality feed produced, cost of med – high quality feed, and labor.
  • Toxicity has been reported in cattle consuming ammoniated medium to high quality roughage. Contact your veterinarian on precautions.
Fact Sheets

Ammoniating Low Quality Forages - You Tube

Ammoniation of Forages

Ammoniation of Low Quality Roughages - available in PDF format only

Ammoniation of Low-quality Roughages

Chaff: Ammoniation, Nutrition and Feeding
  For more information about the content of this document, contact Grant Lastiwka.
This document is maintained by Mary Ann Nelson.
This information published to the web on March 20, 2003.
Last Reviewed/Revised on March 14, 2018.

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