2 May 1997

Ensiling spuds cuts feed costs

PRODUCERS could cut feed costs for next winter by ensiling stockfeed potatoes, which are currently trading at anything up to £15/t.

According to Mitch Lewis, senior ruminant nutritionist at the Scottish Agricultural College, ensiling is the only way to store potatoes at this time of year.

"The best way to ensile potatoes is to cook them by steaming first. This produces a solid mass of potato, with less effluent than raw potatoes, which keeps well when properly clamped and sealed. But steaming costs about £2.50/t for fuel alone."

An easier option is to ensile raw potatoes with silage in a conventional silo. "Either mix the potatoes or layer them through the silage. The usual recommended ratio is 5:1 grass:potatoes, although some suggest a ratio as low as 3:1 is acceptable."

In some areas, potato waste is available, which can be used to cover silage pits, says Dr Lewis. "This is rather restricted, though."

He warns that some stocks which are for sale now are badly sprouted. "Producers must be aware that these sprouts contain glycoalkaloids which are toxic. Running potatoes over a dressing line may help remove them."

He also stresses that potatoes bought for ensiling must be clean. "Putting potatoes covered in soil into a silage pit is asking for trouble. Try to ensure they are clean, or washed if possible." &#42