Plan early to beat feed-price woes
The uncertainty in the international grain markets due to droughts and floods in the main grain regions will undoubtedly drive up all grain and feed costs this autumn. Protein prices in particular have the potential to spike at all kinds of record highs this year.
In addition, recent poor weather twinned with high fuel costs for drying will add extra expense to Irish-grown grain.
The most logical way of dealing with this extra cost is by treating and storing home-grown cereals off the combine. With new grain treatment and storage systems being developed, there is now the opportunity to significantly reduce the cost of the protein element of the winter ration. Alki-grain is one of the processes that has been gaining popularity due to the fact that it increases the final protein content of the grain by 4-5pc.
The value of the protein rise is estimated to be €45-50/t at current protein costs. It also increases the pH of the grain, which significantly enhances the finished diet of the animal.
This treatment process should not be confused with the urea treatment process advocated in Ireland about 10 years ago. It increased the protein content of the grain, but failed to act as an effective storage system. It also failed to enhance the pH of the final product.
Soda-grain treatment, as developed by Keenan's, is a very specialised on-farm process, requiring specific instructions and appropriate equipment. There is a wide window of moistures that grain can be caustic treated at. When the process is completed correctly, grain has the same properties of Alki-grain but without the protein enhancement.
Crimped grain was also developed as a viable option a number of years ago but has had varied results on farm.
Low moisture grain is difficult to ensile and high moisture grain has high moisture losses.