Plenty of silage is now safely in clamps across the UK and, as we talk to a cross-section of farmers, we’re hearing reports of tremendous variation in both yield and quality. Some early silage is proving to be of an excellent nutritional value but later crops, where cutting may have been stalled due to a break in the weather, had gained bulk but inevitably lost quality by the time conditions improved.

So, now that producers are aware of the quantity and quality they have in store, it would seem the perfect time to assess their options for conserving forage and other home-grown feeds during the weeks and months ahead.

home-grown feeds and forages

There is plenty of versatility in cereal crops in particular, which could be cut for moist or dry grain, or for traditional wholecrop. Silage expert, Dr Dave Davies of Silage Solutions, looks at a range of options in his article “Are traditional wholecrop cereals really right for Uk farmers?“. For instance, those who have more bulk and less quality so far in the grass clamp may consider crimping rather than wholecropping cereals. Some may also consider crimping a proportion of their maize crop if energy is lacking in their stored feeds.

He also questions the benefit of some cereal/legume bi-cropping options. And he explores the nutritional and environmental benefits of following our European neighbours in taking green-crop wholecrop – only now an option for next year.

One early adopter of this approach is North Yorkshire farmer, Guy Prudom who wholecropped a green cereal crop this April, and shares his experiences in his write up “Early adoption of green-crop wholecropping in UK“.

Carbon footprint
We take a strong environmental focus in our article “Farming and the Cimate Debate“, in which grassland and environment consultant, Dr George Fisher, busts some of the myths surrounding farming’s carbon footprint and suggests where big gains can be made by making small and incremental steps. At Kelvin Cave Ltd, we continue to work with farmers in this endeavour, which chimes perfectly with our long-term goal of maximising milk and meat production from home-grown concentrate and forage feeds.

We were therefore delighted to be invited by PGRO (Processors and Growers Research Organisation) to take part in a major new industry/farmer/research initiative which has the ambitious target of cutting soya imports for animal feed in half and has been described as the ‘defining project of our time’. We would urge farmers interested in growing more protein on their farms to take part – they can see details of how to do so in our article “New Project aims to cut imported soya use in half“.

Wagyu
Registrations of Wagyu-sired cattle have grown by 27% this year and we’re seeing increasing numbers of customers growing and finishing Wagyu x dairy calves. We were pleased to sponsor the newly created British Wagyu Ambassador Award at the Warrendale Wagyu Conference, and it seemed fitting that this was presented posthumously in recognition of the late Mike Tucker, for his significant contribution to the Wagyu breed. A founding board member and chairman of the British Wagyu Association, Mike has also had a long association with Kelvin Cave Ltd, having been one of our first customers in his dairy farming days. He is sadly missed by many in the industry and fondly remembered for his entertaining commentaries at many of the major agricultural shows.

It was interesting to hear at this event how Warrendale have linked their farmer producers with Genus ABS, Dovecote Park and Aldi, to create a vertically integrated supply chain from conception to consumption. Demand is still outstripping supply and, as more of our customers are considering Wagyu as an option, we are pleased to be involved in this growing sector.

As with all beef cattle, as we highlightin our article “Why beef cattle need good silage too“, Wagyu require high quality forage. But they are also fed a higher starch diet than other breeds, which helps them achieve the marbling that’s important in adding commercial value. So, many producers are finding crimped cereals – which can safely be fed in higher quantities than dry grain – are ideal for this purpose. Two producers who have recently made the switch to Wagyu our featured in our articles “Crimped grain pushes Wagyu performance beyond expectations” and “Wagyu on grass silage-based ration boosts financial performance” and document how they’ve achieved outstanding performance by supplying high-quality feed to their stock.

Feeding crimp to sheep
All too often, the default position amongst sheep producers is to reach for the bag of concentrates. So, in this issue, we re-visit Martyn and Gruff Jones who have brought great benefits to their beef enterprise over recent years by crimping and improving their silage quality, as explained in our field study “Switch of feeding system transforms beef performance“. But now, they have ditched the nuts and adopted a crimp-based blend plus silage for their sheep, and seen great improvements in physical and financial performance as detailed in out field study “Feeding crimp to sheep improves health and cuts costs“.

Buying TMR in a bale
However, not all farmers have the land or infrastructure or even the equipment to grow or mix their own rations but would still like to feed high quality, locally sourced ingredients. We feature in our Field Study “Buying a bale of TMR at the click of a mouse“, Herefordshire producer, Stephen Ware, whose innovative thinking has led to his production of tradeable bales of total mixed ration. This high-density product – which includes home-grown legume protein – can be easily shipped from farm to farm. And by cutting out the middleman, he’s allowing any farmer to feed cattle or sheep a fully traceable, GM-free TMR with a low carbon footprint, with nothing more than a decent fore-end loader or telehandler. Another great example of farm-to-farm trading and ‘outside the box’ thinking, which can be beneficial to both parties.

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