Previous Page Table of Contents Next Page



  1. The role of bovine livestock in Indian agriculture is to produce farm power and some milk from crop residues. Meat and skins are by-products. Because of a high human population density and the present export policy, very little cultivated land (only 7% of the total) is used to produce forage crops. Supplies of extraction and milling offals are limited in relation to the number of bovine animals that must be kept to provide farm power and a ‘family cow’ to numerous small farmers. Some 20 million tonnes of offals are produced annually, of which 1–2 million tonnes is exported. Two to three million tonnes of cereal grains are fed as well as increasing amounts of non-traditional feedstuffs like sal seed meal, mango kernal meal, rubber seed cake, and spent tapioca pulp. The per-animal availability of concentrate feeds is thus of the order of 0.2 kg/day. A few years ago the Institute of Agricultural Research Statistics conducted a painstaking sample survey of feeding practices in various parts of the country (Amble et al., 1965). The amounts of feeds given by farmers to their animals were periodically weighed. The results are given in table 28.

  2. Improvements in the productivity of livestock obviously cannot be thought of in terms of higher inputs of high quality feeds forage and concentrates -- unless agriculture is mechanised, food and cash crop yields increase rapidly so that land is released for forage or feed grain production, or exports of sugar and oilcakes are stopped. Since none of these developments is likely, ways of increasing livestock productivity that do not require greater supplies of high-quality feeds will have to be employed. The treatment of straw and its supplementation with urea and minerals are the most promising ways of doing this.

  3. The first work on straw treatment in India was done in the 1940s, using the Beckmann method (Sen, et al., 1942). As with similar trials conducted at the same time in Europe, they found large increases in the digestibility of straw. Field testing of straw treatment was done by Kehar (1954) (paragraph 88). More recently work on the dry-treatment of straw has been taken up at several institutions under the All-India coordinated research project on the use of crop residues and industrial by-products as livestock feed. The spray treatment of straws has been found an economical method of improving animal productivity and demonstrations on farmers' animals have been started by the G.B. Pant University. The demonstrations are done on buffalo heifers. The treatment of other crop residues, i.e. sugarcane trash, is being tried as well.

  4. Urea supplementation is vital if improved animal productivity is expected from straw treatment. Unfortunately no research has yet been done to determine the responses to urea under village feeding conditions. Much research has been done on urea feeding in India, but almost all of it on the inclusion of urea in concentrate mixtures.

    It is for this reason that the testing of urea has been included in the proposed field testing and demonstration programme (part VI).

  5. Much progress has been made in India in the past two decades in the development of milk marketing through co-operative societies. The AMUL project in Gujarat is now being duplicated in many parts of the country. Such co-operative marketing societies have also created a channel for the introduction of improved animal husbandry practices, since inputs can be provided on credit against future sales of milk. Therefore, once straw treatment has been tested (in the way suggested in part VI), there should be no difficulty in its adoption by farmers in these numerous co-operative marketing ventures.

    Table 28. Availability of bovine livestock feeds in India

      Amount of feed consumed, kg/animal/day/*
    Class of animalType of bovineDry roughageGreen forageConcentrates
    In milkCow3.54.40.3
    Adult maleCow5.75.00.3
    Young stockCow1.51.6XX

    * Excludes grazing, which for most of the yearsupplies negligible quantities of grass
    XX Negligible amounts.

    Source: Amble et al., 1965


  1. Malaysian agriculture is dominated by the production of plantation crops--oil palm and rubber. These crops have traditionally been large-scale plantation crops, but are now also being taken up on newly cleared land by small family farmers. The only cereal grown is rice. Large amounts of animal products are imported.

  2. The livestock development strategy formulated 20 years ago was to concentrate on increasing the production of pig and poultry meat and eggs. Very great success has been achieved. The production of pig and poultry meat has more than doubled and egg production has increased several fold. The country is self sufficient in these commodities. The combined production of pig and poultry meat in 1972 was about 120,000 tonnes. Egg production was 1640 m. Indigenously produced feed supplies suitable for poultry and pig feeding amount to about 250,000 tonnes per year and another 250,000 is imported. Imports of feedstuffs, always substantial, increased somewhat over the last 20 years. The utilisation of existing indigenous feedstuffs must have improved greatly.

  3. The second phase of the livestock development strategy began in the early 70s and aimed at ruminant development, particularly cattle. Cattle and buffaloes play an insignificant role in the national economy at present and number only about 0.5 m. Cattle are kept mainly for beef and buffaloes for draft. This number of animals is inadequate to utilise all the grass and coarse crop residues available, and the import of sizable numbers of animals is in progress. Several very successful dairy projects have been started in areas of plantation crops among plantation workers and small farmers. Supplies of concentrate feeds may well limit the extent that ruminant meat and milk production can be increased as it appears that poultry and pigs have pre-empted the indigenous supply of quality concentrate ingredients.

  4. Similar projects have yet to be started in rice growing areas where at present much straw is wasted. Swamp buffaloes are already maintained in these areas as draft animals. There appears to be scope for the development of beef production among farmers to utilise both buffalo stock and straw more completely. A practical feeding system has to be evolved and tested. Such work is already underway at the Malaysian Agricultural Research and Development Institute. The alkali treatment of rice straw could be a useful feature of any such system, especially if concentrate feeds become limiting as ruminant numbers increase.


  1. The cultivated land in Egypt, almost entirely in the Nile valley and delta, amounts to about 3 m ha or 3% of the total land area of the country. It is intensely cultivated. The main crops in the winter are berseem and wheat and in the summer cotton, rice and maize. The cotton and rice are the country's main agricultural exports. Half the berseem is a full-term crop (5–6 months) and half a green-manure crop (2–3 months) preceeding cotton. During the winter berseem forage is plentiful and is estimated to supply 95% of the feed requirements of the present livestock population. During the summer no forage is grown and the staple feed is wheat straw. As a result livestock productivity fluctuates widely during the year.

  2. About 1.5 million tonnes each of wheat and rice straw are produced annually. Wheat straw is fed almost entirely to livestock. Rice straw is not commonly fed and much of it is burnt in the field to dispose of it. Maize stover and cotton stalks together amount to about 4 m tonnes are also not fed to livestock, but burnt as a domestic fuel. The reason why rice straw, maize stover and cotton stalks are not used as feed is apparently that berseem is so plentiful during the winter as to met the animals feed requirements. Their storage and use during the following summer is presumably not feasible without an increase in livestock numbers, and an increase in numbers is not possible with the limited amounts of concentrates available. Concentrate supplies total about 1 m tonnes and consist of cottonseed cake, rice and wheat brans and maize grain (some of which is imported). The present livestock population is about 2 m cattle and 2 m buffaloes and 3 m sheep and goats.

  3. It would appear desirable to utilise all the straws, stovers and stalks available for livestock feed as is done in most other countries of the Near East and Southern Asia. If this could be done additional animal production could be obtained through increased animal numbers and domestic fuel needs could be met by dried dung, or still better, by biogas produced from the dung. Urea feeding with straw during the summer suggests itself as a way to stretch limited supplies of oil cakes over greater amounts of straw. The preservation of berseem during the winter is a solution which has been suggested. Rice straw could make up the loss in feed supply by preserving some of the berseem. In this way berseem could play a more effective role in utilising available straw. Recently a FAO mission to Egypt on dairy development (FAO, 1977) has recommended a modification in the current cropping plan to ensure a more uniform supply of green forage throughout the year. In this plan some area of rice would be shifted to summer forage crops or perennial forage grasses. The shortfall in rice production would be made up by an increase in wheat acreage at the expense of berseem during the winter. Total food grain production would be unaffected, though export earnings would be reduced. This plan also would make it possible to use more straw than at present, especially if urea were also used on the straw-forage mixture fed in the summer.

  4. In whatever way straw is used as a feed, alkali treatment of it would be advantageous. The economics of treatment cannot be other than favourable. The method(s) and scale (individual farm or community) of treatment to be adopted will have to be decided upon in relation to local conditions.

  5. Egyptian scientists have long been interested in the alkalitreatment of straws and have tried the Beckmann method with most of their straws. The Animal Nutrition workers at the University of Alexandria are engaged at present on a programme of research on some of the newer methods of treatment.

Great Britain

  1. The dry summer of 1976 in Europe created a widespread appreciation of the potential value of straw as a livestock feed. Traditionally straw has been fed in only a few areas; eg., where fodder beet is important as a livestock feed. Straw has sometimes been used as a ‘filler’ or ‘conditioner’ in concentrate diets for beef over the past decade or so, but was scarcely thought of as a feed. Research workers had been experimenting with new dry methods of treatment for 10 years when the drought came and had already visualised the need to consider straw an important feedstuff in the long term. Dry straw treatment technology, if not completely developed, was thus available and was eagerly taken up by feed manufacturers and farmers. The past year has been normal and the volume of straw treated has declined somewhat, but interest in it has not.

  2. The development of public opinion against the pollution and waste of energy resulting from straw burning also contributed to an appreciation of the potential value of straw as a staple livestock feed. In 1974 the Agricultural Development and Advisory Service organised at Oxford the first of a series of straw utilisation conferences. It is estimated that in Oxfordshire straw from only half the wheat and barley acreage is baled and carted in. Most of the remaining straw was burnt; a little was lost to bad weather. Oxfordshire is an area of specialised cereal growing farms, common over much of South-east England. Since the last war livestock have disappeared from these farms. Such areas are now common in every country of Europe. The economic problems of using this straw as a livestock feed have already been discussed in this report (paragraphs 100–106). The objective of the Oxford straw conferences (three have been held; December, 1974, January 1976 and February, 1977) was to examine all possibilities for using straw and the many problems in doing so. Topics discussed were the use of straw as a livestock feed, fuel, and raw material for paper, fibre board and chemicals manufacture, and the problems of handling and transport. Basic statistics on present patterns of straw production, quality and use were collected and presented. The positive aspects of straw burning in the field have also been considered. The report of these conferences (MAFF, 1975, 1976 and 1977) are valuable documents for anyone interested in straw utilisation.

  3. During the past 3 years some 10 straw treatment plants have been built in Britain, 7 of them by one firm alone -- Uninutrition, a subsidiary of BOCM Silcock, who have pioneered the industrial processing of straw for livestock feed in Britain. These plants each process about 20,000 tonnes of straw per year, producing an alkali-treated straw in pelleted form. Many farmers are trying alkali treatment on a trial basis, some of them improvising on their own. Straw treatment is an important topic for discussion at farmers meetings all over the country.

  4. With respect to farm-scale treatment, farmers and research workers are primarily interested in the NaOH spray treatment and in finding ways of applying the NaOH and handling the straw with machinery they already have on the farm such as forage harvesters and mixer wagons. The ensiling of treated straw is being tried. Through trial and error suitable systems will be evolved. At the research institutes research on straw baling, feeding trials with treated straw and basic studies of straw chemistry are in progress.


  1. The average farm in Denmark is small and is a mixed farm producing cereals, beets (for sugar and fodder) and grass. Only in the past few decades have specialized cereal-growing farms emerged and there are concentrated in the eastern islands. About 10% of the cropped area is in grass, which is well-managed and most of the crop is carefully conserved for winter feeding. In addition to grass, livestock are fed on fodder beets and straw. The latter two are considered complementary feeds because of the low dry-matter and fibre content in beets and the abundance of these in straw. Thus a large amount of straw is traditionally fed to livestock--1/2 to 2/3 of the total straw produced. Nevertheless, 1/4 to 1/3 of the straw produced in the country at present is burnt, most of it on the specialised cereal farms on the eastern islands. Large amounts of oilcakes are imported for feeding livestock, but only limited amounts of cereals. Levels of animal productivity are high.

  2. In the industrial sector, Denmark has specialised in the manufacture of farm machinery. Danish hay and silage-making equipment and grass-drying plants are sold all over the world. The possibilities of manufacturing straw processing plants and farm machinery were visualised almost as soon as the first research reports on the dry treatment of straw appeared. Rapid developments occured as a result of collaboration between machinery manufacturers and the Biotechnical Institute at Kolding, and today Danish firms are manufacturing complete straw-processing factories and straw treatment machines for farm-scale treatment and selling them all over the world. The designs of these machines/factories have been tested, and in some cases actually developed, by the Biotechnical Institute. This testing has been in terms of both mechanical efficiency and on efficiency of treatment. Animal feeding trials with straw processed by these machines have been carried out at the National Animal Research Institute at Copenhagen. Two firms, Taarup at Kerteminde and J.F. Fabriken at Sφnderborg, manufacture mobile farm machines for treating straw. These are described in paragraph 70. The firm of Schmidt and Sons of Kolding manufacture a straw processing plant with a capacity of 4–6 tonnes of straw treatment per hour. This firm has already supplied or has orders for several dozen plants from several countries, mainly Poland and Hungary and has supplied equipment to many grass-drying plants in Denmark. The reason why so many plants have been sold in Eastern Europe and not in Denmark itself has to do with law rather than economics as is explained in the following paragraph. In Poland, these plants have been set up on collective farms where there is enough straw on one farm to supply it. Complete pelleted livestock diets based on treated straw are being produced and fed to stock on the same farm.

  3. There appears to be a large potential for the treatment of straw in Denmark. This is partly because straw is traditionally fed to stock and partly because with limited farm size, farm income can be increased by increasing the number of livestock carried. Farm-level treatment with the Danish straw treatment machines is expected to increase substantially. Much of this farm treatment may be organized through farm co-operatives, since the capital investment is rather large for the individual farmers alone. Factoryscale processing has been taken up by about 15 grass-drying plants. Such plants are otherwise idle during the winter and so straw processing helps reduce overhead costs and allows them to hire permanent labour. These plants have only to add a tub grinder and a straw treater with band weigher in order to process straw. From the tub grinder the straw goes through the drier (with the furnace turned on if the straw is too wet), then through the hammer mill (without a screen if fine milling is not desired). The treater is interposed between the hammer mill and the pellet mill. The straw pellets are used almost entirely in making complete diets for dairy and beef animals, in some cases in the same grass drying plant, at levels of 25–40%. Making these diets is a distinct operation in which the straw pellets are hammer-milled before being mixed with other ingredients, the mixture then being itself pelleted. This two-stage process in expensive, but required by law because the treated straw must pass a quality test (enzyme digestibility) which aims at ensuring that it has been effectively treated, and this test can only be applied to the straw before it is mixed with other ingredients and not after. It is for this reason that straw treatment plants of the type being manufactured in Denmark have not yet been set up in the country i.e., because they make complete diets in a one-step process. A quality test which can be used on mixed feeds containing treated straw is being sought. If a satisfactory method can be developed, the way would be clear for an expansion of straw processing.


  1. Only 3% of the land area of Norway is cultivated and the country is only 40% self-sufficient in food. However, almost complete self-sufficiency has been achieved in animal products, although considerable amounts of oilcakes and cereals are imported for feeding to livestock. Milk is produced by some 400,000 dairy cows which produce an average of 5000 l of milk per lactation. The contributions of various feedstuffs to the ruminant diet in terms of energy at present are;

    Grazed grass25%
    Conserved grass33%
  2. Most of the cultivated land is in the Southeast. The western fjord area, the South-central mountains and the far North are livestock producing areas. There are relatively few animals in the Southeast where specialised cereal crop farming is practiced. Some straw is surplus to needs in this area and is burnt.

  3. The annual production of straw is about 750,000 tonnes. In the mid-60s about 90,000 tonnes was treated by the Beckmann method in farm and co-operative plants. This represented about 4% of the energy supply of ruminants. Straw treatment was introduced as an emergency measure during the second world war, but became popular and continued after the war. The development of straw treatment in Norway after the war is described by Homb et al. (1977) and by Homb (1956). Initially treatment was all done on individual farms, but on many farms a lack of sufficient water made treatment impossible. Co-operative straw-treatment plants were then set up near lakes and rivers and the process was mechanised. Some 70 co-operative treatment plants were built. In 1969, 10,600 farmers were using treated straw. In the 1970s the Government passed anti-pollution laws which has forced about half the co-operative plants and most of the farm plants to close. The amount of treated straw has fallen to half what it was a decade ago. There has been some recovery over the last 3 years in the amount of straw-treated with the introduction of the on-farm ammonia treatment process. In 1977, 15,000–20,000 tonnes were treated with ammonia.

  4. The operation of the co-operative straw treatment plants is of interest. The members all live within 20 km of the plant. Dry straw bales are picked up from each farm by the co-operative truck once every week or two and at the same time treated bales are delivered. The treated straw has a good keeping quality, especially during the winter, because it does not contain any soluble sugars. All farmers make approximately the same type of low-density bales (55 kg/m3) and each gets back from the factory bales similar to the ones he sent in. The lorry carries 48 bales which are tied up in bundles of 16 with iron chains at the time of loading. At the plant each bundle is lifted from the truck and placed in the treatment tank by a travelling chain hoist. It is again lifted out after treatment and washing and placed on the lorry. The plant does not need to be manned continuously--only a few valves are to be turned at various times--and two men operate the plant as well as pick up and deliver the straw. The plants treat 8–10 tonnes of straw per day.

  5. Farmers in Norway have made a considerable investment in the Beckmann-treatment process. Moreover, they are throughly familiar with its use. Understandably therefore a major part of the research effort in Norway has been concentrated on modifying the Beckmann method. The Torgrimsby closed system appears most promising and when the work in hand is completed in about a year's time it should be possible to assess its worth in relation to the Beckmann method and the on-farm dry treatment methods. An experiment is currently underway to compare straw treated by these several methods--probably the only such comparison being done anywhere. If the Torgrimsby method is found to produce treated straw of as high a quality as the Beckmann method, farmers can modify their existing farm and cooperative plant installations (by adding 2 auxillary tanks) at a comparatively small cost and start them up again. The feasibility of this method for on-farm treatment elsewhere in Europe will have to be studied. This method might find widespread application on small farms in Asia and the consultant has included it in the coordinated project he is recommending (part VI). Norwegian scientists have also devoted considerable attention to the development of the ammoniation of straw in plastic-covered stacks on the farm. They have, along with Canadian workers, published a detailed report on this method and have included instructions for farmers (Sundstøl et al., 1977a). In Norway this method is being taken up rapidly by farmers and in 1977 15,000–20,000 tonnes were treated. The rapid spread of this method is likely because anhydrous ammonia is already available to farmers from many dealers for use as a fertiliser.

The Netherlands

  1. Grass is the most important crop in the Netherlands. Cereals are produced on only about 200,000 ha at present and the area has decreased from 500,000 ha 20 years ago. Oats and rye have been replaced by maize for silage. In all about 1 m tonnes of straw is produced annually at present. None of it is fed to animals; it is all used for bedding livestock, for mulching flowers and vegetables and to grow mashrooms on. The whole of the Netherlands is, in its concentration on dairy production, like the specialised dairy regions within some other European countries. The Netherlands might be a market some day for treated straw from neighbouring countries like West Germany, Denmark and France.


  1. About 30 m tonnes of small-grain cereal straw is produced every year in France. Another 10 m tonnes of maize stover is also produced. The maize stover is mostly chopped in the field and ploughed down. Of the small grain straw, about 20% is ploughed down and 15% burned. About 70% is harvested and used for bedding for animals as a feed and in small amounts for various industrial uses. A little is exported. As in most other countries of Europe straw burning is concentrated in areas of specialised grain farming. In France this is the area around Paris. The problems of straw utilisation, particularly the utilisation of untreated straw as a livestock feed, have been discussed in some detail by Gatel (1975) and by Gaudier (1977). The main problem is of high transport costs which limits its use by livestock farmers situated at a distance from grain-producing areas.

  2. Research on straw utilisation has so far been confined mainly to a systematic study of the factors affecting the digestibility of straws conducted in the Laboratoire de Aliments, Centre de Recherches Zootechniques et Veterinaires, Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique (INRA), Theix. The results of their studies have greatly furthered our understanding of straw utilisation; eg., the influence of diet composition on straw digestibility.

Previous Page Top of Page Next Page