May 25, 2021
Get the most out of wholecrop silage
May 25, 2021
Feed out and flexibility
Wholecrop silage is proving to be an option well worth considering for dairy, beef and youngstock diets. With a shift in weather patterns leading to unpredictability, maize growing is becoming more difficult. Wholecrop cereals offer a flexible alternative which can be planted in autumn or spring and harvested in June or August when the weather’s generally good.
Wholecrop silage provides a highly digestible, fermentable starch energy source, reducing the need for energy in purchased feeds. It’s high straw content can also help balance a highly digestible grass silage-based diet with physically effective fibre, providing valuable flexibility. This is particularly useful in parts of the country where grass silage is often wetter and more acidic or where farms are short of grass silage Growing wholecrop also creates a more diverse rotation, which in turn helps improve grass quality, because the poorer leys are ploughed up to plant wholecrop cereals.
Making wholecrop silage
There is a good window of time for making a wholecrop cutting decision and you can often wait until first and second cut grass silage has been analysed before deciding.
For example, if there is a smaller quantity of the cereal crop, you might want to wait until the crop has matured to get more material that is higher in starch. While, if cereal yields are higher, you can take it sooner at a lower dry matter and achieve a quality forage.
Dry matter content in wholecrop silage varies between 30 and 45% but the target range, in the northern region for example, is 36 to 40%. This is too immature for combining but taking it at this stage for silage makes sure it does not contain too much lignin. As a guide, the crop should look green in the field and, when you press the grain, it should feel like soft cheddar cheese, with no liquid.
Because of the higher dry matter and straw in wholecrop, it can be much harder to compact and ensile than grass silage, meaning there is a higher risk of residual oxygen causing fermentation problems as well as oxygen penetration when the silage is being fed.
Why use a crop-specific inoculant
If there are pockets of oxygen in the clamp, yeast and mould can survive and become active, causing spoilage, so it is crucial to use an inoculant that is specifically designed to inhibit yeast and mould. Traditional silage inoculants only provide acidifying bacteria that produce lactic acid, but this is not enough for wholecrop silage.
Magniva Platinum Wholecrop contains multiple bacteria, providing a combination of antifungal bacteria L. hilgardii CNCM I-4785, L. buchneri NCIMB 40788, and the homolactic bacteria, P. Pentosaceus,. These bacteria ferment the crop effectively and protect it from aerobic spoilage by producing lactic, acetic and propionic acid.
Adding the incorrect silage inoculant to wholecrop can make things worse when feeding. Without the antifungal bacteria to inhibit yeast and mould during the fermentation they become active once the clamp is opened and will use the lactic acid produced by the homofermentative bacteria as a feed source.