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Top tips on ensiling wholecrop

George Fabi has been growing wholecrop wheat and oats on the predominantly grass farm for almost 25 years.

Wholecrop forms around half of the ration for the transition cows and is added in smaller quantities to the milking herd ration.

George Fabi says: “We started growing wholecrop to feed our transition cows to reduce milk fever cases due to high potassium levels in grass silage.

Now we see just one or two cases each year.

Winter and spring “We grow winter and spring wheat and oats, with roughly twice as much winter than spring crops because they yield better, even though they cost more to grow.

“Maize is grown after a grass ley followed by wheat and then oats, which are a really good clean up crop before we establish a grass ley again.

We do the cultivations ourselves but a contractor does our drilling.

The land receives plenty of slurry and box manure so we do not apply much fertiliser to avoid lodging.

“Wheat gives us a better feed with more starch, but oats form a bulkier crop with more straw and therefore fibre levels are higher.

We harvest the wheat when the grain has matured beyond the ‘cheesy’ stage at the point where we can rub the grain and it will turn powdery.

“We have a fantastic contractor and he has a good mill on the processor which squashes the grain very flat which opens it up so our cows can fully digest it.

We use an additive in the wholecrop as we find it aids the fermentation process.

Mr Fabi also grows 24 hectares (60 acres) of maize under oxo-degradable film and this is fed to the milk cows and sometimes instead of wholecrop for the transition cows.

He says the maize grows and feeds well and by picking a harvest date carefully, they rarely encounter problems.


Read More

Boosting milk yields in Co FermanaghBoosting milk yields in Co Fermanagh
What’s in the clamp?: A guide to making the best silageWhat’s in the clamp?: A guide to making the best silage
Growing the best wholecropGrowing the best wholecrop
Planning to maximise the potential of grassPlanning to maximise the potential of grass

Farm facts

  • Kirkbarrow Farm is located in the Eden Valley and extends to 170ha (420 acres). The closed herd of 320 pedigree Holstein cows is all-year-round calving and is housed, but youngstock and dry cows are out at grass
  • The milking herd is fed a total mixed ration of 40% grass silage, 17% each maize and wholecrop, 10% Trafford Gold and 10% sugar beet pulp plus blend

30-40% DM

Provides maximum fresh weight (FW) tonnage but least DM and starch

 

Typical yields:

  • Spring cereals: 22t-24.5t/ ha (9t-10t/acre)
  • Winter cereals: 24.5t-30t/ ha (10t-12t/acre) Often fed to youngstock and dry cows

 

No specialist equipment needed – can be harvested with a mower (disc mower preferable) without a conditioner

 

Ferments relatively easily, though is less aerobically stable than grass silage

Ideally use Ecocool or DA Ecocorn

40-50% DM

Provides a good level of starch and more scratch factor.

 

Typical FW tonnages:

  • Spring cereals: 24.5t/ha (10t/acre)
  • Winter cereals: 30t/ha (12t/acre)

Generally fed to youngstock and beef and as part of a dairy ration

 

Harvest with a wholecrop header to avoid grain loss; where DM is above 45% consider using a grain processor

 

Drier so more difficult to consolidate – fill in thin layers. Ideally place 60-90cm (2-3ft) of fresh grass on top to aid aerobic stability and reduce vermin problems

 

Ideally use Ecocool or DA Ecocorn

50-60% DM

Provides more scratch factor and starch.

 

Typical FW tonnages:

  • Winter cereals: 28t/ha (11t/acre)

Ideal for high-yielding dairy cows to accompany low fibre ration, but do not feed at high rates

 

A wholecrop header is required fitted with a processor to crack grains

 

Difficult to consolidate – must be filled in thin layers – 10-15cm (4-6in) to aid compaction. Ideally place 60-90cm (2-3ft) of fresh grass on top

 

Essential to use an additive such as Ecocool or DA Ecocorn

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