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- Over the years, many cost-conscious cow/calf producers across western Canada have recognized the potential for straw and chaff residues to help reduce the winter feeding costs. Compared to hay, straw and chaff is inexpensive and is usually available due to the harvest of annual crops.
- Chaff is made up of glumes, hulls, unthreshed heads and pods, short straw, leaf material, and whole or cracked kernels or seeds from cereal, oilseed and pulse crops. Weed seeds are also a major component of chaff.
- Chaff can be handled and collected in various ways. It can be collected and dropped on top of the straw swath, where it can then be baled, or it can be collected and blown into a chaff wagon using a chaff collector. Newer technology allows for a complete separation of grain and chaff using one machine.
- Chaff piles left in the field may be grazed or moved to a central feed pile and fed. Field feeding of chaff is inexpensive, efficient and effective. Chaff pile grazing is preferable to corral feeding because little yardage cost is incurred.
- Farmers should be aware that mats of chaff will remain at the field feeding sites. These areas may suffer from both poor germination and weed infestation the following year.
- Chaff quality varies with type of crop, stage of maturity, weed content, method of harvest, combine settings, and crop and field variability. Test chaff to determine its feed value. The feed value of chaff and straw can be improved through ammoniation or can be supplemented with a protein supplement to improve digestibility.
- Chaff and chaff/straw type roughages are only suitable for mature animals in good body condition. Depending on feed quality, these roughages are only suited to mature cows in their first or early second trimester.
- In most instances, straw has a lower energy content than grass hay and is low in digestible protein. Adequate protein levels in a straw or chaff diet are necessary to maintain rumen microbe populations needed for fiber digestion. Diets low in protein lead to lower dry matter intakes, lower fiber digestion and possible impaction.
- In general, oat straw is better feed than barley straw, which is better than wheat straw. Year old straw tends to be more palatable than freshly baled straw. Pea and lentil straw has higher levels of protein and energy than cereal straws.
- Feeding limited amounts of hay will improve any straw ration. The cheapest source of protein will likely be from alfalfa or alfalfa-grass hays.
Chaff: Ammoniation, Nutrition and Feeding
Bedding Without Straw
Crop Residue Collection for Field Grazing
Crop Residue Collection for Field Grazing and the Crop Residue Calculator - available in PDF format only
Effects of Supplementing Beef Cows Grazing Crop Residue with Dried Distiller's Grains - available in PDF format only
Grass Seed Residues for Beef Cattle Feed
Increasing Cow/Calf Profitability Using Chaff and Chaff/Straw Feedstuffs
The Use of Straw to Stretch Feed Supplies For Wintering Beef Cows
Straw, A Roughage Source for Ruminants
Tetany Problems in Beef Cows
Things I've Learned About Feeding Straw
What is Straw Worth?
Winter Tetany - Frequently Asked Questions
Effect of crop residues in haylage-based rations on the performance of pregnant beef cows - available in PDF format only
Effect of partially replacing silage with straw-barley-soybean meal mixtures in cow-calf performance - available in PDF format only
The partial replacement of silage with straw, with or without barley or soybean meal, in rations for winter calving beef cows - available in PDF format only
Frequency of concentrate supplementation for cattle fed barley straw. 1. Effect on voluntary intake, ruminal straw disappearance, apparent digestibility and heat production - available in PDF format only
Frequency of concentrate supplementation for cattle fed barley straw. 2. Ruminal dilution rates, pH and metabolite concentrations - available in PDF format only
Review: The composition and availability of straw and chaff from small grain cereals for beef cattle in western Canada - available in PDF format only
The influence of supplementation with haylage, haylage plus soybean meal or haylage plus corn dried distillers’ grains with solubles on the performance of wintering pregnant beef cows fed wheat straw - available in PDF format only