Rice straw is being utilised as a feed source for livestock producers as hay supplies continue to tighten across the country.
The Australian Fodder Industry Association revealed that there are benefits of using an alternative feed to traditional fodder types.
Rice straw can be an economically viable feed source during drought when harvested and treated under optimal conditions.
Traditionally rice straw has been considered a waste or by-product of growing rice, often being burnt in order to prepare for the next crop.
The practice of burning rice straw is becoming environmentally unacceptable and many rice farmers are now seeking out more environmentally sustainable options to remove the straw from their paddocks that is also offering another source of income from their crop.
It can also be a very economical feed option if conserved properly and used wisely as a part of a feed ration.
While it must be noted that rice straw is the lowest nutritional value form of straw available, not all rice straws are equal.
There are differences in the quality of rice straw solely due to the timing of when the straw is harvested and baled.
The sooner the rice straw is cut behind the header, the better the quality of the final product.
Ideally rice straw should be harvested between 3 to 10 days, post stripping with the header and it must still be green when cut.
If it has browned off and dried out, livestock will refuse it as it is too dry and will have almost no feed value at all.
The greener the rice straw, the better the quality, which is a direct reflection of the moisture content of the plant at cutting.
It must be noted that rice straw is too low in energy and protein values to ever be a complete ration for any livestock, no matter how early it is cut or conserved.
But during drought it can be useful and economical to form part of livestock ration.
Gassing rice straw, using anhydrous ammonia gas, has proven to significantly increase the quality of rice straw as a livestock feed source.
Untreated, dry rice straw will usually record a protein of around three to 4 per cent but after appropriate treatment with anhydrous ammonia gas, protein can lift to 9pc.
Shepparton, Vic, dairy farmer Ash Dempster baled and more than 5000 rice straw bales from Coleambally, NSW, with anhydrous ammonia.
Mr Dempster said he had no doubt about the value of the rice straw as a supplementary feed source for his dairy cattle.
"The proof of the pudding is always in the eating and my cows are enjoying this rice straw," he said.
"When traditional sources of hay are in short supply you must think about other options, and I looked at rice straw, did my homework and figured it was worth having a go at it.
"Using the anhydrous ammonia gas on the rice straw turns a relatively low value feed source into something of value to all livestock producers, be they dairy or beef."