A demonstration study was recently conducted in California to look at replacing wheat straw with rice straw in heifer rations. The study was conducted on five dairies in Kings, Kern and Tulare counties. Results showed that rice straw baled with a Heston/Lexion cutter baler could be mixed directly from the bale into a TMR and fed at 2 to 3 pounds per day. The majority of the dairies in the study were using wheat straw as an intake limiter for TMR that was fed free choice to heifers. It was indicated by manager and feeders in the study that there was no increase in mixing time, little sorting ― and the heifers ate the TMR all day.

Surveys of the dairies found that rice straw was equal to or preferred to wheat straw. “Double-chop rice straw may alleviate the tight forage conditions that California dairy producers are facing,” says Peter Robinson with the department of animal science at the University of California-Davis.

If you are interested in feeding rice straw, a Web site has been designed by the California Rice Commission to market rice straw at www.ricestrawmarket.org.

Robinson notes that rice straw producers no longer bale straw in anticipation of sales. Most will take orders from July to September and bale during harvest (August through October). Many will require a deposit to secure the production of rice straw. Delivery to the dairy should occur in the fall, as many rice producers store the straw out on the rice levees ― and rain can make shipment difficult.

The 2007 delivered costs of rice straw into Tulare and Kern Counties ranged from $70 to $78 per ton.

 For more information, send an e-mail to Peter Robinson at phrobinson@ucdavis.edu or Glenn Nader at ganader@ucdavis.edu