Submitted to: Transactions of the ASAE
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 12/20/1998
Publication Date: N/A
Citation: Interpretive Summary: Severe mechanical processing of forage crops, known as conditioning, has been shown to increase digestibility by cattle, thus increasing profitability. Unfortunately, no method for objectively and quantitatively measuring the severity of conditioning has existed in the past. Therefore, it was not possible to determine the relationship between the severity of conditioning and the increase in digestibility needed for the design of conditioning machinery which was both effective and economical. A quick, simple measurement method was developed based on commercially available equipment. It consisted of washing the forage material with distilled water in a prescribed way and then measuring the electrical conductivity of the liquid after the forage had been filtered from it. Since the conductivity is proportional to the quantity of cell contents in the liquid, it is also a good measure of the extent of plant cell rupture, the goal of conditioning. The development of this simple method to measure the extent of forage conditioning allows assessment of both the efficacy of conditioning equipment being evaluated, and the determination of the relationship between extent of conditioning and the increase in forage digestibility. Such an increase will allow ruminant animal products to be produced more efficiently and profitably, as well as reducing the cost to consumers.
Technical Abstract: A method based upon measuring the conductivity of the leachate from forage was developed and used as an index for quantifying the extent of mechanical damage of various mechanical treatments. The method developed was simple, fast, and did not require specialized equipment to be fabricated; all of the equipment could be readily purchased. The sensitivity and accuracy of the method to discern differences between various mechanical treatments wa assessed across a wide variety of crop conditions and compared to the surface area index (SAI) method. The leachate conductivity method discerned differences between various mechanical conditioning treatments more accurately and with greater precision than the SAI method.