Category Archives: General News

Preserving the most from this autumn’s grass silage harvests

Dr Dave Davies, Silage Solutions Ltd considers how to get the most from this autumn’s silage harvests

On most farms this season silage stocks are at an all-time low, with the long winter eating into last year’s forage reserves. This has been followed by an exceptionally challenging spring and summer period, which has resulted in lower than normal harvested tonnages and many having to feed precious silage resources over the summer period.  As a result, any late season harvested grass has even greater value than normal. 

Undoubtedly, the biggest and most important single impact on silage quality and quantity is likely to be dry matter losses. It is often quoted that DM losses are on average between 20% and 25% in silage clamps in the UK. In 2017 I conducted a survey of silage clamps on 20 farms across the UK on behalf of AHDB, and the results of this survey give me no reason to question this assumption. These losses arise both from visibly wasted silage and invisible losses of CO2 and water during storage and feed-out.   

It should, however, be possible to reduce these losses to 15% or even 10% using well known, tried and tested, ensiling methodologies. Little (or no) impact on cost of production is involved, just taking a little more time to think about the whole ensiling operation.

Putting this 25% DM loss into perspective.  

One thousand tonnes of silage fresh matter harvested with a DM content of 30% equates to 300 tonnes of dry matter harvested. Losing 25% of that means you are left with 225 tonnes of DM and a financial loss of £9,000 (assuming a cost of production of £120/t of DM). Reducing these losses to 15% through thoughtful management will save you £3,600.  

However, this is not the whole story. The DM losses are from the most digestible part of the silage so nutritive value is also lost. If we take a 72 D value (ME of 11.5 MJ/kg DM) grass at harvest, after 25% losses, this becomes 68 D value (ME of 10.9 MJ/kg DM) silage. Reducing those losses to 15% results in a silage with a D value of 69.6 (ME of 11.14 MJ/Kg DM).  With 5 MJ required to produce a litre of milk, and feeding 10 kg DM of grass silage, this will result in an improvement of 0.5 litre of milk/cow/day comparing 15% DM losses with 25% DM losses.

Therefore, the overall gain to your business of reducing DM losses from 25% to 15% is £3,600 worth of additional silage and 15,000 litres of additional milk for every 1000 tonnes of grass fresh matter ensiled. What I have not added in is the additional concentrate costs of supplementing poorer quality silage which, to put a ball park figure on it, is likely to come in at an additional £14,000!  

The big question is ‘Can you afford to allow this value to evaporate away into the atmosphere?’

Unfortunately, too many farmers either ignore, or are oblivious to, the impact these DM losses are having on both the feeding value and quantity of silage remaining in their clamps. Of all silage-making seasons this is the year to wake up and take them into consideration.

The task is, therefore, to follow precisely the best practice guidelines, which will have minimal impact on cost of production, but can significantly enhance the quantity and quality, and therefore the value, of your grass silage. 

Having said all of that, this year’s late season grass silage is likely to present some additional challenges which need further thought, and these can be summarised as follows:

• The growing season and water deficit could result in lower than usual uptake and utilisation of nitrogen from manures and fertilizer. However, when the rain comes this will be taken into the plant in the form of non-protein nitrogen. This has the double-whammy effect of reducing grass sugar levels and increasing the plant’s own ability to buffer the pH decline during silage fermentation. Together these factors increase the risk of a slower speed of fermentation significantly and, as a result, secondary, clostridial (butyric) fermentation.

• The density of the sward bases could also be poorer as grass has suffered and died with the drought conditions. Open bases in the sward are likely to increase the risks of soil contamination during harvest and this will increase the risk of clostridial contamination of the harvested grass. 

• Clostridial fermentations increase the % DM losses and have a major effect on reducing the protein quality of silage.

• Good sward management has been particularly challenging this season and so it is also likely that there is dead and dying material in the sward bases. This material reduces the nutritive value but also increases the risks of higher yeast and mould populations and mycotoxin risk.

• Finally, given the long hot summer with low levels of grass growth, the natural epiphytic lactic acid bacterial population is also likely to be low due to high levels of UV radiation reducing their numbers. Therefore, relying on a natural fermentation may be a risk not worth taking with such an important silage crop this season.

These contrasting satellite images taken in April and July 2018 show the dramatic impact of the prolonged dry, hot period of early summer weather across much of the UK.

To combat these challenges and to give yourselves a better chance of success, and to target a reduction in % DM losses, it is essential with this late cut grass harvest season that you should think about:-

1. Cutting heights: walk the fields, inspect sward bases, and adjust the cutting height accordingly.

2. Additive: again, walk the fields, assess the amount of dead and decaying material in sward bases and consider appropriate silage additives to control both clostridial fermentation and aerobic spoilage at feed-out. The only additives that can effectively control both aspects effectively are chemical-based ones. If considering a biological additive it is even more essential than ever to choose one that applies 1,000,000 homofermentative bacteria/g of forage to ensure control of clostridia during fermentation.

3. Good clamp consolidation: as always this is the most important factor in reducing %DM losses and improving quality.

4. Good and effective sealing: including side sheets and oxygen barrier top sheets with ample top weight to ensure good consolidation and reduced oxygen ingress throughout the storage period.

My final take home message would be, this year of all years, ‘think about the value of your silage, not the cost of production!’

by Dr Dave Davies,
Silage Solutions Ltd

Machinery Matters

 

Maintenance, repair, refurbishment, new-build, bespoke …
With our own comprehensive workshop facilities, we’ll show you how easy it can be to keep your grain processing machinery in peak condition, as well as replacing or upgrading to your very own requirements.

Winter is almost certainly the best time of year to think about machinery and your up-coming requirements in preparation for the new season. Whether it’s essential routine maintenance, or considering the purchase of new or replacement equipment, there are often big decisions to be made.

At Kelvin Cave Ltd we’re best known for our market-leading Korte and Murska grain processing machines, as well as our own acclaimed Bruiser range, all of which are synonymous with quality and reliability. 

With throughput capacities of 1.5 to 50 tonnes/hour we understand that farmers and contractors often have very different and specific needs and expectations from their machines. This is why we will always take time to work with our customers to ensure we offer solutions that will precisely meet their expectations and budgets.

Over the years we have faced numerous challenges from customers seeking to incorporate the proven performance of our grain-crimping and rolling technology into machines that can offer even more than just their outstanding grain-processing ability. This has brought about the development of mill-and-mix machines with integrated on-board hoppers and tanks for adding minerals, protein and molasses supplements to grain to produce high value, balanced, concentrate feed at the point of processing.

Thanks to our dedicated engineering team and extensive fabrication and workshop facilities, we can design and build bespoke chassis and trailer units to help make machines across the range easily relocatable, as well as constructing static, gantry-mounted installations, such as this electrically powered Korte 1400 (pictured right), built for  a feed blending facility.

Add-ons, such as on-board weighing, have proved particularly popular with contractors who need to monitor and record throughput accurately for their clients, as well as for farmers seeking a simple method of determining crop yields.

Our own KC Bruiser 600 and 1250 British-built grain-rolling machines are helping to further expand the options available to farmers, and can also be fitted with weighing systems and ancillary features. 

DID YOU KNOW? …

World-renowned Korte rollers can be retrofitted to some other proprietary makes of grain-processing machines, helping to improve their throughput performance and reliability.

PLAN AHEAD

With the harvest season all but over for another year, now is a good time to take stock of the toll taken on machines and plan ahead for any maintenance or repairs that may be necessary.

We can undertake all forms of mechanical and electrical repairs and refurbishment including complete strip-downs, bearing and drive-train replacements, roller refurbishment and machining, shot blasting, re-spraying, rewiring and general maintenance checks.

Much of this work is best done before laying-up machines for the winter and, if done now, can contribute significantly to longevity and reliability over time.  Contact us now to book your machine in for a refurbishment or to discuss your specific requirements for a bespoke mill-and-mix unit.

As the sole UK distributor for Korte and Murska we have exclusive access to approved spares and components, as well as the technical expertise and support of the world-leader in grain-processing machinery.

DID YOU KNOW? …

We can often provide pre-owned machines that have been fully refurbished in our own workshops, providing an affordable entry point to home-grown feed processing.

Arable farmer ditches combine in favour of forage

A Yorkshire farmer has turned a difficult situation following this summer’s drought to everyone’s advantage in a move which could be replicated across the country to help alleviate the forage crisis.

Having grown spring beans for human consumption for many years at Pollington Grange, near Goole, Tom Bayston made the decision this year to ditch the combine and harvest his beans as wholecrop. He then bagged the bean silage in polythene tubes which he will sell to livestock producers, many of whom are already eating into this winter’s forage.

This decision by Mr Bayston shows how flexibility in farming can work in everyone’s favour as the arable farmer makes better use of his crop in a difficult year, while livestock producers gain access to an additional supply of high quality forage as their stocks are running low.

Tom Bayston (right) with Michael Carpenter from Kelvin Cave Ltd.

Mr Bayston, who farms around 1,000 acres (405ha) of arable land and is also the NFU Council delegate for the West Riding, says this year’s crop of spring beans was the poorest he has seen.

He said: “This summer, it stood at around knee-height as opposed to chest-height in a normal year, and it has about 20 per cent fewer pods.”

Estimating he would have harvested roughly one tonne per acre (2.5t/ha) if he’d gone ahead with the combine, he said this was around half the normal yield.

By choosing to wholecrop the beans instead, he said the 90 acres (36ha) he grew had been harvested by 15 August and weighed in at around 3t/acre (7.4t/ha).

Knowing wholecrop beans can be difficult to ensile, he consulted feed and forage preservation specialists, Kelvin Cave Ltd, who advised on the best approach to achieve a good fermentation.

“This is always important with bean silage which can be difficult to consolidate in order to achieve anaerobic conditions,” explained Michael Carpenter, northern area manager for Kelvin Cave Ltd. “In this instance, it was particularly important to ensure the forage would be stable after opening as it’s quite possible livestock producers buying the silage could keep it exposed to air for several days before feeding.”

Mr Bayston went ahead with the early August harvest after desiccating the green areas remaining in the crop because of uneven ripening. His contractor then used a self-propelled forager with disco header which chopped and processed the crop so the beans were crushed.

The top-of-the-range preservative, Safesil Pro, was used to ensure a quick and clean fermentation and to be certain of killing harmful bacteria and eliminating the activity of fungi and moulds.

“I recommended they used this preservative rather than an inoculant because a high dry matter, stemmy and fibrous wholecrop is amongst the most challenging of forages to compact and ensile, and some bacterial additives can give variable results,” said Mr Carpenter. “The preservative Tom used contains the human food-grade ingredients, sodium benzoate, potassium sorbate and sodium nitrite, which facilitates a rapid fermentation and gives the best aerobic
stability of any product we know.” 

A further benefit of bean silage is the numerous qualities it brings to livestock rations.

“Bean silage brings physical structure to a ration and is also a great source of protein and starch, potentially displacing a more expensive, and often imported, protein source,” he says. “Analysis of wholecrop bean silage recently made in this way in the north of England has typically been around 70 per cent dry matter and 19 per cent protein.”

Grant Mitchell of DB contracting and Chris Welburn (tipping trailer) bagging wholecrop beans – the disused wartime airfield runway is ideal for the bags.

Although the bags of silage on Pollington Grange have yet to be opened, Mr Bayston says he is so far pleased with the outcome.

Harvesting the crop early allows cultivations to begin in good time for the following crop of winter wheat, which is something which always does well after beans, or any other type of legume, have left nitrogen in the soil.

Financially, he says beans for human consumption would previously have grossed him around £150 per tonne, although prices were higher this year.  

However, although he is yet to work out a comparison of margins, he confidently expects this to be higher for the wholecrop than this year’s combinable beans.

On a farm on which he normally grows combinable crops, potatoes, carrots and vining peas, he says he would be pleased to add wholecrop beans to his regular rotation.

“I appreciate what the livestock sector is facing after a severe spring followed by flooding and then the drought, and I’m happy I can provide some extra forage,” he says. “Furthermore, we need to grow more feed in this country for farming to be more sustainable and less reliant on imports.”

Both Mr Carpenter and Mr Bayston have urged livestock farmers looking for extra forage to approach arable farmers who may still have spring bean crops yet to be harvested.

“It’s worth having that conversation,” says Mr Carpenter. “Their beans may not make the grade for combining but they may well be prepared to harvest them as wholecrop and sell them to livestock farmers.”  

Cereal harvest begins in Devon in mid-June

The combine was out last Friday afternoon (15 June) in Cullompton, Devon where beef and arable farmer, Roger Adams, has taken what is thought to be the UK’s first cereal harvest of the year.

Roger Adams, Cullompton, harvesting winter barley
Roger Adams, Cullompton, harvesting winter barley

Harvesting winter barley, he has crimped the crop to feed to his beef, bringing it in at moisture content of around 45 per cent. By crimping the barley, he is not only able to compile a ration with a high cereal content which can be safely fed to his beef, he is also able to maximise use of the land after the early harvest. He will immediately sow the cereal ground with Westerwold ryegrass, which will be ready to cut as silage by mid-September, in around three months’ time.
Mr Adams, who farms at Honeypark Farm with his son, Craig, said the early-cut barley was drilled at the end of last September and was well established before the cold snap hit the southwest of England. “It got off to a ripping good start before the weather turned bad last winter,” he says. “And the crop recovered quickly after the cold and late spring.”

Although he hasn’t weighed the crop he says he is confident yields are high and is expecting a freshweight of around five tonnes/acre (12t/ha). Even when the high moisture of the crop is considered, this will produce a high dry matter yield per hectare. As the crop comes off the field, it is processed through a crimping machine – a KC 600 Bruiser – which flat-rolls the grain and applies the crimping preservative, Crimpsafe 300. This allows the crop to be stored in a clamp without any specialist facilities. “The barley goes straight through the Bruiser and into the clamp where it is rolled, compacted and sheeted in just the same way as silage,” says Mr Adams.

Ian Hall from crop preservation specialists, Kelvin Cave Ltd, says the reason barley harvested for crimping produces such a high dry matter yield per hectare is because it comes in from the field in peak condition. “It is usually harvested before there’s any disease, shrivelling or loss of grain,” he says. “And with the right preservative, a quick and controlled fermentation is achieved and the crop’s nutritional value is retained for long-term stable storage.”

Crimped winter barley
Crimped winter barley

Mr Adams is able to use the crimped barley to grow and finish the 400 head of beef he keeps on the 400 acre (162ha) family farm. It is used in a completely home-grown ration which also includes grass and maize silage, dry rolled wheat and beans.
“Feeding a home-grown ration obviously saves us having to get the cheque book out to buy any cake,” says Mr Adams. “And feeding this total mixed ration means we can make sure the beef are all off the farm before they are 20 months old.”

What is grain crimping and why crimp grain

Crimping – It’s all about thinking inside the box

The complete crimping package

CrimpSafe 300 and CrimpSafe Hi-Dry
CrimpSafe 300 ensures a controlled fermentation and maximum nutrient retention for grain over 25% moisture. For effective preservation of grain below 25% moisture content, use CrimpSafe Hi-Dry.

Grain processing machines
With proven versatility and performance across the range, Kelvin Cave Ltd has machines capable of processing between 600 kg and 50 tonnes per hour, and a range of ancillary equipment and bespoke options to suit all applications.

O2 Barrier 2in1
Applied as a single sheet which transforms into two on the clamp, O2 Barrier 2in1 comprises a protective, high-quality top layer covering a layer of very oxygen impermeable, polyamide vacuum film. It provides quick and effective clamp sealing with a reduced workload, and up to a tenfold decrease in oxygen permeability compared to conventional sheeting systems.

ClampTiles
Made from 90 per cent recycled material with a life expectancy of around 15 years, ClampTiles are ergonomically designed for ease of handling. Unlike tyres, they don’t harbour rainwater and debris, and when not in use can be stacked on pallets.

ClampNet
A 300g/m2, heavy-duty green silage cover with seamed, stitched edges to prevent fraying or unravelling, ClampNet offers added protection from attack by birds and vermin and also helps to maintain compaction.

KlampClips
Made from stainless, spring steel, KlampClips are like an extra pair of hands when lining clamp walls with side sheets. Available in two sizes (100-150mm clamp wall width x 700mm long, and 200-300mm clamp wall width x 1000mm long), both are available in packs of 25.

Side Sheets
Heavy-duty, 150μm, clear plastic side sheets supplied in 50-metre rolls and convenient widths of 4, 5 and 6 metres.

wholecrop-silage

Close-up on Wholecrop

Reserve forage stocks have been used up completely or severely depleted in many parts of the country and, for many, a wet autumn resulted in reduced acreages of winter cereals being sown. Then we had the late and difficult spring weather delaying drilling of crops even further. In order to get rotations back on track and replenish conserved forage reserves, turning cereal and even pulse crops into wholecrop silage could be a useful option to consider.

Using cereal crops to produce good quality silage is often perceived as a simple, low-cost option and can help to get a starchy feed into ruminant rations, and wholecrop  also provides the benefit of rumen-stimulating ‘scratch factor’.

However, if you cut too early the overall starch yield will be low because the plant has had insufficient growing time to produce enough sugars,through photosynthesis, to convert into starch in the grain. Cutting after the crop has reached 40% DM will give higher starch content, but this may be compromised by reduced digestibility of the whole plant, due
to lignification.

The ideal stage to harvest is when the crop DM is between 35% and 40%, and the grain has the consistency of firm, cottage cheese. If it is not harvested, ensiled and preserved effectively, the end result can often be disappointing, with a poor quality, aerobically unstable (heating) silage exposing livestock to the risk of reduced intake and mycotoxin challenges. 

With all wholecrop silages, aim for a chop- length of around 50mm (2 inches) as this is ideal for the rumen and helps with good consolidation in the clamp. Make sure the harvester is fitted with a grain processor which is adjusted correctly to crack every grain. Even harvested at this stage, unprocessed grains will pass through the animal undigested.

Cereal crops almost always have high levels of yeasts and moulds and undesirable bacteria on them, and these have the potential to grow rapidly both in the sealed clamp (where they result in invisible energy and DM losses) and at the open face (where the losses are evidenced by heating). Treating the crop with Safesil Pro as it passes through the harvester is the most effective way of minimising the costly damage these organisms can cause.

Safesil Pro’s unique blend of human food-grade preservatives is proven to destroy these harmful microorganisms whilst leaving the useful lactic acid bacteria to ferment the silage unchallenged. This results in more DM retained and silage that will remain stable for long periods once exposed to air.

However, trials have shown that standard delivery equipment fitted to forage harvesters often fails to apply additives evenly – if at all – to all of the crop. By retro-fitting a Silaspray SP Standard-Maxi to self-propelled or trailed harvesters an even, controlled and effective dose of additive can be delivered to all of the crop for optimum protection and zero wastage.

Well-compacted silage means more efficient use of available clamp space and less risk of air penetration into the silage face when it is opened. Using a SilaPactor to consolidate the crop in thin layers can increase compaction density by up to 40%, and saves time and fuel in the process because it works across its full three-metre width – fewer tractor passes for a better end-result!

Air – or more precisely oxygen – is always the enemy of silage, so achieving and maintaining a good air-tight seal is essential. Good quality, strong side sheets on the clamp walls are vital, but actually most oxygen penetrates through the top sheet. Standard polyethylene silage sheets can allow up to 180g of oxygen/m2 to pass through them every day, resulting in composting rather than fermentation in the top silage layers. Sealing the clamp with O2 Barrier 2in1 silage film can reduce this to less than 30g/m2/day.

O2 Barrier 2in1 consists of a 20µm polyamide film, which is a highly effective oxygen barrier, combined with an 80µm high-grade polyethylene top layer. Laid as a single sheet, the layers separate on the clamp. The polyamide layer is sucked down onto the top of the silage to ‘vacuum-pack’ it, minimising the risk of top and shoulder waste, while the top layer provides conventional protection. Here’s a checklist of everything you need to make great wholecrop silage – every time.