Act now to preserve wet grain

Farmers faced with wet grain and straw should act now to avoid winter feeding and bedding plans being affected by the wet harvest, warns beef consultant, David Hendy.

“Deciding what to do with wheat once harvested depends on moisture content,” says Mr Hendy. “When moisture content is more than 22% farmers should be thinking about crimping. Farmers who don’t have spare clamps can use Ag-bag type plastic silo’s in the field.

“Anything with water content less than 20% could be rolled and treated with propionic aid.”

Keenan Rumans nutritionist Seth Wareing also recommends treating anything up to 30% moisture content with caustic soda. “Adding a 3% inclusion into wheat and 5% for barley takes the seed coat off and preserves it. The advantages with caustic treatment is that it can be store up to 12 months in a barn, doesn’t need clamping and can be moved around.

“And although caustic soda is costing £550/t, it allows flexibility and with whole grain you get better performance.”

Promar regional consultant, Andrew Thompson says crimping is a better option than drying. “Crimping and adding an additive can produce high energy and high starch products with an ME of 13.5, which is slowly degradable in the rumen.”

But Mr Thompson says for crimped grain to be successful it must be stored well, with oxygen removed to allow anaerobic digestion and prevention of mycotoxins.

“Storing can take place with temporary clamps on hard concrete, which requires weight on top and strict management to create an anaerobic environment. Ag-bags, although more expensive create good fermentation and are easier to manage. It is also important farmers manage the face of the clamp to prevent any damage.”

Mr Hendy says crimping is the most cost-effective method producing the best quality product, at £20/t for crimping and plastic. This is compared with £15/t for just drying the crop.

Baling wet straw is also an issue affecting many farmers, says Keenan’s Hugh Kerr.

“Farmers need to be patient and shouldn’t be baling up wet straw,” he says. “Special attention needs to be made to getting it dry and clean. In terms of bedding, wet straw won’t be as absorbent and unless we get dry weather straw could be critical.”

Mr Thompson also warns of the effect bedding on wet straw could have on levels of mastitis. “Bedding dairy cattle on wet straw will create a challenge all winter and there will be a constant battle against cells counts and mastitis.

“Dairy farmers should maybe look into long-term investments by installing mattresses, which will require less bedding and will have a short payback period. Other alternatives include paper-based products, saw dust and rape straw,” he adds.

Mr Wareing emphasises the importance of feeding fully dried straw due to the build-up of mycotoxins. “Corners must not be cut and straw must be included in the ration, as hay and silage don’t have the ‘scratch factor’ and production will be affected.”

For details of this week’s harvest progress see Arable p51 and catch up with the latest weather and harvest news and pictures here

Wet grain

  • Get crop off
  • Crimp and treat
  • Store in clamps or Ag-bags