Grain is still the best value for money feed

Gerry Giggins

It's that time of year again when we must begin planning for winter feeding. The grain harvest is almost upon us and now is the time to decide which option is best for your farm.

Even with the large quantities of hay that have been made, forage is still quite scarce throughout the country. The late spring forced all feed reserves on farms to be used up and, with disappointing yields in first cut silage, many farmers could head into a winter with feed deficits.

Currently the world grain markets are quite volatile and that is being reflected here in Ireland.

Grain is set to be higher priced than last year but still represents the best value for money feed available to the livestock sector.

Why feed cereals?

  • High energy levels from starch and fibre;
  • Totally traceable, high- quality product;
  • Extremely versatile -- suitable for all classes of stock;
  • Processing and preserving systems have been perfected;
  • Drives milk protein and beef carcass development;
  • All types of grain can be traded and transported among farmers to increase grower margins and reduce end users' feed costs.

The options

  • Crop DM (pc):

Harvest/Process: 35-45; Fermented Wholecrop: 65-75;

Combine and crimp grain, bale straw: 65-85;

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Wholecrop Mill: 75-85;

Combine and soda treat, dry, or add propionic: 85+;

Combine and store: Soda treat or roll.

When considering your options you should ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do you have enough forage?
  • Are you already feeding a mixed forage diet?
  • What type of animals are you feeding?
  • What is your storage facilities best suited to?

Wholecrop and Forage Options:

  • Fermented wholecrop:

(a) Wheat, barley, oats and triticale can be used;

(b) Earliest harvest -- soft cheese stage;

(c) Aim for short chop length and ensile well;

(d) Select a suitable additive to help prevent secondary fermentation;

(e) Flexible feed, no limit on feed rate provided that protein and minerals are correctly balanced;

(f) Ideal where maize is not an option;

(g) Harvest dates: Last week in July to the first week in August for spring crops.

  • Dry wholecrop mill:

(a) Specifically designed to treat wholecrop cereals at higher dry matter;

(b) It can also be done with wheat, barley, triticale and oats;

(c) Harvest takes place between 55pc and 70pc DM, which gives a large window of opportunity;

(d) It is necessary to have a secondary processing mill on the harvester;

(e) The crop is preserved by the addition of an additive, which stabilises the drier material;

(f) The wholecrop mill has a higher starch content than conventional wholecrop, and processing will increase the rate of grain fermentation;

(g) Clamps should not be outdoors and should remain sealed for a minimum of 30 days;

(h) Harvest dates: Second and third weeks of August.

There are wide and varied options for processing and storage of grain and the following are the most widely practiced on Irish farms:

  • Crimped Grain:

(a) Combined at 28-37pc moisture;

(b) Mechanically crimped and preservative applied;

(c) Consolidated, sheeted and 3-4 weeks allowed for ensiling;

(d) Stabilises at a pH of 4-4.5;

(e) Over-dry material might need to have water added;

(f) Effect on rumen will depend on crop and preservative used;

(g) This treatment is seen to have the best results on wheat.

  • Sodagrain:

(a) This is possibly the cheapest treatment option this year;

(b) Grain is treated off the combine between 18pc and 30pc moisture;

(c) Dried grain can also be used in the same system after storage;

(d) This once-off treatment allows for long-term storage;

(e) As this is an alkaline feed it stabilises the rumen pH and reduces the risk of acidosis.

  • Dry Rolled Grain:

(a) Aim for moisture content of 16-18pc to minimise shattering during rolling;

(b) Barley is safer than wheat due to higher fibre content;

(c) Oats are almost a forgotten cereal and can replace all the 'pulps' in most diets.

  • Acid Treated Grain:

(a) Generally used at between 18-24pc moisture;

(b) Presents a better 'roll';

(c) Becomes expensive at high moisture counts;

(d) Can be rolled and treated for storage or treated and rolled at a later date;

(e) Barley is more suitable for this process than wheat

There are a number of other processes such as Alkigrain, Toasted cereals and Ground Ear Maize that will come to the fore in the coming years.

Irish Independent

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