Boomerang Chaff: Update December 2022
This past year saw an increase in interest in the Boomerang cart, as more livestock producers look for ways to improve their bottom line. By far the greatest interest has been in collecting chaff to incorporate in a total mixed ration.
Palmer Charolais of Bladworth, SK added a Boomerang 30 to their operation, and collected cereal, pea and lentil chaff. They use a Lucknow horizontal feed mixer to make a TMR along with silage and ground slough hay. The additional feed that they collected will enable them to keep their cattle out of the pasture a little longer next spring, giving them additional recovery time. A write up on this operations feed program will be added to the website shortly.
Collecting chaff to help control weeds is getting more attention. Dean and Jayden Buchanan of Crystal City, MB used a Boomerang 18 to help deal with Group 1 resistant wild millet in barley. The Buchanan’s will feed the chaff to livestock, some as part of a mixed ration, the rest left in their calving area to be grazed. The performance of the Boomerang in collecting millet seeds was impressive. The animals’ digestive process will typically destroy around 80% of seeds consumed. Composting the manure would be the most efficient way to achieve 100% destruction.
I November I visited a farmer in Hartline, WA, who is looking at a Boomerang to help deal with a couple of problem weeds, cheat, which is similar to crested wheat grass, and goat grass. He is also looking to improve his feed security.
For 2023 we are planning production of a new design 30 cubic metre machine. It is an enlarged version of our Model 18, and a much simpler design than our original 30. The heaps from the larger machines are better suited for collecting and hauling to the feed yard. Machines ordered prior to production will have the option of custom paint colour at no additional charge.
Our next event is Manitoba Ag Days in Brandon, January 17-19. We have secured space in the Enns Arena, and will have a model 18 on display. We look forward to seeing you there!
Cliff Arnal from Ravenscrag, SK is a grain farmer and cattle producer who has been using chaff as a feedstock continually since the 1970s. He currently calves around 400 cows, relying upon chaff as his major feed source.
A number of factors will affect the efficiency with which livestock will consume the available feed.
The first factor is collection efficiency. If you cannot capture the feed, your livestock cannot eat it. The previous generation of blower fed chaff carts were prone to loss during harvest, caused by turning and wind on the chaff stream. Some of the material is quite fine, especially small seeds which have greater value. The conveyor of the Boomerang successfully addresses this problem. Testing in Australia has shown that over 98% of the material ends up in the chaff heap.
The method of storage and feeding has the next impact. The simplest method of feeding chaff is to graze heaps in the field where they were grown. This is not always an option, requiring fencing, water, etc. Where it is an option, the size of the heaps affects loss and management requirements. A multitude of small heaps requires extensive control fencing, and small heaps are more vulnerable to being buried by snow. The size of the Boomerang gives you the ability to group heaps, either in rows, or in a central location. Many producers would benefit by placing the heaps in parts of the field that would most benefit from additional manure. The cart also has the ability to unload in a longer lower shaped heap as well. This makes it very easy to add supplemental feed on top of the chaff.
If you feed at a central yard, chaff can be transported using a loader with a grapple, and a dump wagon, or by baling with a large square or net wrap equipped round baler. Chaff feeds well from a large bunk using an electric wire to control access. It also mixes well in a feed mixer, as there is very little long material. Mixing with silage, grain, supplements etc. ensures that chaff will be consumed.
Baling chaff, or more accurately ‘straff’ is a recent development. It is one of the capabilities we are focusing on developing with the Boomerang. A small amount of straw is required for baling. Typically the straw chopper on the combine is left in operation, some of the straw will land on the conveyor, typically 10-15% of the total. The remainder of the straw is returned to the field.
The characteristics of chaff have changed along with combine development. Combines, even some conventional ones, are more aggressive in how they handle straw. A large amount of short straw is now traveling over the sieves and becoming a component of the chaff stream. This will affect both the quantity, and the feed value of chaff. More research needs to be done to determine the overall effect. Although the chaff samples that I submitted for testing this year all contained a significant straw component, feed values remained in the typical range.
I do not have data to support it, but I believe that the straw component improves the overall feed palatability and consumption, by making a looser, easier to eat feed. Fine chaff from the previous blower carts tended to pack into a denser mass.
As an aside, the Australian grain farmers who collect chaff for weed control prefer the conveyor cart chaff, as the added straw and looser heap makes burning much easier.
The first factor is to determine the amount of chaff being produced on your farm. A significant amount of research was done in the 1980-2000 time period, which developed chaff yield parameters. Chaff yield is tied to grain yield, with straw length, and therefore leaf material, of lesser importance. Yield for these common crops is as followed:
This research was done prior to soybeans becoming a common crop in western Canada.
Wheat 4.6% protein, 43.6% TDN Chaff has a higher nutritional value than straw, but less than grain. It varies significantly so feed testing is required when developing a feeding program. There is almost always a requirement to provide some supplemental nutrition.
Canola 5.9% protein, 38.5% TDN
Barley 6.5% protein, 53% TDN
Oats 7.2% protein, 53% TDN
Peas 9.2% protein, 42% TDN
Welcome to the Boomerang Chaff cart. This machine is a Canadian built variant of the Australian Tecfarm CT series machines, with modifications developed to maximize its suitability and versatility when used for feed collection. Hopefully this information can assist in evaluating the feasibility in developing a secure source of low cost feed.
I began this project in 2018. Tecfarm is the market leader in Australia, with around 180 machines sold so far. Tom Lewis, President of Tecfarm, felt there was potential in North America, but did not know where to start. When I approached him with my ideas, it came together quite quickly. Manufacturing in Australia and shipping to Canada was totally uneconomic. Tecfarm provides design and engineering support to me, along with supplying their proven control system. Fabworks of Decker, MB, previous manufacturer of the Decker Brand coal furnaces, is our manufacturing partner. I am responsible for marketing and product support. I began my career in farm equipment sales in 1981. In 1995 I launched my own feed equipment sales and service enterprise as a sideline to working for other equipment dealers. Becoming a manufacturer has been an exciting learning process. My wife and I live in Wawanesa, MB, our service facility and office is right on main street, just down the block from the Wawanesa Insurance company home office.