14 November 1997

Two-hour soak helps treated grain go down

CAUSTIC treated grain must be soaked for a minimum of two hours before feeding it – grain that is too dry will pass through cows.

So says Devon milk producer Patrick Cock, who uses an old loader bucket to soak the treated grain. He fills it with enough treated grain for that day, adds water and then lets it soak for several hours, until the grains can be squashed. Soaking also helps scrub off any remaining husks. But enough room must be allowed in the bucket for the grain to swell, he adds.

Wheat for his 290 cows is treated with caustic in the mixer wagon about once a fortnight. Caustic is added at 25kg/t of wheat and mixed for 5min. More caustic is needed for barley. The caustic must be handled carefully and protective clothing worn, he says.

"Water is added according to the recommended rate for that moisture content of grain and it is mixed for a further 15min." Then treated grain must be spread to about 30cm (1ft) deep to cool and prevent it going off. But after cooling it can be heaped up, he adds.

At Younghouse, there is enough room on the shed floor to spread about two weeks worth. This must be left for about four days before feeding out. "Mixing a few loads at a time allows you to clean out the wagon – you do not want to feed out freshly treated grain."

Mr Cock uses straw or maize silage, which can be added into the feed after a few days, to clean out the wagon.

The advantage of caustic treatment is that when you have a watertight mixer wagon no extra investment is needed. But the process is time consuming, with each 6-10t load, depending on the size of wagon, taking about half an hour. Taking the cost of caustic, at about £8/t, into account total treatment costs increase to £10/t. &#42