12 July 2002

Still time to add grain to your whole-crop supplies

By Jonathan Long

WHILE progress is being made with whole-crop harvest in some parts of the country, there is still time to commit wheat or spring barley to whole-crop to boost forage supplies.

With grain prices on the floor, poor quality first cut silage and maize slow to grow, many producers may consider clamping some or more whole-crop, says Dorset-based contractor Mike Simpson.

"Whole-crop wheat yields should be good this year. The damp spring has promoted straw growth, meaning more bulk in the clamp. But changeable weather has meant that maize growth is variable across the south west and quality is likely to be down."

Some maize crops look to be about six weeks behind normal growth stages and this will impact seriously on both quality and quantity, warns Mr Simpson, who does not expect to start whole-crop harvest for another three to four weeks.

But whole-crop is likely to be less popular in the north west this year, as high bulk first cut grass crops have filled clamps early this season, reports contractor Robert Pinches, who is based in Market Drayton, Shropshire.

"Heavy first cuts have put plenty of grass in the clamps, but producers hoping to top up quality with maize could well be disappointed. We have lacked sunshine, which maize needs for quality," says Mr Pinches.

"Many organic producers are also looking to use whole-crop this year, as they have been unable to obtain good enough second and third cut grass in previous years."

Mr Pinches has recently started harvesting barley for crimping and suggests that interest in this method of preserving grain is high this season as producers seek to avoid selling grain cheaply.

But with whole-crop of the Alkalage type – using Volac Home n Dry preservative and grain crackers when harvesting – a wide window for harvesting, from July to early September, is possible, adds Volacs Doug McLeish. Cutting height can also be adjusted to suit the type of grass silage made.

"Where silage quality is good, but low in fibre and dry matter, a longer straw will raise the overall forage dry matter and replace some of the missing fibre. Where grass was cut over mature, a short straw or a head cut can provide both the extra energy and, by applying sufficient preservative, the required rumen degradable protein."

Farms with full silage clamps, can build simple structures to hold Alkalage, as the outward pressure exerted is less than for low dry matter forages. Alkalage does not produce any effluent, so it can be stored, safely, in earth walled pits with a polythene liner to protect it on all sides. &#42