With the necessity to maximise homegrown forage, harvesting cereals as wholecrop silage is a great option to make up for any shortfalls following on from the grass silage harvest. Have a look at our tips to consider when making wholecrop silage below:
1. Making wholecrop silage is the process of harvesting the entire cereal crop & storing anaerobically so it ferments the same way as grass or maize silage. Wholecrop silage complements grass & maize silage well, or to make up for any shortfalls from 1st cut silage. Once 1st cut has been harvested, a decision can be made as to how much wholecrop is needed for silage, with the remaining being suitable for either crimping or harvested as mature grain.
2. The most common types of wholecrop silage are wheat, barley, triticale, sorghum & hybrid rye.
3. Compared to grass silage, wholecrop is a cost effective, high yielding crop and will grow well in climates where maize does not. It is a good source of feed with high starch levels, however it is lower in protein.
4. As wholecrop is a drier crop it is harder to ferment, this can lead to spoilage so to reduce heating once opened it is important to consider the use of a crop appropriate additive to help this.
5. The optimum Dry Matter for wholecrop harvest is between 35-45%, ideally a target of 40% should be aimed for, as drier crops are harder to compact when ensiling.
6. Wholecrop harvest fits in well with grass & maize harvests, as it is typically harvested after second cut and before maize.
7. Due to its high palatability, Dry Matter Intakes in high yielding herds can be improved by adding wholecrop into a mixed forage ration.
8. Chop length is key to ensure good compaction of this drier silage, optimum chop length is between 15-20mm. Higher DM crops want a shorter chop length, lower DM crops want a longer chop length.
9. Crimping grain is the process of rolling high moisture grain through a mill, then treating it and ensiling anaerobically the same as silage. This means it can be harvested earlier and will have a higher digestibility compared to a drier, more mature crop which is harder to digest.
10. Wholecrop rye is a great feedstock for Anaerobic Digesters as it is a high yielding crop, it is usually harvested in July which is a big advantage when compared to maize silage, which is harvested later on in the year.
With cereals providing a larger harvesting window compared to grass and maize, wholecrop silage is a consistently high quality, nutritional, high yielding option for both dairy & AD operations. And when harvested at the optimum DM & well consolidated, promotes increased DMI and is highly palatable.