8 June 2001

Drying costs increase

HIGH fuel prices mean extra costs for drying grain this season, particularly where poor weather often necessitates harvesting damp crops, but there are alternatives.

All the options involve harvesting grain while it is still moist and preserving it with an additive.

But which one to use will depend on what facilities and equipment are available, according to Teagascs cattle specialist Pearse Kelly.

"One method is to add propionic acid to grain harvested at 18-20% moisture. However, a grain storage area is needed, such as a dry building with a concrete floor, and not all producers have this available."

"Another option is to harvest the crop earlier at 25-30% moisture and ensile it after adding urea using a mixer wagon," he says. "The urea is converted to ammonia, which acts on the seed coat to improve dig-estibility. Urea-treated wheat can be fed four weeks after treatment.

"Crimping has become a popular option for ensiling moist grain harvested 3-4 weeks early. The crop is combined and brought back to the farm for processing using a crimping machine. Rollers crimp the grain before an acid additive is applied.

"There is little difference in cost between urea treated and crimped wheat, with both at £10-13/t."

Crimping may also be an option for producers without their own grain crops. Last year, some arable producers in Ireland were harvesting grain early at 26% moisture and selling to dairy producers for crimping to spread out their harvest.

"However, urea-treated wheat will have an extra 6-8% crude protein." But care is needed as adding too much urea can poison cattle, warns Mr Kelly.