Crimped cereals help cut out purchased feed

Turning their whole cereal acreage over to crimping has helped a family on Anglesey reach self-sufficiency for their beef and sheep, safeguarding their future against uncertain times ahead.

Using crimped cereals as the mainstay of the ration at Castellior Farm on Anglesey, North Wales, has helped the Jones family fulfil their ambition of growing all their own feed. To do all of this with over 800 cattle, 700 ewes and 1,250 finished lambs gives an indication of the success with which the family have developed not only their rations, but their whole farming system.

Dylan Jones, who farms with his father, Wyn, says growing and using crimp is the centrepiece of the self-sufficiency strategy on the 800 acre (324 ha) farm. He says this stems from both its high starch content, high digestibility and rumen safety for the cattle, as well as its agronomic benefits.

Combining the product with red clover silage in a total mixed ration means no protein has to be purchased, and is helping the family safeguard its future against uncertain times and prices ahead.

“Harvesting crimp at least two weeks earlier than dry grain is one of its biggest bonuses,” says Dylan. “The crop is standing strong at the time of harvest and you are certain you are getting most of it in from the field. Now, we’re easily achieving 4 tonnes to the acre for wheat and barley, whereas before it would have been 3-3.5.”

Kelvin Cave’s Bryn Thomas, who advises on the process, says the feed value as well as the tonnage of early-harvested cereals are higher than those harvested dry.

“When they’re harvested earlier the cereals

don’t just come in at a higher tonnage but they also have a higher feed value,” he says. “They come off the field in better condition, usually before there’s any disease or shrivelling, so this avoids the losses of grain you can see when the crop is dry.

“This means that although the moisture in the grain is higher at the time of crimping, the total dry matter and amount of starch harvested per acre is substantially more,” he says. “And with the right preservative and careful clamping or bagging, a quick and controlled fermentation is achieved and the crop’s nutritional value is retained.”

The high feed value and rumen-safety of the crimped cereals is reflected in the performance of the stock.

“The TMR with crimp definitely gives better growth rates, cover and finish which we can see in the abattoir gradings,” says Dylan, who generally buys dairy-cross-beef as stores from local herds.

“Dunbia come out every week to 10 days to pick up, and have noticed the faster growth rates, which are currently running at 1.8kg/head/day.

“We put 60-100 head through the crush every week and if anything is borderline, we can keep it another week or two and go up half a grade,” he says. “Every extra day costs us money but if you can gain half a grade, as we’ve found you can on the crimp, then it’s financially worth the wait.

“Last year we had 30 or 40 U grades but that’s not our target as this type is too expensive to buy,” he continues. “Our target is normally O+ 4 for the dairy or R 3 or 4 for the odd continental, which I will buy when I can see there’s a margin. I am a proud farmer but I am not worried about putting dairy crosses in our fields – they will return a good profit at liveweights of 680-700kg at 28 months.”

Some 12 tonnes of TMR are mixed in the wagon every day, comprising 3 tonnes of crimped wheat or barley, 250kg chopped straw, 800kg of baled red clover silage and the remainder made up of grass silage from the clamp.

Only minerals are bought in and the same TMR is fed to the sheep and lambs, with all lambs destined for Waitrose.

Despite the Jones family’s conversion to crimp on the grounds of animal health and performance, they feel the greatest gains of all have come from the early harvest.

“It allows us to get forage rape into the ground in August or September for winter grazing by lambs, which will then be followed by spring barley,” says Dylan.

“This also allows us to have a higher stocking rate while also resting more of the grassland before silage to get an early cut.”

Dylan Jones says home-grown feed is essential to the farm’s future.

An alternative strategy adopted on the farm is to sow Westerwold ryegrass straight after taking the cereals for crimping.

“One season of Westerwolds will give us four cuts,” says Dylan. “Last year, it was sown in September and we cut it in November and then took three further cuts the following season.”

The whole process and its timing are enhanced by the family’s insistence on owning and operating their own machines.

“All cultivation, harvesting, silaging and spraying is in-house, as we can’t afford to get any second-grade product out of the ground,” says Dylan, who is also in the process of up-scaling his mill for crimping the grain.

The farm has invested in a 1,000 tonne, covered clamp specifically for crimp, which will be filled for the first time this harvest.

Such has been the family’s commitment to crimped cereals that they have recently invested in a new 1,000 tonne, roofed clamp (above), to keep rainwater in their wet climate out of their high value concentrate feed.

“There were no grants for this building but we really had no choice as we’re totally dependent on crimp,” he says. “Our main investment this year is into crimp and I can’t see that changing.

Dylan Jones discusses crimping with Kelvin Cave’s Bryn Thomas.

“We do tend to overkill on the Crimpsafe 300 preservative because of the feed’s importance” he says. “That might make it expensive but it’s been a good decision. The cattle do so well on it and we’ve definitely seen financial gains.

“Since the word Brexit was invented we’ve been getting everything in place to achieve self-sufficiency and safeguard ourselves,” he says. “We do not want to buy anything in; we want to keep the feed as simple and effective as possible and it seems to be working.”

The farm’s entire cereal acreage is now crimped for cattle and sheep feed.

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