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close this bookBetter Farming Series 43 - Feeding Animals on Straw (FAO, 1995, 30 p.)
close this folderExcess feeding
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View the documentProblems of excess feeding

Problems of excess feeding

44. It is well known that cereal straw and stalks are difficult to digest and are of low nutritional value. They are therefore considered a poor feed for ruminants.


Leaves are better than stems

45. The various parts of straw differ widely in nutritional value and palatability. In general, the leaves have a higher digestibility than the stems. They are more nutritious and more palatable.

46. This is true for wheat, barley, oats, maize, sorghum and millet. However, rice is an exception: its leaves and stems have the same digestibility but its leaves are more palatable than its stems.
Permit the animals to select and refuse

47. Straw is normally fed according to the animals' appetite. This means allowing for leftovers of one- tenth to one- fifth of the straw fed.

48. However, to maximize selection, animals should be allowed to refuse half of what they are fed. This way of feeding is correct and it is already practiced by many farmers.

49. When animals - particularly goats and sheep- are left to graze, they select the more nourishing parts of the plants. They do the same with straw if they are fed in excess. They then eat the leaves because they are more digestible and palatable and they can eat more of them.

50. If the animals have access to enough straw and stalks to be able to select the best parts, they will gain more weight or produce more milk or wool.

Selection is good for small ruminants - but not always for large ruminants

51. For small ruminants, excess feeding works with any type of straw or stalk, but cattle and buffaloes cannot select from straw of small cereals like barley, wheat and rice. To select, cattle and buffaloes need coarser feed such as maize or sorghum stalks or sugar cane tops. The leaves of these feeds are big enough for them to select, even though they have big mouths.

52. In all cases, it is important that the straw and stalks are fed whole and not chopped.

What can the leftovers be used for?

53. When animals are fed excessive quantities, they leave more uneaten. These leftovers must not be wasted. They can be treated with urea and fed to cattle.

Excess feeding and treatment combined

54. Using both the method of excess feeding and the method of residue treatment can be expected to be more effective than using just one or the other.