July 9, 2018
First impressions of China
By Derrell S. Peel, Oklahoma State University Extension Livestock Marketing Specialist
I recently had an opportunity to spend several weeks in China for the first time. My trip had several objectives, including teaching an agribusiness course at China Agricultural University in Beijing for about two weeks. In addition, I was able to travel for another two weeks and experience the terrain, climate, culture and agriculture in several locations across central China.
While pollution was obvious in the brown air as we descended into Beijing by airplane, I did not notice significant air quality problems after the first day. Beijing is a very clean, modern city; in fact, China is full of clean, modern cities. At least 100 cities in China have a population of over one million with the top fifteen cities home to 260 million people.
Cities are busy with lots of traffic driving mostly new cars and trucks on an impressive highway system. In the city, one finds an array of vehicles including some older trucks; small utility vehicles and three-wheeled cycles; motorcycles; scooters; and bicycles on crowded streets. The continually expanding Beijing subway system provided the easiest and cheapest way to get around the city. Beijing sits on the northern end of the vast North China Plain, agricultural heartland of the country. An hour’s drive north of Beijing puts one in the mountains with magnificent views of a portion of the Great Wall.
I traveled roughly 3500 miles in a loop around central China on the incredible high-speed train system. Leaving Beijing, I first traveled south and west to spend several days in Xian, in Shaanxi province, home of the famous terracotta warriors found in the tomb complex of the Emperor Qin. Xian was historically the eastern end of the Silk Road and borders the drier northwestern regions of China, which are less developed and include grasslands and deserts farther west. I continued southwest to Chengdu, in Sichuan province, home to much agricultural production and manufacturing but most famous as the home to the bulk of the remaining natural bamboo habitat for the Giant Panda. To the west of Chengdu is the high, frozen Tibet Plateau.
Leaving Chengdu, I traveled some 1200 miles east to Shanghai. The trip from Chengdu to Shanghai passed through rural areas and pockets of agricultural production while crossing expansive mountainous regions and following the Yangtze River to the coast. Shanghai is an international business center and the largest city in China. The final leg of the trip was another bullet train ride from Shanghai back to Beijing, skirting the coast northward across the North China Plain.
The biggest impression I have of China is dynamic growth and the rapid pace of development. While economic growth has slowed somewhat from recent years, the Chinese economy is projected to grow about 6.6 percent in 2018. What you see everywhere as a result of that is construction… new roads, railroads, and hundreds of new high-rise apartment buildings. It is very common to see 10-20 construction cranes at work simultaneously as housing developments were doubling or tripling in size.
In some cases older structures are being replaced with new construction while in other cases sprawling new developments are pushing urban boundaries into previously undeveloped areas. With an urbanization rate of one to two percent per year, the 1.4 billion Chinese population means that new housing and jobs must be forthcoming for 15-25 million each year as people relocate from rural to urban locations.
China is about the same size as the U.S., roughly the same distance east to west but covering a wider range of latitude north to south. Every climate and terrain imaginable is found in China leading to a vast and diverse agricultural system. Through my travels, visits and meetings, I saw and learned much about Chinese agriculture, food production and the challenges and opportunities ahead. I’ll share more about that in future articles.
Storing large round bales
By Glenn Selk, Oklahoma State University Emeritus Extension Animal Scientist
As hay is being cut and put in large round bales, it is always important to reduce hay storage losses. University of Tennessee animal scientists conducted a trial to compare different methods of storing large round bales of grass hay. The hay was cut and baled in June in Moore County, Tennessee. The bales were weighed at the time of harvest and storage. Then they were weighed again the following January at the time of winter feeding. The following table lists the type of storage and the resulting percentage hay loss.
Table 1. Losses of hay stored using six methods of storage (Source: Dr. Clyde Lane, University of Tennessee Department of Animal Science)
|Type of Storage||Percentage (%) of Hay Loss|
|On ground, no cover||37%|
|On old tires, no cover||29%|
|On ground, covered||29%|
|On old tires, covered||8%|
|Net wrap on ground||19%|
Average spring, summer, and fall rainfall in Tennessee will generally be greater than that experienced in much of Oklahoma. However, the rankings in storage loss between the storage methods will be present in Oklahoma as well.
An Oklahoma State University fact sheet by Dr. Ray Huhnke summarizes differences in storage loss that can be expected in an Oklahoma ranch setting. Source: Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Fact Sheet BAE-1716 “Round Bale Hay Storage”.
Table 2. Percentage (%) dry matter loss of round hay bales.
|Storage Method||Up to 9 months||12 – 18 months|
|Ground||5 – 20||15 – 50|
|Elevated||3 – 15||12 – 35|
|Ground||5 – 10||10 – 15|
|Elevated||2 – 4||5 -10|
|Under roof||2 – 5||3 – 10|
|Enclosed barn||Less than 2||2 -5|
Obviously, it would be ideal to store the hay inside, but that will not often be practical. The next best option is when the hay is stored on something that gets the hay off of the ground under a rain shedding cover.
Other important storage concepts can be used as the hay is being harvested this summer.
The storage site is an important consideration in reducing bale losses. Select a site that is not shaded and is open to breezes to enhance drying conditions. The site should also be well-drained to minimize moisture absorption into the underside of the bales. As much as 12 inches of the bottom of a bale can be lost through moisture absorption resulting from the wicking action. Ground contact can account for over half of the total dry matter losses. Where practical, keep bales off the ground using low cost, surplus materials such as discarded pallets, racks, fence posts, railroad ties, and used tires. Another alternative is to use a layer of crushed rock about six inches deep to ensure good drainage within and around the storage site. Some expense may be necessary to obtain surplus materials, however, if 10 to 20 percent of the hay crop is saved each year, then it will not take long to recover those original costs.
Uncovered bales should be stored in rows, buffed end-to-end, and oriented in a north/south direction. The combination of the north/south orientation and at least three feet between rows will provide for good sunlight penetration and air flow, which will allow the area to dry faster after a rain. Vegetation between rows should be mowed. Research has shown that orientation is a minor consideration if the bales are used before early spring because the losses are relatively small until that time. If stored into the summer, bales oriented in an east-west direction can experience severe deterioration on the north-facing surface.
The source of these and other ideas about hay storage can be found in Dr. Ray Huhnke’s Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Fact Sheet “Round Bale Storage” BAE-1716.