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Cut feed costs by treating and storing your own grain


Use of a diet feeder can help save money

Use of a diet feeder can help save money

Use of a diet feeder can help save money

Native Irish grain is the most versatile high energy feed that farmers can grow or buy. Traditionally, grain was dried or stored on air at moistures of 18pc or lower.

The new technology on additive, processing and storage options have left native grain as the most cost competitive concentrate feed source available for all classes of livestock. Dairy farmers and beef farmers that store their own grain or purchase grain in whatever form from neighbouring cereal farmers can make savings of €30-40/t in their winter ration costs.

The grain price projections for this autumn are significantly higher than recent years. Unfortunately for livestock farmers, all feed import alternatives are also significantly higher, which will result in much higher concentrate costs this coming feeding season.

This, combined with the higher cost of fuel for the traditional drying, storage and rolling, will force the livestock farmer to look at more cost- effective options.

Greater co-operation between farmers through farm-to-farm trading as promoted by the IFA has seen significantly higher amounts of grain traded, particularly at harvest time.

The following guide outlines the treatment and storage options available to the producer and end-user this harvest. No one process is better than another. New processes such as Alkagrain have been gaining in popularity due to the fact that it increases the final protein content of the grain by 4-5pc. It also increases the pH of the grain, which significantly enhances the finished diet of the animal. Caution is urged when purchasing crimped grain. Moisture contents can easily exceed the recommended 30pc and this extra water should be discounted when agreeing on a purchase price. Using an appropriate additive to suit the particular moisture content of the grain is advised.

Acid treatment, while quite popular, does not enhance the feed value of the grain and digestive upsets may occur in some situations where high levels of wet forage is used, such as low pH grain silage.

Moist Grain (28-35pc moisture)

•Crimped grain (wheat, barley, triticale, maize and oats)

•Harvest window is narrow during good weather conditions.

•Grain moisture should be 25-40pc, although extra care is needed below 30pc moisture.

•Grain is mechanically crimped and additive applied. Make sure to use a proven additive which aids fermentation and reduces secondary fermentation at the pit face.

•Prompt ensiling with proper rolling in shallow layers, good compaction, covering and sealing is essential.

•Create a narrow pit face as proper pit face management is critical.

•Ag bag or round bale storage are also options.

•When the fermented crop stabilises at pH4-4.5, it is ready for feeding.

•This can't be included in meal mixes due to high moisture content.

•It is highly susceptible to attack from birds and vermin.

•Storage losses can be as high as 3pc due to fermentation.

•Poorly covered pits can result in a further loss of at least 10pc.

•Storage period of up to six months.

•Feed rates: dairy up to 4kg, beef up to 8kg.

•Speak to your local agri merchant for product details.

Semi Mature Grain (20-28pc moisture)

•Caustic soda treated grain (barley and wheat).

•Harvest window is broader due to flexibility in moisture treatment range.

•Grain moisture should be 20-28pc, but dry grain can also be treated.

•Caustic soda (sodium hydroxide) is mixed with the grain using a diet wagon.

•Caustic soda application rates range from 3pc for wheat and 5pc for barley.

•Thorough mixing of grain, water and caustic soda is required in mixer.

•Empty mix on to clean yard and allow to cool for at least six hours before heaping in dry store.

•No further processing is required.

•Because the treated grain is alkaline (pH 9+) in nature it reduces the risk of acidosis.

•It is also less likely to be attacked by birds or vermin due to alkaline nature.

•Overall, there is minimal storage loss.

•Storage period of up to six months.

•Feed rates: dairy up to 5kg, beef up to 4kg.

•Caustic soda is a corrosive chemical so care is needed when handling. Detailed processing information available from Richard Keenan & Co Ltd.

Mature grain (17-25pc moisture), Alkagrain/ Home 'N' Dry (wheat, barley, maize, triticale and oats)

•Harvest window is 2-3 weeks during normal harvest.

•Grain moisture should be 17-24pc.

•Home 'N' Dry Pellets are applied at 30kg/t on all grain.

•More than 30kg/t can be added to increase protein content.

•Grain is mechanically crimped and Home 'N' Dry Pellets applied.

•Grain is covered and sealed using silage polythene covers to prevent ammonia loss.

•After six weeks it can be uncovered for indoor store.

•It can also be stored outdoors once moisture is excluded.

•Ag bag or round bale storage are also options.

•This can be included in meal mixes due to its stability in storage.

•Increases grain protein levels by 4-5pc at recommended rate.

•Alkaline pH (8-9) provides a buffer to improve rumen function.

•Less likely to be attacked by birds or vermin due to alkaline nature.

•Minimal storage loss.

•Storage period of up to 12 months.

•Feed rates: dairy up to 6kg, beef can be fed ad-lib.

•Further information from Barrett Agri/Southern Fuel & Farm Supplies Ltd.

Acid Treatment (wheat and barley)

•Treat grain using organic acids such as propionic acid at moistures ranging from 17-25pc.

•Application rates vary according to grain moisture content and product used.

•Acids may have a negative effect on grain protein usage.

•This type of treatment may not complement diets high in acidic silages.

•Ensure even and adequate application rates as insufficient application will result in mould development.

•Acid is applied to whole grains prior to storage.

•Alternatively dry roll/ crimp and add acid prior to storing.

•Use 10pc higher application rates where dry rolled and treated off the combine for long term storage.

•Monitor grain temperature and ventilate if necessary if storing long term.

•Storage period of up to six months.

•Can't be included in meal mixes at the higher end of moisture range.

•Feed rates: dairy up to 4kg, beef up to 6kg, depending on pH of silage.

•Organic acids are also corrosive so care is needed when handling. Speak to your local agri merchant for product details.

Dry Grain (14-17pc moisture), Wheat, barley, triticale and oats

•It is necessary to lower the grain moisture to between 14-17pc to prevent heating during storage.

•May be necessary to aerate during storage.

•May be more difficult to roll when dry.

•Too fine particle size may induce acidosis in livestock.

•Caution should be taken when rolling due to grain dust and the addition of water to reduce dust may cause the grain to heat.

•Storage weight loss can be high at 3-4pc due to moisture loss.

•Once rolled, the grain should ideally be fed within four weeks.

•This option can be included in meal mixes.

•Feed rates for wheat: dairy up to 3kg, beef up to 4kg.

•Feed rates for barley: dairy up to 4kg, beef up to 6kg.

•Storage period up to nine months.

Gerry Giggins and Brian Reidy are nutritionists. Email: ggiggins@ or

Indo Farming