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Trial Illustrates Flexibility of Fermented Wholecrop

For all livestock enterprises, grazed grass and conserved forages offer a much cheaper source of feed than concentrates, as numerous studies show.

Ruminants are designed to eat forage and convert it into milk or live weight gain (LWG) - the challenge is in producing high quality forage which enables you to maximise productivity and profitability.

It is widely accepted that to reduce and spread risk you need to increase the flexibility in what you do; in other words – it’s important to have your eggs in more than one basket. In forage production this means having more than one crop available or having a crop that can be used in more than one way. Fermented wholecrop is the only crop which has the potential to offer this flexibility.

To this end a trial was carried out last year in conjunction with Biotal and NIAB at a trial site at Harper Adams University. The trial set out to compare winter and spring wholecrop options and to determine if wholecrop can be tailored to produce a specific type of forage to suit different circumstances. A total of eleven winter and spring crops were grown, including wheat, barley and triticale, using standard farm agronomy and analysis carried out on the forages produced.

If we look at one crop in the trial we can see how cutting date can significantly affect yield, dry matter and nutritional value of the crop. As you would expect, crops get progressively drier as they mature but there are also changes in composition, which affects feed value. The table below illustrates how these values are impacted at different cutting dates.  Neutral Detergent Fibre (NDF) can be considered one of the primary measures of forage quality.

Winter Wheat Nutritional Values – Trial Results

CUTTING

D VALUE (%)

STARCH (%)

NDF (%)

 

WEEK 1

61.0

0.0

60.9

WEEK 2

64.6

10.0

43.3

WEEK 3

66.5

17.8

42.1

WEEK 4

66.1

22.0

42.6

WEEK 5

66.5

25.5

43.4

 

Earlier harvest shows material is wetter with lower starch and higher digestible fibre, while later harvested crops are drier with more starch and less digestible fibre. Where grass silage quality is poor, the wholecrop can be cut at an earlier date to provide a feed with a higher level of digestible fibre.  Where grass silage quality is high, a later cutting date for wholecrop will give a drier, higher starch feed. 

Wholecrop is a good alternative forage in marginal maize growing areas and a useful complementary forage for grass and maize systems. As well as offering great flexibility, it can also help lower production costs. The maximum benefits of fermented wholecrop will be realised if good management is observed during the harvesting and, more importantly, ensiling period.



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