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Cereal Straws and Stovers for Sustainable Livestock Futures: When Crop Biomass Becomes Livestock Gold

By Susan Macmillan
ILRI scientist Michael Blümmel (photo by ILRI/Stevie Mann) and beef cattle in Indonesia consuming straw
Michael Blümmel, deputy program leader for the Feed and Forage Development program at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), is lead author on a new paper that explores the big benefits of treating cereal straws and stovers—the ‘residues’ of cereal crops after their grain has been harvested—to release their sugars, thereby turning these crop residues into nourishing feed for ruminant farm animals—cows, water buffaloes, goats and sheep.
The dry stalks of cereal plants after their grain and chaff have been removed—called ‘straw’ from fine grain crops such as rice, wheat and teff and ‘stover’ from coarse grain plants such as maize, millet and sorghum—have been used to feed farm animals, to improve soils and to burn as household fuel since ancient times.
Evidence from ILRI and its partner organizations shows that these straw and stover by-products of crop production will play an increasingly large role in building sustainable livestock futures across the developing world.
With straw and stover here to stay and demand for meat and milk rising fast in developing countries, cereal crops are being redesigned to make their residues more nourishing for cattle, goats, sheep and other food-producing ruminants.
The following excerpts (excluding references) are taken from the new paper.
‘Ten cereal straws and stovers from India were treated using the ammonia fiber expansion (AFEX) technique to explore the effectiveness of the AFEX technique for releasing sugars from structural carbohydrates and for the upgrading of cereal crop residues as livestock feed.
Recovery of glucose and xylose in AFEX treated material was about three times the recovery in untreated material.
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