Harvest 2021 Stories

Ryan Boyd

Soybeans have become a major crop in Western Canada.  In 2021 we were able to do some evaluation of soybeans as a source of feed. The chaff from peas and lentils is known to have good feed characteristics, but soybeans were an unknown quantity.

In 2021 Ryan Boyd collected soybean chaff near Forrest MB, with a Boomerang 18 behind a CaseIH 2188. Good farming practices and some timely rain produced a yield of around 40 bushels/acre. The chaff was collected with the straw spreader operating, resulting in a yield of around 800 pounds of chaff per acre, with around 10-15% straw mixed in.

The chaff was dropped at both ends of the quarter section field, along with a row of heaps down the middle. With the larger model 30 we could have dropped all chaff at the ends of the field.

The chaff was grazed in late November, early December. A herd of 200 cows, to calve in April, were given around 5 heaps of chaff per day, around 2 tons. As new heaps were exposed, the existing heaps were left available. There was snow prior to grazing, the heaps had a layer of around 4 inches of snow on them at the time grazing began. The cows had no difficulty in recognizing the heaps, after a day there was about 4-6 inches of soybean straw left behind, which the cows used as bedding.

The cows received daily a supplemental feed ration of 13 lbs of alfalfa silage, 4 lbs of DDG and 3 lbs of wheat screenings per animal. On a dry matter basis, chaff composed a little over half of the feed ration.  One quarter section would feed 200 cows for 1 month. 

The conclusion was that soybean chaff was a good source of feed. Although the Boomerang could have collected all the straw along with the chaff, not doing this was the correct decision, as the cows ignored most of the straw, although it was used as bedding.  Ryan will determine in the spring whether he needs to harrow or disc the chaff heap areas, prior to seeding.  

Nathan and Jennifer Martins

Pea and Lentil Chaff combined with silage for winter feed

In 2021, Nathan and Jennifer Martins from Elbow, Saskatchewan purchased a Boomerang 18 to collect chaff for their mixed farming operation. The Cart is pulled behind there CIH 8240 Axial flow combine. Chaff was collected from 1000 acres of peas and 1200 acres of lentils, and also from 100 acres of wheat. Some of the pea chaff was grazed in the fall, the majority was hauled to the farm yard and stacked alongside there silage . They used end dump silage trailers, and loaded the trailers with a Merlo telehandler. The chaff was hauled up to 12 miles.

When harvesting lentils, all chaff and straw was collected together. When harvesting peas, only the chaff was collected. The pea chaff had a higher nutritional value than the lentil chaff/straw blend. In total around 450 tons of chaff was collected, off of a below average crop.

The Martins are feeding 280 cows this winter with a mixture of cereal silage and chaff. The ration is 50% cereal silage, 50% chaff by weight. It is not necessary to add additional energy or protein. Calving begins in March. The cows have been started with lentil chaff, they will transition to pea chaff as their nutritional requirements increase as calving approaches. Heifers are receiving a ration of 75% silage, 25% pea chaff.

In comparison, the previous years’ cow ration was 65% silage, 35% pea straw. Straw bales were processed with a bale processor, then the loaded in a vertical mixer. The total mix time was 5-10 minutes per batch longer to reduce the straw to the desired length, then the silage/chaff mix. It works best to load the chaff before the silage, an auger or reel type mixer would be satisfactory for the silage/chaff ration.

Chaff vs Straw comparison: 


  Chaff Straw
Baling Not Required 600 Bales
Bale Wrap Not Required $1200+
Hauling 150 loads, trailer and loader 24 loads trailer and loader
  Load, dump, push into stack Load, unload and stack
Processing Not required 600 bales
Mixing time   +15-30 minutes per day
Silage mix 50/50 by weight 15% additional silage

Even with the lengthy haul, the chaff system is more economical.  Time, fuel and machinery wear and tear for baling, hauling and processing is significant. If wheat chaff is collected, this system is very compatible with ammoniation.

Chaff heaps are concentrated at headlands reducing loading time and travel over the field. Upgrading to a Boomerang 30 will result in fewer heaps and further improve loading efficiency

Chaff Grazing

When grazing, the cattle would eat the chaff heap down to around 6 inches from the ground. Nathan found that if the remainder was pushed up into a heap with a loader, they would again eat the remainder down to around 6 inches from the ground.

A similar combine not equipped with a cart was usually operated alongside the cart equipped machine. Prior to spraying, it was very easy to tell which part of the field was harvested with the Boomerang.     

Salinity Control Experiment

Chaff has been successfully used in Australia as a mulch applied to saline areas. A two inch layer of chaff works as an evaporation barrier that holds moisture at the soil surface. This moisture allows seeds to germinate and establish. During harvest, there were patches of green cochia in the fields that led to mold in the chaff heaps. Some of this chaff was collected and dumped on saline areas. Nathan plans to spread these heaps prior to spring with a dozer blade, and then seed through the areas.

For further information, check out Managing Transient Salinity with Chaff on YouTube.

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