With the cost of straw rising and availability on the decline, the conditions are right to rethink the impact and reconsider the value of straw in dairy cattle nutrition and rations.
Producers work hard to grow and harvest the best quality forages. Many are then told by their nutritionists that the feed is too good, that there is a need to slow things down. They are then told to add in subpar additives, like a pound or two of straw or poor dry hay. These things take up space from something that can be used; thus, decreasing energy as they cannot be fermented.
There are misconceptions about the need for straw, poor dry hay, and particle length in rations. Research may have shown a production increase with this method only because the cow feels better with less to digest, less energy, thus a more stable pH as the straw took up space in the rumen. Understanding how microbiology and nutrition work together in the rumen, the pH can be stabilized in a more efficient way.
Straw is simply ADF and lignin, wood fiber taking up space in the rumen. It is indigestible, thus it lowers energy. It is an expensive pass-through ending up right back in the manure – Anything that is not digested is simply a pass-through.
The key is microbiology nutrition. Recognizing fermentable fiber is a carbohydrate, so is corn. Making forages early maturity and wetter simply increases the percent to be fermented, along with the rate of fermentation – This is energy density. If ruminal pH is maintained, this is a good way of maintaining or increasing milk production on the same or less intake. The idea of pushing intake is old thinking, and it isn’t efficient. The new is the use of microbiology. Getting rid of the wood fiber for fermentable fiber, increasing the energy density so the cow doesn’t have to eat as much to make more on less with optimum health simultaneously.