Mixer adds to your feeding options

Replacing rolled grain with soda grain can cut costs and allow damp grain to be successfully stored without the need for drying.

This is the second week of the Farmers Weekly/Keenan “Blue Chip” competition, which will give four prize winners the fantastic chance to have the use of a Keenan Klassik Mixer of their choice, plus Rumans Nutrition support for six months.

Rumans is the nutrition branch of Keenan, with qualified and experienced nutrition staff working with farmers throughout the UK.

Best Option for Energy Source

Cereal grain still offers the best option for an energy source for the modern dairy cow, particularly when the farmer can produce this on farm or buy it locally.

With this year’s grain prices hitting 10-year highs, many farmers are having to look at growing more cereal, returning to a more traditional method of growing it to feed it. Sound advice points towards home-grown cereals, harvesting grain for feeding and straw for effective incorporation in both milking and dry cow rations.

Big impact on cow performance

Managing grain and the method in which it is fed has a big impact on cow performance. It is well documented that feeding grain to dairy cows invariably increases milk yield.

But a well known problem with feeding cereal grain is the potential risk of rumen acidosis, caused by a drop in rumen pH when animals eat large amounts of rapidly fermentable carbohydrates in the form of starch. Therefore, we must find a safe and healthy way of exploiting this valuable energy source without putting cows at risk.

First, we must examine the methods in use, These include:

  • Propcorned rolled grain. Harvested grain is treated with propionic acid, which allows moist storage. Grain is then rolled for feeding. This grain carries a high risk of acidosis when fed at more than 3.5kg a cow a day.
  • Crimped grain. This allows early harvest. Grain is harvested between 35% and 45% moisture. Research suggests crimp can be fed at higher rates than rolled cereal, but risk of acidosis still remains considerable.
  • Dried rolled grain. Once harvested, grain is dried (when necessary) to below 18% moisture content for safe storage. Grain is then rolled for feeding, but again carries a high risk of acidosis when fed at more than 3.5kg a cow a day. This is made worse when grain is milled before feeding.

The wet summer is causing problems for many dairy and cereal farmers alike. A poor spell of weather has led to many first-cut silages being harvested wet, therefore, increasing the risk of acidosis this winter.

Many dairy farmers will be faced with the predicament of having slightly acidic silages to be fed alongside cereals. So how can we still get the most from cereals without jeopardising cow health and performance?

A proven formula is soda grain. In this process, cereal grains (wheat, barley, oats) are treated with caustic soda. After treatment grain can be clamped for at least six months and, whether it is your grains or a neighbour’s, it also eliminates drying to save time and money.

This year’s harvest has meant there are relatively large volumes of moist grain about. This could prove an excellent chance for dairy farmers, as soda grain can be made straight off the combine. Grain treated with caustic soda at 20-22% moisture can be successfully stored for winter, while wetter grain (25-30% moisture) treated in the same way should be fed within a couple of months.


Price Comparison
Dried rolled grain (wheat)
Cost £140.00
Rolling £10.00
Sub total £150.00
Loss during rolling (5%)* £7.90
Buffer (sodium bicarbonate)** £11.20
Total £169.10
*Loss on rolling plus smaller grains unrolled passing through cows undigested
**sodium bicarbonate buffer at 4% inculsion @£280/t
Soda grain (wheat)
Cost £140.00
Caustic soda £13.20
Sub total £153.20
Labour, fuel, machine, & water cost £10.00
Buffer (sodium bicarbonate)* £0.00
Total £163.10
*Caustic pearls £440/t
**Sodium bicarbonate not required, as caustic soda converts to sodium bicarbonate


This is the second question in a series of four. All four questions, together with an entry from will be published in Farmers Weekly 14 September.

“After treatment, how long can soda grain be safely clamped?”

a. At least three months?

b. At least six months?

c. At least nine months?

Farmers Weekly Awards 2021

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Farmers Weekly Awards 2021

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Farmers Weekly Awards 2021

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