Wholecrop solutions to a winter fodder scarcity
I have been writing for most of 2013 about how the wet weather has been impacting on forage stocks and forage quality. Paradoxically, in a large number of cases, I am now encountering situations where available forage supplies will not meet the winter requirements due to the recent shortage of rainfall.
Poor first-cut silage yields, lack of bulk in second cuts and the reduced availability of bulky by-products have resulted in a great risk of farmers experiencing forage shortage again, especially in areas with lighter soils.
Last week the fodder committee highlighted that two-thirds of farmers have a fodder deficit of 23pc. I can concur with this evaluation given my travels throughout the country. Burying your head in the sand now will result in problems again this winter.
Wholecrop cereals are a viable option to help avoid shortages, particularly for those close to grain-growing regions. However, as we saw during the spring forage crisis, the long-distance transport of fodder is a realistic option.
Either fermented or high dry matter milled wholecrop can be considered. Some spring barley crops have already gone beyond the stage for harvesting as a fermented wholecrop but all winter and spring wheat, plus spring oat crops, could still be an option.
Fermented wholecrop should be harvested at a dry matter content of 35-40pc, when the grain is at the 'soft cheese' or 'doughy' stage. The use of a recommended additive is essential to ensure proper fermentation and to reduce the risk of secondary fermentation at feed out.
High dry matter milled wholecrop is a flexible feed, with high inclusion rates as a fodder source possible once protein and minerals are correctly balanced. The cereal crop can be almost fully ripe at harvest, at a dry matter content of 65-80pc.
It is important that the grain is milled or cracked during harvesting. The use of an alkaline, urease enzyme-based additive will aid preservation while also increasing the protein content and pH of the feed.