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Jul 17, 2020

Cash in on flexibility of cereal crops

Jul 17, 2020

Cereal crops can offer flexibility when silage stocks are low – Roy Eastlake believes it will be especially important this year to make the most of any crops grown.

“It is highly likely that dairy farmers will be faced with the combination of squeezed milk prices and increased purchased feed costs this winter.  This means the focus will have to be on maximising production from forage while controlling feed costs where possible.  At the same time, with reduced cereal plantings this year straw prices could increase.

“Cereals can either be taken as wholecrop silage to increase forage production to allow higher intakes, or could be crimped to provide a quality, rumen-friendly energy source to replace purchased feeds while also producing straw.”

Mr Eastlake advises that the key to making the optimum decision is to review first cut silage production, revise your winter forage budget and understand your forage stocks.  You can then decide if cereals will contribute most effectively as a source of forage or as a purchased feed replacer.

“Calculate the tonnage of first cut grass silage made and get an analysis so you can work out the tonnes of dry matter produced so far and the tonnes you still need to make to ensure you can hit or exceed your planned daily forage dry matter intake over the winter.  If it is possible you will be short of forage, then wholecrop silage will be the sensible choice.  Conversely, if forage stocks look plentiful then making crimped grain could be the best economic decision.

“Finally, you could split the acreage, taking some as crimp and some as wholecrop depending on forage stocks.  This flexibility is a real plus point.”

Mr Eastlake says fermented wholecrop silage can be made with any of the principal cereal crops and will usually yield at 20-30 tonnes fresh per hectare, depending on the crop grown.  It is typically harvested at around 35-45%DM as this maximises the yield and nutrient content.

“Wholecrop silage is a high energy forage, rich in slowly fermenting starch which combined with effective physical fibre from the straw makes it an ideal rumen friendly forage,” and an ideal complement to young high energy high digestible fibre grass silage, he explains.

“Crimp should be considered as a high energy, moist concentrate replacing combined cereals in the diet.  As the starch in crimp is more slowly fermented, it can be used to increase cereal inclusion rates without increasing the acidosis risk.

“The crop will usually be harvested at 60-75%DM, around three weeks ahead of normal harvest and yield 6.7 to 8.3 tDM/ha.  It is then passed through a crimping machine which fractures the seed coat to expose the starch prior to treatment with an inoculant and ensiling.”

He advises that both wholecrop and crimp need to be ensiled with a specialist heterofermentative silage inoculant to improve aerobic stability, inhibit the growth of yeasts and moulds, and reduce heating.  Lallemand Magniva Platinum Wholecrop and Platinum Crimp contain a unique combination of bacteria that deliver the exceptional stability required with drier, high starch feeds.

“A farmer growing 15 hectares of cereals would have the option to produce around 150tDM of wholecrop silage.  Alternatively they could produce around 113 tDM of crimp plus 55 tonnes of straw.

“The wholecrop silage would allow 5kgDM/day for a 150 cow herd for a 200 day winter, boosting forage or allowing less concentrate. The crimp would allow 3.75 kgDM/day, displacing up to 4.75kg of fresh weight cereals or equivalent.

“Making the right decision regarding cereal crops could have a significant impact on performance and margins this winter,” Mr Eastlake concludes.