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Bale grazing waste trial

 
  From the October 29, 2018 issue of Agri-News
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 How much waste can be created when overwintered cattle are bale grazing? Alyssa Krone, association manager and forage-livestock specialist with the Lakeland Agricultural Research Association (LARA), explains the findings from LARA’s bale grazing estimation trial.

For the trial, wastage was measured on the same farm in Bonnyville using the same cow herd over four years - 2008 to 2011. “Each fall, tarps were placed in the field, bales were weighed and placed in the centre of the tarps,” explains Krone. “The cattle grazed the bales during the winter, usually January and February.”

After the spring melt, residue was collected from the tarps and weighed, and the large piles of manure were removed before its collection. Samples were taken back to the lab where they were dried and sorted to estimate hay versus manure in the residue.

Krone adds that the cattle had a limited access grazing system where they were turned out to the bales every morning around 9 a.m. and then chased back out around 4 p.m. “On really cold days, the cattle were left in the bales overnight until the weather changed. This limited access system could have impacted the amount of waste produced.”

The trial used fescue-alfalfa bales. Plastic baler twine was used for two winters and was left on the bales and picked in the spring. “This was very labour intensive,” notes Krone. “For the last two years of the trial, the twine was cut off at the time of bale placement.”

Impact of weather
“As expected, the winters with the highest snowfall (2008-09) had the highest amount of waste,” says Krone.

Winter weather as reported at the Cold Lake weather station (Environment Canada)

Estimated waste
Krone found that the four year average wastage for end-placed bales was just under 16 percent. “The amount of waste seems reasonable when compared to previous research indicating 19 per cent waste for bales processed on snow and 12 per cent waste for bales unrolled on snow in the Beef Cow-Calf manual. There appeared to be a reduction in waste when bales were placed on their sides rather than on end. While this was the general trend, the winter of 2011 did show statistically significantly less waste from side-placed bales than end-placed bales – seven per cent compared to 16 per cent.”

Krone notes that feed samples showed that the quality of the wasted feed was lower than the initial feed. “This could indicate that it was lower quality feed being wasted, although weathering could have also contributed to quality loss.”

Bale grazing wastage data

*low number of data points were excluded from averages

Once the samples were brought back to the lab, they were weighed, dried, re-weighed, and then sorted into residual hay and manure. Says Krone, “The average amount of manure in the residue samples was about 20 per cent, meaning that about 20 per cent of what looked like wasted feed in the field was actually manure.”

For more information about LARA’s bale grazing wastage estimation trial, contact Alyssa Krone at 780-826-7260.

Contact:
Alyssa Krone
780-826-7260

 
 
 
 
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For more information about the content of this document, contact Christine Chomiak.
This information published to the web on October 23, 2018.