Farm Ireland

Wednesday 17 January 2018

Weigh up all the different options for storing grain and find the one for you

Patrick O'Kiely

To minimise the costs associated with winter feeding, farmers are looking at every possibility for buying and storing feed. If not grown at home, concentrate feeds such as grains cannot be bought any cheaper than direct from a grower. But what is the best way to store them, and how can the farmer maximise the feeding value of these grains?

The two key aims when storing cereal grains and feeding them to cattle are to:

•Prevent the growth of pests such as mould and mites;

•Break the seedcoat of the grains so the animal can fully digest the energy-rich interior.

Mould growth on grain has to be prevented as it represents a loss of feedstuff, a fall in feed value, a proliferation of spores and potential production of harmful mycotoxins.

Whole cereal grains with a moisture content below 14pc will usually not help mould growth even during an extended duration of aerobic storage. As grain moisture content increases towards 22pc, the duration of safe storage decreases rapidly and the requirement for aeration or drying, or for preservative treatment, increases progressively. For grain of more than 22pc moisture, effective treatment with preservatives or extensive drying is needed soon after harvesting.

However, keeping grain free from mould is only half the battle. If fully ripe grains are fed to cattle without being processed, many of them will pass through to the animal's dung without being digested.

This results in much of the feed value being lost and a poor growth response. Therefore, some form of physical or chemical disruption of the grain seed coat is needed.

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Moist/high-moisture grain

Among the options for storing and processing moist or high-moisture grains are:

•Moist grain:

(i) Aerate or dry. Processing such as rolling will be needed shortly before feeding.

(ii) Roll grain of 18-26pc moisture, treat with propionic acid or urea-based preservatives, and store until ready to feed.

(iii) Treat grain of 18-30pc moisture with caustic soda and store until ready to feed. Rolling should not be needed.

•High-moisture grain:

(i) Crimp grain of 30-40pc moisture, treat with an additive and ensile until feeding.

Moist and high-moisture grain systems have advantages and disadvantages, but they are an option for those livestock farmers prepared to buy grain off the combine to reduce feed costs but who cannot dry and easily store dry grain. Thus, with high grain prices, these technologies warrant consideration. The following are further details on one of the most popular of these options.

Crimped grain

Crimping is a version of rolling grain which is then ensiled.

Important points for the crimped grain system include:

•Wheat, barley and triticale grains can be successfully 'crimped'.

•Invest time in planning and co-ordinating the logistics of combine harvesting, grain transport, crimping/additive application, storing, sealing, etc. Aim to store the crimped grain so it will have a small feed-face -- thus, a narrow and low clamp/bunker are vital.

•Harvest grain at 30-40pc moisture content. Moisture content can change considerably throughout a day, so frequent checking is needed.

•Ensure the seed-coat gets broken when grain is passing through the crimper rollers. It is not necessary to completely crush/flatten the grain.

•Apply additive evenly through the crimper to prevent mould growth later.

•Process the grain quickly, pack it well into the silo and seal it perfectly. This is the single most important undertaking, and must be a success.

Seal beneath two layers of new film, use a 'wall sheet' if appropriate, cover completely with touching tyres and weight firmly and evenly at ground level. An investment of time and attention to detail in ensuring a perfect seal will be rewarded with no wasted or mouldy grain. The penalty for failing to achieve this can be considerable.

•Protect from livestock, wildlife and vermin.

•Plan the feedout to ensure that mould growth is prevented. Thus, move quickly through the feed face, with minimal disturbance, and keep the plastic cover off of the feed face.

Dr Padraig O'Kiely is a research scientist specialising in beef nutrition and production systems

Indo Farming