15 June 2001

Inoculants a safer way to treat cereals

By Jessica Buss

CAUSTIC-TREATED cereal is well respected as a feed, but there have always been concerns over safety when preparing it for feeding.

Now a new alternative, biological product for treating cereals should alleviate any safety concerns, while reducing ration costs for dairy and beef animals.

Launching BioGrain at a London Press briefing, last week, Biotals technical manager, John Bax, said it had developed the product to replace both rolled and caustic treated cereals. The freeze-dried inoculant additive is based on the organism Lactobacillus buchneri.

Using the product required no investment in specialist equipment, he said. A mixer wagon was needed only when the crop was treated and that could be completed as the crop was harvested. "A producer can treat enough cereal for feeding a 100-cow dairy herd over a 200-day winter in a day.

"BioGrain is a safe grain treatment method. Processing is simple and the product is non-toxic and non-corrosive, so it will not damage a mixer wagon. It is also has Soil Association approval for use in organic systems."

Grain could be treated at up to 35% moisture, making it possible to harvest crops three to four weeks early, saving on drying costs needed when grain was stored before caustic treatment. Grain typically costs £10/t to dry and it could cost £15/t to process when investing capital in special equipment, he added. But BioGrain is also suitable for use on dry grain when required. To treat grain, he said, water was added to the mixer wagon with BioGrain inoculant to make the grain 50% moisture, before mixing for 10-15min.

The feed was then sealed in a clamp using plastic silage sheets and it must be stored for 30 days before use to allow it to stabilise.

"Normally, grain would go off because yeast causes heating and then visible mould appears. This inoculant knocks out yeast, so when the clamp is opened it is completely stable."

Grain needed no further treatment before feeding. The seed coat was loosened by the physical action in the mixer wagon, added Mr Bax. But because grain was still whole, starch was slowly degraded, making it safe to feed more cereal in a ration.

This would allow many producers to increase the proportion of home-grown feeds in rations and cut costs, he said. When replacing 3kg of purchased concentrate with 6kg of BioGrain for a 7000-litre cow, it could cut ration cost from 9.6p/kg DM to 9p/kg DM.

The treatment costs £10/t and many producers would also save on grain drying costs; caustic treatment typically costs £15/t, said Mr Bax. He also said straw could be left to dry and baled in the field or, when harvesting early, it could be whole-cropped for youngstock feed. &#42

New inoculant, BioGrain, will provide a safer way to treat cereals than caustic preparations, says John Bax.

INOCULANT FOR GRAIN

&#8226 Safe to use.

&#8226 Costs £10/t.

&#8226 Reduces feed costs.