Aug 27 10 4:45 PM

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Farm Show, Vol 37, No 4  2013,  Page 33

Instead of buying hay to feed his beef cattle last winter, Bob Batey fed them a blended feed of corn, vitamins, minerals, and 70 percent sawdust.  The 85 - year old inventor/entrepreneur is patenting the easy and inexpensive method he uses to treat sawdust to make it into a digestible and nutritious feed, and he's devising a plan how he can share it with others.

Between January and April he fed more than 50 tons of sawdust to his 40+ cows and bull herd at a cost of $1.40 /day/cow.  "My cattle gained weight through the winter."  Batey says.  Despite some skeptics who say sawdust has low feed value.  Batey's veterinarian confirms that the Angus and Charolais cattle are healthy and happy from the sawdust blend, and calving season went well.  According to Wisconsin and Missouri lab testing, the sawdust has 13 to 14 percent protein.  Batey ran informal tests of his own, putting out bales of hay, then filling the feed bunk with the sawdust blend.  The cattle moved from the hay to the feed.

He first recognized sawdust as a feed option in the 1970's when he watched cattle eating the sludge runoff from a paper mill in Indiana.  The farmer who owned the cattle was upset about it and told Batey he was thinking of suing the mill.  When the farmer mentioned his cattle had been eating it for two years.  Batey recognized an opportunity and suggested the farmer buy more cows instead.

Batey started experimenting and used nitric acid and heat to treat sawdust.  In order for it to be digestible, the lignin that is wrapped around the cellulose of the wood has to be broken down.  Once freed, the cellulose provides high food value.

Batey fed his cattle sawdust through the late 70's but, when feed was cheap, he discontinued the project.  Later, he built his own sawmill near Mount Pleasant, Iowa.

With high hay prices last year and sawdust available from the sawmill, Batey decided to experiment with sawdust feed again.  He came up with a simple solution, but until the patent is finalized, he isn't giving away details.

He does say that any wood -- except walnut -- is safe for cattle.  It must be finely ground, like the sawdust from a band saw.  "Grinding up tree limbs would be even better than sawdust.  The cambium would provide more food value.  It would have to be ground up fine and kept at high moisture"  Batey says.  He adds that his treatment would also work on cornstalks.

His method has attracted the attention of Iowa State University extension beef specialists who are working with cornstalks.  While Iowa typically has plenty of feed, Batey says feeding sawdust -- that is often wasted -- is an option that would work anywhere cattle feed is in short supply.  "I don't plan to keep this a secret."  Batey says.  He welcomes letters from people who are interested.  Contact:  FARM SHOW Followup,  Robert Batey, 2841 Kentucky Ave, Mount Pleasant, Iowa 52641  ([email protected])

Last Edited By: antelopone Aug 27 10 4:49 PM. Edited 1 time