Submitted to: American Society of Animal Science
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: July 28, 1997
Publication Date: N/A
Technical Abstract: Processing to increase the digestibility and energy availability of alfalfa, grass, and corn silage forages has received much interest in recent years. An important consideration in the development and adoption of new processing technologies is their potential economic benefit to producers. Many factors must be considered to evaluate the economics of these new processes. Processing equipment is intricate, increasing initial costs by $15,000 or more. Processing requires more power; thus a larger engine or tractor and more fuel are used. Harvest operations are often slowed which leads to less timely harvest and more labor use. In addition, forage processing interacts with other parts of the farm. Economic benefits are very dependent upon the animals consuming the forage, their diet, and thus their ability to benefit from increased forage digestibility. Processing is further influenced by crop variety, crop maturity, weather, storage methods, and the timeliness of other farm operations. All factors and their interactions are best evaluated by computer simulation of farms over many years of weather. Simulation analyses show that improved animal performance attained with maceration and mat processing of alfalfa can return up to $4 for every dollar of increased costs. Preliminary analysis of corn silage processing indicates the cost of processing can be returned through improved grain digestion in years when corn becomes too mature at harvest. Improved fiber digestibility and dry matter recovery during ensiling further improves animal performance and economic return. Forage processing thus shows potential for improving the profit from animal production, but the benefit received is affected by farm size and production methods.