24 March 2000

Ureas triple role in top-notch whole-crop

LESS concentrated urea is needed for preserving processed whole-crop cereals, cutting costs.

It can also be readily added in liquid form via forage harvesters, eliminating the need for adding pellets to clamps which can lead to uneven distribution.

Urea is a useful and cost effective additive for whole-crop, says SAC beef specialist Basil Lowman. "It has three functions; it preserves whole-crop, discourages vermin and boosts protein content.

"In traditional whole-crop, which is not passed through a grain processor, it also breaks the grain husk, allowing ruminants to digest the feed effectively," he adds.

Whereas traditional whole-crop requires the addition of a 3-4% urea solution, processing grain through the forage harvester would eliminate the need for extra urea to break the husk so a 2% solution would be sufficient, says Dr Lowman.

"Forage harvesters are geared to deal with additives, and about 35 litres/t of a 2% urea solution costing £6-£7/t DM of whole-crop would be sufficient.

"This would also boost whole-crop protein levels from 10% to about 18%, supplying the whole protein requirement for beef cattle and a proportion of dairy cow requirements."

For best results with whole-crop, Dr Lowman advises harvesting at 25%-30% moisture.

"Harvesting at more than 35% moisture means you are harvesting a lot of water. But in whole-crop with a moisture content of less than 25%, there is insufficient moisture for enzymes in the crop to convert urea to ammonia, necessary for effective preservation of the crop." Besides producing high quality feed, the ability to process whole-crop using forage harvesters before clamping should save time for over-stretched producers, he believes.

"Many producers are sick of having to spend time rolling cereals and they do not have the necessary labour.

"Being able to use forage harvesters to harvest cereals for whole-crop will also save the hassle of trying to secure contractors combines when they are in high demand at harvest time." &#42