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Jun 17, 2020

Making the best use of Cereals this year

Jun 17, 2020

Any farmer with cereals in the ground will soon need to decide what to do with the crop. Making best use of cereals can have a big impact on costs and margins this winter so Roy Eastlake looks at the options.

On most dairy farms, cereals will have been drilled for wholecrop, but this year more factors are impacting on the decision about utilising cereals. Feed ingredient prices are generally higher, suggesting purchased feeds will generally be more expensive as we head into the winter. This situation will be made worse with the reduction in domestic cereal plantings due to the very wet autumn. This will also impact on straw prices, with supply predicted to be down on 2019.

On the forage side, maize plantings are expected to increase as the opportunity is taken to drill into fallow cereal land. At the same time sales of forage crop seeds have increased for the same reason. The good thing is that cereals are a flexible crop and there are options depending on the situation on-farm.

Option 1 Take wholecrop to make forage 

If forage stocks are tight or if you want to increase forage intakes to offset purchased feed needs, then wholecropping is a good option. Wholecrop harvesting can be timed to produce a feed to compliment other forages on the farm and will provide a starch-based forage to include in diets before maize is harvested.
If making wholecrop use Magniva Platinum Wholecrop silage inoculant, a specifically formulated blend of homofermentative and heterofermentative bacteria to ensure a rapid initial fermentation and an aerobically stable silage even if clamps are opened just 15 days after ensiling.


✔ Flexible harvesting for targeted feed value                             

High DM forage with good physically effective fibre

Starchy forage available earlier than maize


✘ Contractor availability

✘ No straw produced

✘ Risk of clamp losses if not treated with an effective inoculant

Option 2 Make crimped cereals

Crimp is a high energy feed rich in slower fermenting starch which can replace purchased feeds in the diet. Harvested at 25-40% moisture, the grain is cracked and treated with a silage inoculant to produce a rumen friendly feed which can be fed at high rates with less risk of acidosis.
Harvested around three weeks earlier than traditional cereals, crimping provides an ideal entry for a grass reseed or a fodder crop and also means straw is produced for feeding or bedding.
After combining, the harvested crop will need to be treated using a specialist crimper and treated with Magniva Platinum Crimp forage inoculant to maintain aerobic stability.


On-farm energy source                                                            

Straw produced                                                                   

Rumen friendly feed

Allows early establishment of successor crop


Contractor availability

Separate clamp required

Specialist processing needed

Option 3 Harvest for grain

The final option is to harvest as grain allowing home grown to replace purchased cereals. The grain will need to be dried and processed, being rolled prior to feeding. Harvested grain will have a higher energy content than crimp and the straw will have higher dry matter. The grain will be more rapidly fermented in the rumen so the diet will need careful balancing to lower the acidosis risk. Alternatively it could be sold as a cash crop.


On-farm energy source                                                            

Straw produced                                                                         

Higher energy than crimp

Possible to harvest with own equipment

Option to sell as cash crop


May require contract harvesting

Needs drying and processing

Needs careful storage

Starch is rapidly fermented

Now is the time to review forage stocks and plan to make the best use of home grown cereals this year. Click Here to download a copy of our Wholecrop Guide.