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To crimp or not to crimp grain - Contractor's view of crimped maize
With grass silage and wholecrop behind him and cereal harvest all but complete, contractor, Frans de Boer, is gearing up for the next busy season ahead.
It will be all about maize in the autumn months for the southeast-based operator, who will not only be harvesting hundreds of acres of forage maize, but expects the quantities of grain maize being crimped will continue to rise.“Crimped maize has taken off in a big way,” says Frans. “You only need to look at its feed value to understand why.”
He refers to its high metabolisable energy (usually around 14 MJ/kg DM); its exceptional starch (often close to 70%) and the large proportion of starch which bypasses the rumen, reducing the acid loading and ensuring this moist grain (30-35% moisture) is easy and safe to feed.
“People are definitely catching on and our business has seen its grain maize harvest increase to around 10,000 tonnes from just 200 tonnes when we first started crimping the crop in 2000,” he says.
But what type of farms are suited to growing maize for crimping and how easy is crimp to buy if it can’t be grown on the farm?
“We are definitely in the best part of the country for growing maize, but that’s not to say it can’t be grown elsewhere,” he says.
“Harvest for us starts in October and ends in November, and I’d say, as a rule of thumb, that if you can forage in September, you should be OK to harvest grain in mid to late October.
“Earlier sites are obviously better, and if you’re on a very wet farm, you are probably not going to consider it,” he continues.
“But growing crimp on light soils as far north as Yorkshire is perfectly feasible, especially if you choose sensible varieties, and growing under plastic can certainly bring harvest forward.”
For others he says there’s a regular trade in crimp, which is currently delivered at around £130-£135/tonne, depending on distance.
“It can arrive on the farm straight from the combine and the contractor will crimp it and clamp it or bag it straight away,” he says.
The grain is passed through the crimper and has preservative applied within 24 to 48 hours of harvest as it will otherwise start heating quickly.
“We always use Crimpstore to preserve the grain,” says Frans, whose business has been crimping cereals since the 1980s. “We know it works; it drops the pH straight away and the grain keeps hold of the key nutrients.
“We have tried biological additives in the past but found them to give an unreliable fermentation, so we stick with Crimpstore for everything,” he says.
“Our business is all about relationships,” he continues. “Our ethos is to increase profitability for the farmer and to deliver a service that suits his needs.
“If we don’t do that, we are not going to have a long term relationship with him,” he says.
Evidently succeeding in their mission, Messrs De Boer contractors now have five crimping machines - including the new Korte 2000 crimper/bagger whose throughput is 55 to 60 tonnes per hour - and cover the south east counties from Dorset to Wiltshire across to Suffolk and down to Kent. Beyond this area they work with other contractors.
“Our other four machines are all Korte 1000s, whose capacity is around 30 tonnes per hour,” says Frans. “Two of them have baggers and two have elevators which gives us plenty of scope to get grain into different storage sites.”
Stating that storage in clamps is the most cost-effective option, he says the alternative farm tube will add around £6 per tonne, while other ‘endless storage options’ are likely to exist on farm.
Crimping home-grown feed he says is always a cheap option with no haulage costs and few food miles to add.
“All grain is much more nutritionally beneficial at 35-45% moisture when its lignin content is low, and although it may not be a quick-fix solution for everyone, I can’t understand why more people don’t go in for crimping,” he says.
“With the best will in the world, forage is not going to supply enough energy for the modern, high-yielding dairy cow or the fast growing beef animal, so this is probably the most cost-effective means of increasing the nutritional quality, particularly the energy, of the ration.”
Commenting on this year’s plentiful supplies of forage and a good growing season for maize, he says: “We may see more maize crimped this year, but whether a crop that was originally intended for forage will be suitable for harvesting as grain will depend on a variety of factors.
“Every crop will have to be assessed on its own merits. There are varietal issues to consider and if the plants are strong and healthy, chances are it can be done, but if the plants are leaning, they may be best brought in as forage,” he says.
Crimped maize facts
- High nutritional values: ME around 14MJ/kg DM; starch around 70
- Rumen friendly with around 30% of starch bypassing the rumen
- Harvest takes place around three weeks after forage maize
- The use of Crimpstore ensures a rapid pH drop and quick preservation of nutrients
- Storage is simple in a clamp or bags
- No drying is required and heating is prevented by the fast preservation technique
- Reduces bought-in feed requirement
- Maize provides a good break from wheat and barley
- The stover is chopped and ploughed in, returning potassium, phosphorus and structure to the soil
- On-going product support is provided by Kelvin Cave Ltd