Whole Cropping

Successful Wholecropping

To remain competitive, farmers are increasingly looking to provide a larger proportion of the diet fed to livestock from their own resources.

Growing cereals for the production of either a wholecrop forage or concentrate feed, such as crimp and wholegrain, is increasing rapidly, thanks to the flexibility of the crop and that it can now be successfully clamped using Agrinexus biological inoculants. This gives the widest possible harvest window and much needed security. It also enables farmers to provide an increasing proportion of their feed requirements for milk and meat systems from home grown sources. This, in turn, provides an opportunity to reduce costs, improve profitability and develop a policy of complete traceability.

Wholecrop cereals are rapidly becoming the mainstay of many winter diets.

Wholecrop forages offer several advantages including; higher DM yields, reduced concentrate usage, higher milk quality and yields and increased DLWG in beef. Wholecrop is, however, prone to yeast and mould attack, leading to heating and poor aerobic stability when the clamp is opened.

Biomin has developed BioStabil HiDry, the microbial additive for wholecrop cereals. Specifically designed to prevent yeasts and moulds in the clamp, it reduces heating and mould on feed-out producing a cold, clean clamp face . This ensures a more palatable crop, gives higher DM intakes and increased yields or DLWG.

Wholecrop peas and beans provide a further opportunity to increase production of home grown feeds and reduce feed costs. The advent of higher yielding and better standing varieties enable this high protein, high starch feed to be grown on farm. However, although the nutritional value of the legumes is high, they can be difficult to ensile due to their low sugar content and high buffering capacity. For higher dry matter legume wholecrops we would recommend BioStabil HiDry which has been specifically designed to improve fermentation , enhance aerobic stability, retain protein and energy for all legume rich silages made from crops such as peas, beans and cereal/pea mixtures. For lower dry matter legume forages (under 30% DM) you could also use BioStabil Plus.

BioStabil is safe to handle, non-toxic, can be applied with standard and micro applicators and can be used in organic systems.

When to Harvest?

Harvest when the grain is at the “soft cheddar” stage. This equates to about 40-45% DM in wheat/Triticale, 35-40% DM in barley and 30-35% DM in Oats. If a processor is fitted to the harvester, fermented wholecrop can be harvested later, up to 70% DM.

Our preferred time would be to cut the crop when the grain is at the soft cheddar cheese stage. Although the crop is not at its peak starch level (65+ % DM), the straw is also an important factor - hopefully at this stage it still has some green in the stem and hasn’t lignified. There’s a lot more feed value in an un-lignified straw! So fermented wholecrop is a compromise between a rising starch and a more digestible straw. At this stage you do not need to process or crack the grain. The processor will reduce the chop length of the straw and create a fizzier feed reducing the nutritional feed potential . A whole grain produces a slower releasing starch and can be digested if harvested at the correct stage. Better to harvest a week early than a day late!

You will need to crack the grain if the crop has gone beyond this stage. Due to the “fast” fermentation rate of the processed crop extreme care needs to be exercised to balance the diet. There are lower levels of structural fibre and higher DM wholecrops are fed at a lower level .

A 3 tonne crop of wheat will provide ca. 12 tonnes of fermented wholecrop per acre at 40% DM (equivalent to 15 tonnes of maize at 30%DM)

A 4 tonne crop of wheat will provide ca. 14 tonnes of fermented wholecrop per acre at 40% DM (equivalent to 18 tonnes of maize at 30%DM)

Conventional Wholecrop

 

Harvest when the grain is at the “soft cheddar” stage. Equates to about 40-45% DM in wheat/Triticale, 35-40% DM in barley and 30-35% DM in Oats. If a processor is fitted to the harvester, fermented wholecrop can be harvested later, up to 70% DM

Wholecrop is usually harvested with a self-propelled fitted with either a disc header or combine reel. Avoid using a forage wagon as this produces too long a chop length making consolidation and feed intake difficult. Baling is also not recommended due to vermin attack.

Chop length

 

Target chop length should be approximately 2 – 4 cm, to aid compaction. This will result in a range of straw lengths with longer material as shown which will aid rumination and stimulate saliva production. Chop length can be reduced in the final layer to aid compaction.

BioStabil HiDry should be applied accurately and evenly. Weighing a full trailer is helpful when calibrating the applicator.

BioStabil HiDry prevents aerobic instability by eliminating yeasts in the forage which are the cause of heating in high dry matter crops.

Clamp management

 

Good clamp management is required as with any high quality forage. Start with a clean clamp! Fill the clamp evenly, compact it well and sheet as soon as possible to ensure a good fermentation.

The use of an airproof cling film is recommended as an under sheet. A small capping of grass silage is beneficial to provide compaction to the top layers and protect from bird penetration of the top sheet. Remember to side sheet!

Feeding Wholecrop Silages

 

  • Very flexible feed
  • Can be self-fed from the silage face 
  • Usually fed from a forage wagon or in a TMR
  • Can be the sole forage in dairy and beef rations
  • Good for cow health & milk quality. 
  • Builds a good frame in a beef animal
  • Normally complements grass silage
  • Makes an excellent buffer feed
  • Can be fed to dairy cows, beef cattle and young stock/sheep