9 February 1996

Research and results

FURTHER research on whole-crop cereal front is being pursued through the MAFF, MGA and commercially funded LINK programme.

Dr Adegbola Adesogan, now University of Wales, Aberystwyth, cautioned that the composition of whole-crop wheat forages varies considerably with maturity at harvest, extent of fermentation and the additives used. Good management is essential to realise the potentially high digestibility and energy content of these forages.

He stressed the need to monitor crop maturity rate closely in the lead up to harvest. That was essential to prevent fermentation of over-ripe crops treated with urea, and dry matters of between 40-60% at harvest were recommended.

Dr John Sutton, Centre for Dairy Research (CEDAR), Reading University, said previous trials at Wye College, Kent, and at CEDAR, with urea-treated whole-crop wheat used in dairy cow rations, had given smaller milk yield responses than expected.

Six trials over a three-year programme had studied the effects of whole-crop wheat in the forage on feed intake, digestibility and milk production, the energy balance in cows eating grass silage and whole-crop wheat mixes and the effects of various forage treatments.

Substitution of up to 67% of 55-64% dry matter whole-crop wheat in the forage feed with grass silage had increased forage DM intake with small but consistent effects on milk yield and protein content.

Yield response was limited by the low digestibility of whole-crop wheat, particularly the wheat grains, and the energy value was low at 8.1ME/kg dry matter.