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Dairy Farming Manual

Volume 3

Husbandry Unit 5.5

page 175

Extension Materials
What should you know about treated straw ?
Why should you treat straw? (5-13)

1 Treated straw has a higher feed value than untreated straw.
It is easy to make.

Is it expensive to treat straw? (14-17)

2 Making treated straw is not expensive and you save money on concentrates.

How can you treat straw? (18-49 )

3 You should know how to:
- make a stack or
- fill a chamber with straw, water and urea and
- seal it with a plastic sheet.

How can you feed treated straw? (50-66)

4 You should know:
- how and when to take treated straw from the stack
- how to supplement treated straw with concentrates and minerals.

page 177

Why should you treat straw?
5 After paddy harvest and threshing, you have a lot of straw.
Should you burn it in the field?
6 No! You can use as a maintenance feed for cattle

but the:
- content
- dry matter digestibility
- balance
of untreated straw are poor.

7 Treat straw with urea.
Treated straw has a higher feed value.
You make better use of your straw.
Is it difficult to produce treated straw?
8 You can treat straw under all farming conditions and on all sizes of farms

page 178

9 and under all weather conditions.

10 On a small farm you can make a large amount of feed at one time.
A few hours work for you and your family


11 makes enough feed for 3 animals for 1 month.

Why not feed urea to your animals?
12 Urea can be toxic if you use it directly as a supplement for roughages.
13 When you treat straw with urea and feed it to your animal, it is fairly safe.

After a few days, animals like to eat treated straw.

page 179

Is it expensive to treat straw?

14 10 kg of urea-treated straw costs the same as 80 kg of untreated straw.


15 Treated straw:
- has a higher feed value
- makes a cheaper maintenance ration.
Your animal eats more straw.
16 For young stock, treated straw supports weight gain and growth better than untreated straw.
17 For the same ration, if you use treated straw you can use less concentrates for maintenance and the lower levels of milk production.
If you use untreated straw you must use more concentrates.
Using treated straw saves you money.

page 180

How can you treat straw?

18 You can use a temporary site or a permanent structure for straw treatment.
If you use a temporary site follow these steps:
- lay down a plastic sheet
- spread straw on the sheet and sprinkle with urea mixture
- repeat the step in 19 a number of times
- seal the stack with a plastic sheet.

page 181

22 If you regularly use treated straw, make 2 chambers and:
Week 1:
Fill chamber A by adding a layer of straw and sprinkling with urea (see 19).
23 Week 2:

Start filling chamber B with straw and treating in the same way as for chamber A.

24 Week 4:

Start feeding from chamber A at the beginning of Week 4.

25 Week 7:
When chamber A is empty, start feeding from chamber B.
 26 While feeding from chamber B, start filling and treating chamber A again and repeat the process.
Try to leave your straw for 3 weeks in either chamber before feeding.  Therefore, each chamber should hold 3 weeks feed.

page 182

How big should your stack be?
27 Make enough treated straw for 3-4 weeks of feeding.

You need more treated straw if you have more animals.
If your feeding period is longer than 3-4 weeks, make two or more medium-sized stacks rather than one large stack.


28 How can you calculate the amounts of straw and labour?

page 183

29 Cover with airtight plastic cover.

Buy rolls of plastic and cut in lengths longer and wider than the stack.
Then you can "envelope" the stack after treatment.


30 How many metres of plastic sheet do you need?

page 184

Straw treatment in detail
Step 1
31 Choose a site with even ground.

This could be the threshing place or a place close to the cow shed.

32 Overlap the sheets on the ground.

This makes a seal against the floor surface.

33 Seal the overlapping sheets together.

Simply walk along the places where the sheets overlap.

Step 2
34 Lift the edges of the plastic sheet and place loose straw underneath.

This keeps the water/urea mixture in the stack.

Step 3
35 Spread a layer of straw over the plastic bottom 10-20 cm high.

50 kg of straw is easy to handle at one time.

Use large baskets to measure and transport the straw.

page 185

Step 4
36 Sprinkle 40 kg of water over the layer of straw.

Mix the other 10 kg of water with 3 kg of urea and stir well.

Sprinkle this mixture over the same layer of straw.

37 How much water and urea do you need for treating different amounts of straw?

page 186

Step 3 and Step 4 repeated
38 Add a new layer of 50 kg of straw (Step 3).

Treat in the same way with water and urea (Step 4).

39 Repeat these steps until you have enough straw to feed your milking animals for 3-4 weeks.
40 As you add more layers, gradually narrow the stack.
Step 5
41 Carefully seal the stack with a plastic top sheet and a plastic ground sheet.
42 Cover the top and the sides with plastic sheets.

Fold these sheets at the bottom and push them under the ground sheet.

page 187

Here are the main steps again:
43 Stack begun

First layer of straw

Plastic ground sheet (rolled)

Straw packed to form wall

Plastic ground sheet (flat)

44 Stack completed

Edge of ground sheet showing.

45 Stack sealed

Top sheet folded and pushed under ground sheet.

page 188

And some more important points:
46 Seals must be airtight.

Keep the ammonia in the stack.

If the plastic jacket is damaged, for example by your chickens, ammonia will escape.


47 How much straw should you treat at one time?

If you keep treated straw for a long time in a big stack, it loses feed value, a medium-sized stack is better.

page 189

How can you use treated straw for feeding?
48 Three weeks after treatment remove straw from the small end of the stack.
49  Lift the protective layers of gunny bags and straw and the plastic jacket.
Remove the daily ration of straw.
50  Remove the straw for the morning and evening feeding the night before and leave it overnight in the open air until feeding time.

This takes away the strong smell of ammonia.

51 Carefully close the stack.
52 Treated straw for feeding should have a mild smell of ammonia.

page 190

53 If you still have some grass to feed.
54 ... you can give 3 kg of treated straw for each morning and evening feeding (= 6 kg/cow/day).
55 In the dry season, the amount of grass in the ration decreases
56 .... you must give more treated straw:

8, 10 or even 12 kg per cow per day.

page 191

57 Supplement your rations of grass and treated straw with concentrates.

Your extension worker can advise you on quantities.

58 Do not feed more concentrates than necessary.

Your cow cannot digest the straw properly.

59 Keep concentrates to 25% or less of the total ration.

page 192

60 For example, the ration of maintenance + 8 kg milk yield should include about:
- 22% concentrates (about 4 kg/day)
- 48% treated straw (about 9 kg/day)
- 30% grass (about 6 kg/day)
61 If your rations contain a lot of rice straw, you must supplement with minerals:
- calcium
- phosphorus
- micro-elements.
Ask your extension worker for mineral blocks.

page 193

What do you know about treated straw?
Reasons for treating straw
1 Make good use of left-over straw 
2 Straw treated with urea has higher feed value 
3 Treated straw is easy to make and requires little labour 
4 Feeding urea alone can be toxic 
Cost of feeding treated straw
You save money because:
1 Your animals grow better 
2 You use less concentrates 
Chamber method 
Materials as for Stack method with two chambers
Method of treating straw
Stack method 
(3, 18-21)
1 Materials:
- plastic sheet
- straw
- urea
- watering can and water
2 Calculating:
- straw 
- labour 
- plastic sheet 
- water/urea 
3 Operations:
- laying sheet 
- alternate straw and urea mixture 
- sealing 
- leaving for 3 weeks
Feeding treated straw
1 Preparation:
- removal from stack 
- resealing 
- timing 
2 Feeding:
- with grass 
- with concentrates 
- with minerals 

page 195

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