Straw isn't the "cash crop" when you're harvesting wheat. The goal is to separate the grain from the straw and the chaff, leaving only the kernels which are transported to the elevator for sale.
|Illustration credit: http://www.thisland.illinois.edu/60ways/60ways_1.html|
We'll use the straw as bedding next winter for cattle. Before a snow storm, the guys spread some of the bales near a windbreak (like the trees in the photo below). It helps give a place for mama cows and babies to have a drier place to congregate.
The straw itself doesn't have much nutritional value, though it can be used for roughage. Since we grow alfalfa, we use the alfalfa hay as cattle feed, and the straw bales are used only for bedding.
We weren't the only ones baling straw during and after harvest this year. With stacks and stacks of straw bales in the area, Randy assumes that some people are planning to add anhydrous liquid ammonia to the forage. Ammoniation is a method of treating low-quality roughages to improve their nutritional value for ruminant animals, like cattle. It involves sealing the straw in a gas-tight, enclosed container and adding anhydrous liquid ammonia. At about 21 days, the chemical action is complete, and the product can be used for feed. Randy assumes that some of the people who have put up straw bales are planning to use it in that way.
Others may add a molasses-based, protein rich formula to the straw bales in order to create a feed for cattle.
They look like a Lego building project sitting at the edge of stubble fields.
Even if the straw doesn't end up in bales (like the majority of our wheat fields), the chopped up straw is residue on wheat fields. The residue helps put nutrients back in the soil and increases organic matter. The straw residue also helps control wind and water erosion.
Recycling at its best - all on Kansas wheat farms!