Forage shortages and rising feed costs mean beef producers must look at ways of making the most out of home-grown cereals, says EBLEX senior beef scientist Mary Vickers.
“The earlier producers assess the options, the more flexibility they have to match home-produced cereal feeds to their particular farm situation and system requirements,” said Dr Vickers.
She said cereal wholecrops have the potential to offer producers relatively high forage, with variable fibre and starch contents, depending on how they have been harvested. However, producers must pay attention to crop consolidation and sealing to minimise clamp losses.
• Growing and Finishing Rations
For those wishing to use cereals in growing and finishing rations, cereal grain should be harvested separately from straw through a combine, to ensure sufficient digestibility.
• Grain Moisture
Grain with 30-45% moisture is suitable for crimping, but at lower moisture levels a treatment such as urea, caustic soda, or propionic acid, may be required. Dry grain requires traditional milling or rolling.
“Earlier combining at higher moisture contents when the seed coat is less lignified increases digestibility and overall utilisation,” said Dr Vickers. “Slower rates of starch fermentation – beneficial in lowering the risk of acidosis – can be achieved by more gentle processing, with crimping being particularly valuable in producing more slowing fermented, starchy feeds.”
To assist producers wishing to assess their home-grown cereal options, EBLEX has produced a ‘Better returns from cereal preservation and processing’ leaflet, available free to all levy payers from the BRP beef literature section of www.eblex.org.uk or by calling 0870 241 8829.