Roughages

Hay is cut, field-dried, and generally baled into rectangular or round bales that weigh 25 to 300 kg each. The moisture content of baled material must be below 14% for proper storage. Hay can also be field chopped and hauled to storage structures or chopped and pressed into cubes (approximately 3 cm3) either in the field or at hay storage sites. Dehydrated alfalfa is cut fresh, sometimes partially dried in the field, chopped, hauled to dehydrating facilities, and pelleted (0.6-1.3 cm). Forages can be cut and chopped in the field, hauled, and fed fresh to livestock (green chop). Forages and other plant materials can be chopped and ensiled in oxygen-limiting structures and fed as silage.

Roughages can also be treated with various chemicals to enhance their digestibility. Treatment with alkali (NaOH) has been practiced for a long time, especially in northern Europe. Use of anhydrous ammonia for enhancing the digestibility of straws and silage is a more recent practice. The use of alkaline peroxide appears especially promising for high-fiber roughages (40). Pressure treatment of acidified roughage material also enhances digestibility but is generally not cost effective. Treatment with ozone also increases the digestibility of roughages (41).

Roughages that are finely chopped (screen size less than 1.3 cm) and/or pelleted are generally consumed in greater amounts by ruminants and have a faster passage rate through the rumen, resulting in a lower digestibility of the fiber fraction. Because of greater intake, however, greater animal productivity generally occurs. Lactating dairy cows fed large amounts of concentrate feed should also be fed a minimum quantity of unchopped roughage (3 kg) to prevent abnormally low milkfat due to insufficient acetic acid production by rumen microorganisms.

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