Dale Watson
Commercial Agriculture Beef and Livestock Specialist
University of Missouri Extension




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Please send your comments and sund suggestions to Dale Watson, Commercial Agriculture Beef and Livestock Specialist, University of Missouri Extension, 111 N. Mason, Carrollton, MO 64633, call 660-542-1792, or send messages by e-mail to: watsond@missouri.edu.
For the Week of
June 22, 2000

Cell Walls Can Be Like Plywood

The increase in the incidence of rain showers brings higher humidity conditions. These conditions are very favorable for many producers with the exception of those trying to harvest hay. Many meadows are indicating a reduced amount of forage available for harvest. The less than normal rainfall amount has placed several producers in a dilemma for determining harvesting dates.

One factor we count on is that with plant maturity we also can expect an increase in the amount of lignin in the plant. Forages contain a significant amount of plant cell wall material. The amount and type of cell wall material present in the harvested forage has a great influence on the nutritional value of the ration.

A young plant cell has a single outer layer referred to as the primary cell wall. Later as the plant matures a second layer develops and is known as the secondary cell wall. The secondary layer is thicker and gives the plant cell added strength. These structural portions of the plant contain a complex mixture of carbohydrates, cellulose and hemicellulose. As the plant matures these components make up a larger portion of the plant. 

These cells insert a non-carbohydrate material known as lignin into the primary and secondary wall of the plant cells during plant maturation. This compound provides the plant additional strength and rigidity. Lignin can be thought of as the primary skeleton of the plant cell. It is important from the nutritional perspective because it is a non-digestive substance and its presence will inhibit the availability of the cellulose and hemicellulose portions of the forage.

Rumen animals have the ability to digest some of the cellulose, hemicellulose and lignin portions of the forage. However, as the plant advances in maturity the amount available for digestion is reduced. Who knows what the weather conditions will bring later this summer?

Relying solely on the vegetative portion of cool season grasses for your winter forage supply can spell disaster. Generally we have this portion of the forage available, but grazing is much more economical than trying to delay harvest and count on the vegetative portion of the cool season plant for additional forage supply.

University of Missouri ExtensionDale's Country Trails - June 22, 2000
http://outreach.missouri.edu/agconnection/DCT/CT062200.html -- Revised: April 20, 2004