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Iowa cattle farmer converting sawdust into feed

An Iowa cattle farmer is converting sawdust from his lumber mill into feed for his cattle, creating a 70 percent sawdust ration that he says is nutritious, economical and green. While animals can barely digest untreated sawdust, which consists of more than 50 percent cellulose and roughly 30 percent lignin, instituting a process to free up the cellulose provides access to the nutrients.

An Iowa cattle farmer is converting sawdust from his lumber mill  into feed for his cattle , creating a 70 percent sawdust ration that he says is nutritious, economical and green.

While animals can barely digest untreated sawdust, which consists of more than 50 percent cellulose and roughly 30 percent lignin, instituting a process to free up the cellulose provides access to the nutrients. Breaking the cellulose-lignin bond in the sawdust, according to farmer Bob Batey, is what he’s doing, and then mixing the result with corn, vitamins and minerals, as well as as few other ingredients. The ration has food value equivalent to grass hay, said Batey.

Stephanie Hansen, an assistant professor in the animal science department at Iowa State University, said the process sounds like a good example of how some producers are getting creative in feeding their livestock during a time when traditional feed is expensive.

And the cattle, according to Batey’s veterinarian and cattle specialist Tara Wellman-Gerdes, are perfectly healthy. Feeding sawdust eliminates all the fuel consumption, chemical inputs and intensive land use that would be required to feed grain or hay, said Wellman-Gerdes. And in an era of high grain prices and diminishing hay and pasture acreage, it “is definitely a positive” to take advantage of otherwise wasted byproducts, she said.

 

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