16 June 1995

Yearly faith in feed since 79

FERMENTED whole-crop wheat and more recently undersown whole-crop barley have been made every year since 1978 on the 115ha (285-acre) farm of Torben Pedersen at Varde, Esbjerg, west Jutland.

Current ration for the zero grazed herd of 103 black-and-whites, with a rolling average of 8700kg at 4.08% fat and 3.48% protein, is 18kg fresh weight of fermented whole-crop barley, 18kg fresh weight of grass silage, 2kg soya, 2kg rape expellers, 0.7kg fishmeal, 3.5kg rolled barley, 2.3kg beet molasses and minerals mixed and fed via a Keenan feed wagon.

During the winter period this total mixed ration also contains double-chopped fodder beet, while in the parlour the herd gets 0.5kg a head of a 23% protein cake at both morning and afternoon milking.

"We did grow winter wheat for whole-crop for a few years, but spring barley fits into our rotation much better," explains Mr Pedersen.

"We also consider that grass silage is good for milk yields and to give the cows variety in their feed, while making both whole-crop silage and grass silage spreads the risks from the varying weather conditions that we experience here," he says.

"We grew maize from 1979 until 1985, when yields were too low from the varieties available then. But we may come back to it and try the better varieties now available."

"We will probably stick to fodder beet yielding 16-17t of dry matter a hectare. It involves a lot of labour, but nothing can compete with it on the soil here, which suits it very well," says Mr Pedersen.

This years cropping programme is 30ha (75 acres) spring barley, 10ha (25 acres) peas, 22ha (55 acres) grass silage, 10ha (25 acres) fodder beet, 11ha (27 acres) set-aside, and 20ha (50 acres) whole-crop barley undersown with ryegrass; the balance is for youngstock grazing.

His fermented whole-crop is harvested by contractor between July 25 and Aug 5, yielding 9-10t/ha (3.6-4t/acre) of DM. It is ensiled without additive in outdoor, concrete-walled and -floored bunkers 7m (23ft) wide. Filled and rolled bunkers are covered with two layers of plastic, tyres, and sand at the shoulders.

. However, in recent years these precautions has not been good enough to stop spoilage on the top of the clamp.

"I think that the quality of plastic sheeting has fallen, so this year we will be covering the clamps with three layers of plastic," says Mr Pedersen.

He reckons to feed out of the bunkers at a rate of about 1.5m (5ft) a week.