With dry conditions across the state this summer, we may be low on forage reserves. Ammoniating low quality hay or crop residues may be a cheap way to stretch feed.
Ammoniation has been used for decades to improve the energy value or digestibility of low-digestibility forages. It also increases the crude protein (CP) content of the forage.
Overall, ammoniating corn residue increases the digestibility by about 10% units and the CP by about 5% units. Traditional corn residue bales that have been ammoniated are about 55-58% total digestible nutrients (TDN) and will have a CP content of 9-11%. Studies at Kansas State also show that dry matter intake can increase 22%.
How should we ammoniate bales? There are a few steps.
- Scrape an area of ground leaving loose dirt to cover the edges of the plastic.
- Weigh the bales in order to know how much anhydrous ammonia should be added. It takes about 60 pounds of anhydrous per ton of dry matter.
- Stack the bales in a three-bale or six-bale pyramid.
- Cover and seal the row of pyramids with silage plastic.
- Insert the pipe into the sealed bag. Make sure to have a shutoff valve on the pipe.
- Slowly release the anhydrous until the plastic has swelled.
- Shut off the valve and check the plastic for leaks.
- Add the remaining anhydrous at a rate of 8-10 minutes per ton of forage.
- Once completed, remove the pipe and seal up the hole.
It will take anywhere from one to eight weeks to complete the cycle depending on the air temperature. The warmer the temperatures are, the faster ammoniation will be.
Open one end of the stack three to five days prior to feeding to let the excess ammonia dissipate.
Ammoniating may be a cost-effective option for making low feed a higher quality feed.