Established in 1960, Società Produzioni Erbe Disidratate is today a modern enterprise that dehydrates and packages forage in its two production facilities, “Standiana” and “Cà Bosco”. The production capacity is more than 80,000 tonnes per year. SO.PR.E.D. was one of the first Italian firms to industrially process forages by artificial dehydration, and has been processing alfalfa for over 50 years. As its activities evolved, it began to produce alfalfa flour delivered in sacks to compound feed producers–from which came the designation “Mulino” (mill). This was followed in the 1980s by the production of pellets to facilitate logistics and transport, and in the 1990s by bales for direct feeding to dairy cattle in the barn. From its original founding members–seven farming cooperatives in the area south of Ravenna–SO.PR.E.D. today groups together more than 1000 producers that grow alfalfa for dehydration.
The cooperative has a staff of approximately 60 workers.The activities take place in two production facilities.
Modern artificial dehydration methods make it possible to optimally harvest the leaf fraction (the most protein-rich part) and store it over time thanks to a residual moisture of less than 10%, avoiding the risks of mould and/or toxin formation, or the resumption of fermentation after processing. Compared to traditional haymaking, forage dehydration reduces nutrient losses and better satisfies the requirements of dairy cows, which need to ingest fibrous foods with a higher concentration of protein and nutrients. The quality parameters of dehydrated alfalfa vary depending on the cutting time, the maturity stage, and the climate conditions. For direct feeding of dairy cattle, alfalfa must be cut “young”, at the end of the 4th week of development (within 30 days, and in any case before blooming), chopped to 5/10 cm, carried to the natural-gas fuelled dehydrator with a residual moisture sufficient to guarantee collection of the leaves, and dehydrated in the drum at a temperature that is not overly high. For the compound-feed industry, which requires high protein content, the best cuts are the last ones (fifth and sixth), when the altered climate conditions (less heat, more moisture) cause the plant to develop less stem and more leaf. Pellets obtained from dehydrated alfalfa from the fifth/sixth cut normally have a protein content of more than 20% of the total dry matter. Forage pellets, which are instead less protein-rich, have in recent years attracted significant interest in the realm of biodigesters, is better and more economical than traditional field-dried alfalfa hay.
As well as having superior nutritive qualities, dehydrated alfalfa is more advantageous than traditional hay from an overall economic perspective of the barn.
Some aspects to consider are:
We can therefore say that dehydrated alfalfa delivers better quality for the same price.
More dehydrated alfalfa, less hay = benefits: Better health and physical welfare of animals, brighter colour, reduced calving intervals, higher milk production and fat percentage, improved quality and colour of the butter.
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