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Better silage – better farm

Perfecting the techniques of making maize silage on a Herefordshire farm has created knock-on opportunities which have lifted performance across the whole business.
Perfecting the techniques of making maize silage on a Herefordshire farm has created knock-on opportunities which have lifted performance across the whole business.

Getting one job right on the farm can sometimes feed into another and so create a virtuous cycle, and this is the happy situation which has been experienced by brothers, Andrew and Mark Watkins, and their parents, Richard and Linda.

Farming around 600 breeding ewes and 150 head of cattle at Vineyard Farm in Walterstone near Hereford, the process started when the family decided to return to producing maize silage which they knew could be successfully grown on their 350 acre (142ha), slightly drought-prone, farm.

“Part of our reason for bringing in maize was to safeguard ourselves against a lack of forage in a drought situation as, with our south-facing slopes overlying rock, we can be without grass from June onwards,” says Andrew Watkins.

“We knew we could grow maize here as we’d done it in the 1990s and we also felt it would be a great addition to our beef rations,” he says.

It was therefore with great disappointment that the first year’s crop failed to live up to expectations.

“You could see it heating in the clamp and the troughs, and it was obviously unappetising, which was reflected in growth rates of the cattle and they weren’t content,” he says. “The silage pits were also dug into earth banks which were making the problems worse as water seeped into the forage, despite the side-sheeting.”

It was after this first season that Mr Watkins sought specialist help, and visited the Kelvin Cave stand at the Royal Welsh Show in 2017. Kelvin Cave’s technical director, Andy Strzelecki, took a holistic approach to the Watkins’ situation when he visited the farm.

Offering wide-ranging advice on the foraging process, clamping and sheeting, he admits: “Before any other changes were made, I wanted the family to upgrade the clamps as the first priority!”

Bolstered in confidence by the advice, the team worked hard to build a concrete-shuttered clamp to take that autumn’s maize silage. In the process, they followed the advice to treat the crop with a hi-spec preservative and make extra efforts to compact the clamp and prevent the ingress of air after sheeting.

“Maize silage ferments very easily but is almost always prone to instability in the presence of air,” says Mr Strzelecki. “That’s why I recommended strict attention to compaction, and sheeting with the impermeable polyethylene double-layered O2 Barrier 2in1.”

Also recommending treating with top-of-the-range preservative, Safesil Pro, he explains: “Amongst its ingredients this product contains high concentrations of the human food preservatives, sodium benzoate and potassium sorbate, which are proven to eliminate yeast and mould growth
which would otherwise be expected to occur in the presence of air.

“This means that even after the clamp is opened, the preservative ensures long-term stability both at the face and in the feed trough.”

The difference according to Mr Watkins was ‘night and day’.

He says: “The following year we had a totally different sample. There was no surface waste and never any waste in the troughs and the cattle did really well.”

The new silage clamps at Vineyard Farm.

In fact, he says he’s very happy with growth rates achieved by stock on the rations, which for the finishers (450kg onwards) comprise 50:50 grass and maize silage with rolled barley, minerals, a little soya and straw.

“We didn’t actually save our weight records before, but now we use the FarmIT 3000 system from Border Software we have a log of everything,” he says. “This has shown the dairy-cross-continental finishers achieving liveweight gains averaging 1.32kg/day and the best achieving 1.8kg/day.”

Pointing out that grass silage as well as the maize is also now markedly better than before, he says: “We used Andy’s advice for the grass silage too and adjusted how it was made.

“We don’t leave it to wilt for as long as before so it deteriorates less in the field,” he says. “We aim to have it clamped within 24 hours, we treat with Safesil Challenge and compact, side-sheet and cover in the same way as we do with the maize.

“This has cut out the risk of a poor fermentation and the heating and waste and is helping the farm produce as much as we can from traceable, home-grown feeds,” he says.

A further knock-on benefit has been bringing the silage-making completely in-house and the purchase of extra equipment, including a self-propelled forage harvester owned by Mark.

“We now have maize and grass headers for the forager which has given us control over our own silage-making,” he says. “My brother runs his own contracting business so this has added an extra stream of income for his business.”

With three concrete shuttered silage clamps now on the farm, the family is also able to look ahead for more home-grown feeds to conserve on the farm.

The maize clamp as it was opened
The maize clamp as it was opened

“This year, we had to sow a lot of spring barley because wet weather prevented autumn drilling, so we are now thinking of crimping spring cereals for the first time,” he says.

This means he can harvest the grain early and preserve it without drying, using the preservative, CrimpSafe 300, before clamping, in a similar way to forage.

His nutritionist, Lizz Clarke, has been supportive of this move and says: “Crimped barley is processed slower in the ruminant than dry rolled grain and does not create a rumen acidosis load. Crimped cereals can be fed alongside rolled cereals, providing an extra energy source, allowing more cereals in total to be fed and making greater use of home-grown feeds.”

Summing up the effects of the changes, Mr Watkins says: “We are completely focussed on what makes the money and this has transformed our farming and profitability without a shadow of doubt.

“We knew we had an issue before and we had it confirmed by Andy. We can see the evidence after the changes – and that speaks volumes,” he says. “It’s one thing to identify what’s going wrong, but Andy has come on to the farm and pointed us in the right direction.

“What we are doing now is no more difficult than before, but we know what we want to achieve and are taking the right steps to get there,” he says.

Silage preservatives used at Vineyard Farm

Safesil Pro, used on the Watkins’ maize silage is formulated for use on high dry matter forage. It will inhibit the growth of undesirable micro-organisms, and is particularly effective at preventing the growth of yeasts and moulds.

Safesil Challenge, used on the Watkins’ grass silage is formulated for use on wetter forages where there is a risk of a poor fermentation and fermentation losses. It is particularly effective at inhibiting spoilage bacteria such as enterobacteria and clostridia.

Both Safesil products contain human food grade preservatives which have been independently reported to guarantee prolonged storage stability in the peer-reviewed Journal of Dairy Science, 94:824-831.

Andrew Watkins Vineyard Farm

Better forage is central to a new way of farming

Higher quality silage

Just like many cattle farmers across the uplands of England, Geoff Roddam used to feed his stock on grass silage and bought-in concentrates. He kept as many cattle as his 800-acre (324ha) farm would support and used some of the barley from his 200 acres (81ha) of arable land to supplement their rations as required.

But over his 27 years of farming as a tenant at Blackcarts Farm, in Hadrian’s Wall country, just north of Hexham, it gradually began to dawn on him that there was a better way.

If he made higher quality forage, he could cut out bought-in concentrates altogether, finish his cattle on home-grown feeds and sell them to a premium market. At the same time, he could lower his stocking rate and increase his farm’s environmental credentials, taking part in Higher Level Stewardship schemes which would see ground-nesting birds, rare plants which thrive on Northumberland’s Whinstone rocks and native British cattle breeds return to the farm.

A typical Simmental x Luing cow at Blackcarts Farm
A typical Simmental x Luing cow at Blackcarts Farm

Better still, the less intensive system would require lower labour inputs so he could keep all the daily, routine work within the family. Working with his daughter, Laura, the part-time help of his wife, Vivien and recently joined by his school-leaver grandson, Jay, the theory was that they could all enjoy a high quality of life at a slower pace. Best of all, the benefits to the environment in which they farmed and the lifestyle the family would enjoy could all be achieved while they made better profits. And so, a new type of farming was born on the Roddams’ partly upland farm, which stretches from 200 to 700 feet above sea-level, is bisected by Hadrian’s Wall itself, and over half of which is classified as a Severely Disadvantaged Area. One of the driving forces to the change of direction was to cut out risk and one of the first steps in this process was to introduce home-grown protein to the crop
rotation.

“We started whole-cropping beans about 10 years ago,” says Mr Roddam. “We didn’t get it right straight away, using bacterial inoculants to preserve them at first, but they didn’t do the job 100 percent. “The silage face would get warm and you could see the ration heating up in the troughs and it obviously was not that palatable. There was quite a lot of waste and the troughs had to be cleaned out fairly regularly.”

Geoff Roddam (right) with grandson, Jay and daughter Laura
Geoff Roddam (right) with grandson, Jay and daughter Laura

Keen to stick with the plan, he sought the advice of Michael Carpenter, Kelvin Cave’s northern area manager, who knew the best way to manage the challenges presented by wholecrop beans was to ensure air is excluded from the outset and keep the clamp airtight, and to knock out any potential contamination. He says: “Beans can become dry and stemmy so they need really good compaction and ensiling practices. So we added side-sheets and covered the top with oxygen-impermeable O2 Barrier 2in1, and weighted it down heavily. “And because they’re harvested in autumn, there’s also a risk of soil contamination as well as the growth of yeasts and moulds.

“So, rather than leave the fermentation to chance, I’d always recommend using a good quality preservative which will eliminate potential microbial contamination and promote a quick and clean fermentation,” he says.

So Mr Roddam also switched to Safesil Pro – the top-of-the-range product which contains human food-grade preservatives – and saw the transformation.

Buoyed by this success, he started conserving wholecrop cereals, which he ensiled in a plastic tube, and was unhesitating in choosing to preserve them with Safesil Pro.

“We aim to cut our wholecrop early, when the straw is still green and the grain fairly milky and cheesy,” he says. “We find this makes us the best wholecrop and if our silages are good – with high enough starch and protein – we’ve found we can grow and finish our beef on grass and forage alone.

” In fact, Mr Roddam is unusual in the area for finishing youngstock at all, with most on similar farm types selling their cattle as stores. But the progeny from his 150 suckler cows – which include a nucleus herd of Luings and a commercial herd of Simmental x Luings which are bred to an Angus as a terminal sire – will all sell direct to the abattoir, mostly destined for the M&S Select Farm Scheme.

“When M&S do their annual audit they always like the traceability of the feed and particularly like the fact that we are not buying in any GM [genetically modified] proteins, which is almost inevitable if you’re feeding soya,” he says.

Calving everything in an eight to nine week block in April and May and finishing all of his stock at 22-24 months, he says the Angus x Simm-Luing heifer carcases weigh 300-330kg, steers are 320-360kg and Simm x Luing steers a little higher at up to 380kg.

“They’ll generally grade at R4L; the premium for going any higher is not worthwhile,” he says.

Youngstock ration

First winter:
Two Thirds grass silage
One third split wholecrop beans and barley
Minerals

Second winter
Two fifths grass silage
Two fifths split wholecrop beans and barley
One fifth wholecrop beans
Minerals

Last years pure Luing and Simm-Luing heifer calves which will enter the breeding herd
Last years pure Luing and Simm-Luing heifer calves which will enter the breeding herd

Not content to rest on his laurels, Mr Roddam has sought to improve his forage further by upgrading both his grassland and his grass silage.

“We’re in Northumberland National Park and because of Hadrian’s Wall archaeology we are not allowed to plough some parts of the farm,” he says. “But we can direct drill so we have introduced red and white clover to our swards and that’s increased the protein of our silage and allowed us to reduce our nitrogen use.

“We’ve increased the percentage of fields sown with clover each year and we like to cut early to keep silage quality high. We know clover is harder to preserve than normal, so this year we’ve decided to use Safesil on the grass for the first time,” he says.

Grass silage, wholecrop barley and beans

 

“Years ago, before we started growing wholecrop, we farmed just like everyone else around here,” he says. “But now, we have stopped spending money buying feed inputs, we only have the stock we can manage ourselves and we’re selling most of the barley we combine as we no longer need it at home, only using a small amount for calves at weaning.”

As a result, profits are up, the lifestyle is enjoyed and the family is secure in the knowledge it can survive on the farm’s own feed inputs, whatever is going on in the world outside.

Quality from the start
Quality from the start

Pulses grown for greening cut out bought-in protein

An innovative approach to growing and preserving peas, beans and lupins has cut out bought-in protein from almost all livestock rations while also meeting greening rules on a Durham farm.

When Durham farmer, Rob Crowe, started his search for a new mill for rolling cereals, he could not have imagined it would be the prompt for a whole new cropping rotation which would cut out bought-in protein from his livestock feeds.

Farmer Rob Crowe shows Propcorn NC treated lupins rolled through a Murska 350

But this is essentially what happened at Bishops Close Farm in Spennymoor, near Durham City, where Mr Crowe and his family farm 450 acres (182ha) of beef, sheep and arable and have replaced almost 10 tonnes per annum of bought-in soya with home grown peas, beans and lupins.

The process began when his search for a feed mill took him to the Royal Highland Show in 2016 where he purchased a Murska 350 from Kelvin Cave Ltd.

“I bought the mill to roll barley, but I had a conversation with Michael Carpenter [Kelvin Cave’s northern area manager] about growing our own protein and being self-sufficient in feed,” says Mr Crowe.

“I had grown peas and beans before but had sold them commercially, dried to 14% moisture,” he says. “But Michael suggested we could grow peas, beans and lupins to harvest early, at around 22% moisture, roll them through the mill, preserve them using Propcorn NC and feed them to our sheep and beef.”

Mr Carpenter explains: “The Murska 350 has tempered-hardened steel, fluted rollers which are capable of gripping and rolling large seeds such as pulses. By fitting the mill with an applicator and treating with the non-corrosive [NC] form of Propcorn in the same process, Rob could eliminate his drying costs and safely store his peas, beans or lupins in a pile in a shed. And, because harvest would be 3-6 weeks earlier, he could also get a head start on autumn cultivations.”A further benefit of the pulses was that they could satisfy the farm’s compliance with the Basic Payment Scheme’s greening rules as an EFA [Ecological Focus Area].

“But this meant I couldn’t use any sprays on the crop so Michael suggested we grew the peas and beans together as they’d be more successful without any herbicide if they were a mixed crop,” he says.

Rob Crowe harvesting lupins on 1 October 2019. Inset pictures: Pea and bean mix (left) and lupins in flower (right)
Rob Crowe harvesting lupins on 1 October 2019. Inset pictures: Pea and bean mix (left) and lupins in flower (right)

Roger Vickers, chief executive of PGRO (Processors and Growers Research Organisation) explains: “The two crops complement each other well since the peas help provide earlier ground cover than the beans, which helps to smother weeds, while the beans provide a strong scaffold which helps keep the peas standing later in the season. 

“Trials indicate that mixed crops regularly produce more than the crops grown individually, and because the beans support the peas, the whole crop should remain standing for harvest.”

In fact, Mr Crowe said he would have expected a yield of 1.4-1.5 tonnes/acre (3.5-3.7t/ha) from either of the single crops when grown without chemical inputs, but in practice, this increased to around 2t/acre (5t/ha) when the crops were grown together.

Whilst the yield was potentially bolstered by the complementary growth habits of the two crops, the earlier harvest would have also typically given slightly higher yields.

Mr Carpenter explains: “When harvest is taken earlier, there’s not just higher freshweight yields but also higher dry matter/ha. This is because the crop is taken in optimum condition before seed losses from birds and pod shatter.”

“A local beekeeper also put two or three hives in each field and that helps greatly with pollination,” adds Mr Crowe. “I’m convinced that by doing this we have more pods further down the plant.

“There’s also no need for desiccation with the higher moisture harvest, so this keeps the crop within the EFA compliance and saves another process and cost,” he adds. “And of course, first wheats also tend to be higher yielding after a legume than other break crops.”

Once the crop was harvested (last year on 1 October), Mr Crowe rolled it through his mill and applied the Propcorn NC in the same process.

He says: “The beans came in at a higher moisture than the peas but both seeds rolled well through the mill. The beans rolled into a nice flake but the peas were more shattered, so with the benefit of experience, I may have harvested the crop a week or so earlier and aimed for their moisture at closer to 25%.”

Rob Crowe with cows

Mr Crowe used the mix in rations for all types of livestock, from his 400 in-lamb ewes and their growing and finishing lambs to the 60 head of beef which he sells at 13-16 months, either as stores or fat. He also uses the 10 acres of lupins he grows as a single crop, harvesting these separately but on the same day as the peas and beans, also rolling and preserving with Propcorn NC.

Rations vary for different types of stock but a one tonne mix for the ewes comprises 200kg whole oats, 50kg rolled lupins, 150kg rolled bean/pea mix, 20 litres of molasses and the remainder rolled barley.

With lupins analysing at over 30% crude protein and peas and beans in the mid to high 20%s, he says the mix can readily supply sufficient protein. Although more of the protein in the home-grown crops is rumen degradable compared with the soya, the lupins have a more favourable amino acid profile than peas or beans and help lift the level of digestible undegradable protein (DUP).

“I can’t say the stock do better than on soya, but they certainly do just as well,” says Mr Crowe. “But more important, we like the mix we’re feeding and know exactly what’s in it and we like the security of having enough in storage to keep us going through the year.”

Growing a mixed crop of peas and beans at Bishops Close Farm

The upshot is that a feed bill for two tonnes of soya every month at around £360/t has been replaced by the growing costs for pulses. These have been calculated at £123-£168/t (see panel), with zero food miles, improved food security and, unlike soya, no risk of habitat destruction across the Americas and no genetic modification.

Rob Crowe Feed costs

“I appreciate the system might not be for every farmer, but for our mixed farm it seems to work really well,” says Mr Crowe. “It’s important to me in the current climate that we aim to be self-sufficient and this is helping us achieve that goal. We actually ran out of our home-grown pulses last August and had to buy in just 1.5 tonnes of soya. But now we have taken on extra land, we plan to grow more pulses in the years ahead which will hopefully mean there’s little need for bought-in feed at all.”

Some of Rob Crowes flock of on-lamb ewes
Some of Rob Crowes flock of on-lamb ewes

Options for rye as an energy crop

AD plant and rye as an energy crop
Wholecrop rye is increasing in popularity for good reason. But users growing it for anaerobic digestion are also starting to crimp the grain in some situations.

Hybrid rye is coming into its own, according to agronomy, bioenergy and feedstock preservation specialists. They say that, although the crop may take second place to maize when it comes to biogas per hectare, it still offers huge yield potential and many further advantages to its growers and the environment, and more flexibility for anaerobic digestion.

Today, some five million hectares are grown worldwide, and in the UK well over 20,000 hectares are grown specifically for AD. Almost all of the AD acreage is preserved as wholecrop rye silage, a massive yielding forage which offers numerous agronomic advantages over maize. These include its long drilling window which can run from September to early November, ground cover over winter which protects against soil erosion, simple agronomy and, perhaps most important of all, a far earlier harvest, generally in July.

But there’s another way of using rye, according to Charlie Bowyer who offers independent nutrition advice for AD plants through Biologic Biogas Solutions Ltd.

He says that although the freshweight yield of wholecrop rye is huge – reported to approach 50 tonnes/ha (20t/acre) on some farms – and its biogas yields impressive, at 200-250 cubic metres per tonne of freshweight which is on a par with forage maize, the crop’s usefulness and flexibility can be extended even further.

This can be done by crimping, a process by which high moisture grain (from 25-45% moisture) is rolled through a mill, treated with a preservative and stored – just like wholecrop – in anaerobic conditions.

Driving any switch from forage to crimp is the declining digestibility of wholecrop as the growing season progresses.

“Like any cereal, rye becomes more lignified as it matures, which means it becomes increasingly difficult for the straw and seed coat to be digested,” says Mr Bowyer.

“This means the more mature the crop, the more challenging the rye can become in the digester, particularly where retention time is short or where there is no maceration.”

Once the DM of the wholecrop increases to over 50% he says it is much more likely to cause these problems. These also include the formation of floating layers, which may have detrimental effects on mixing and efficiency.

“If your crop is approaching this level of maturity, I would recommend considering switching to crimping from whole-cropping,” he says.

Kelvin Cave Ltd concur and say that crimping moist grain offers numerous advantages over harvesting it dry.

“Crimping is commonly used for wheat, barley and maize by livestock farmers and also used for maize for anaerobic digestion,” says the company’s MD, Kelvin Cave.

Advantages of crimping include the lack of a need to dry grain, an earlier cereal harvest and a higher nutritional value than dry grain.

“Crimp has been proven to be higher yielding than dry grain, not just because freshweight yield per hectare is higher but dry matter yield is higher too,” he explains. “This is because the grain is harvested in better condition, usually before there’s any disease or shrivelling, which also avoids the grain losses which can occur when the crop is dry.”

Crimped rye before clamping
Crimped rye before clamping

The crimped grain is then stored in a plastic tube or clamp in a similar manner to forage.

“Whilst your yields will inevitably be lower than if you had harvested wholecrop, the energy value per tonne is massively higher and you have the by-product of plenty of straw. This could be chopped and ploughed in to return nutrients and structure to the soil or baled and sold,” he says.

“Crimping will certainly overcome the problems of an over-mature wholecrop rye,” adds Mr Bowyer. “The grain is an energy-dense feedstock with a shorter retention time than wholecrop rye so it gives more flexibility from the same crop.

“Although its biogas yield per tonne has yet to be calculated in practice, its composition is such that it is expected to be similar to crimped maize grain at around 500 cubic metres per tonne of freshweight.

“It certainly has a place in an AD plant with a short retention time or you could use it to complement feedstocks which may not be yielding as well as you’d hoped,” he says.

Preserving rye as wholecrop or crimp for AD

Cutting edge contractor now crimping rye

Frans de Boer
Frans de Boer

West Sussex farmer and contractor across the south of England, Frans de Boer crimped hybrid rye for the first time last year.

As the owner of a 500kW digester he is already familiar with crimping cereals and maize and processes around 6,000 tonnes for himself and his clients each year. 

So crimping rye was a logical progression which he decided to do when his forage stocks peaked last year.

Frans says: “We use wholecrop forage rye in our digester but if we feed too much it can be difficult for our technology and we can end up with a crust and problems in the tank.”

So it was a logical progression to switch from whole-cropping to crimping last summer, which he did when the grain reached 35% moisture.

He says: “We combined the rye in early July and applied Crimpsafe 300 at the time of rolling to preserve the grain.”

Using a Korte roller he says he was very happy with the freshweight yield of 5 tonnes/acre (12t/ha) and the look of the feedstock.

“It looks like a really attractive crop and although we have yet to have it analysed, we expect its biogas yields to be similar to crimped maize.

“We don’t plough any more but wanted to incorporate the straw to return nutrients to the soil but this was hard work so on reflection we may have been better off rowing and baling, especially when there’s a good market for straw.

“The grain produces at least 80% of the whole rye plant’s biogas yield so crimping the grain can definitely be a viable solution.

“If the crop gets too bulky and you have to haul a long distance, or if you need to shorten your retention times crimping can also be a better option than wholecrop.

“I’ve always been a fan of the process because of crimp’s high feed value, easy storage and keeping qualities,” he says. “I’ve never understood why you’d incur the fuel cost for drying grain when you are only going to make it wet when you either feed it to livestock or put it in the digester.

“Our customers tend to take delivery of full lorry-loads of crimped maize which may need to last them outside the clamp for a week to 10 days,” he says. “They report that the crimp keeps really well and stays cold – right down to the dregs at the end, so I have no hesitation in preserving rye in the same way.”

Crimped grains are ensiled to exclude air
Crimped grains ensiled to exclude air

Extra care advised for this year’s first cut silage

Forage experts have warned that weather conditions over recent weeks could bring multiple challenges to silage-making which may need to be addressed this spring. Left unchecked, these could not only seriously reduce silage quality but may also generate gases in silage which endanger human and animal health.

The challenges stem from the unusually hot, dry spell across much of the country through April which saw many farmers spreading high volumes of slurry on to grassland in a short space of time. Because conditions remained generally dry, little of the nutrition from this slurry will have been taken up immediately by the growing plant.

However, the onset of warm, wet weather over the past few days will have encouraged a sudden uptake of nitrates and a spike in grass growth.

The high nitrate levels which accumulate in the grass have several implications, according to independent silage specialist, Dr David Davies of Silage Solutions.

He says: “Nitrates act as a buffer and will prevent the required drop in silage pH. While this means there will be a poor fermentation, it also leads to a more sinister side-effect which can threaten animal and even human health.

“The poor fermentation results in a slow pH decline and the nitrates in the grass can then be converted to nitrogen dioxide,” he says. “This is a brown gas which can occasionally be seen as a clamp is being filled or may occur shortly after sheeting. It will roll downwards as it’s heavier than air, and persist for a day or more – see video.

“The problem with this gas is that it is converted to nitric acid when it comes into contact with water, which can cause serious, permanent damage when breathed into the lungs.”

This damage, known colloquially as silo gas disease, can be fatal in humans and animals and is the explanation for the rare loss of whole sheds of livestock housed adjacent to silage clamps.

If the gas is seen at or soon after silage making, his advice is to move away from the clamp.

He says: “Remove any livestock from immediately adjoining housing and seek medical assistance if exposure is suspected in anyone working on the farm.”

However, measures can be taken to significantly cut the risk and he advises farmers to send grass samples to be analysed for nitrates and crude protein before they make their silage.

“Crude protein above 18% could imply a problem and if nitrate is above 0.25% in the freshweight, I would strongly recommend waiting before cutting,” he says.

“However, nitrates between 0.15% and 0.25% could still be problematic for fermentation,” he continues. “This is not only because they raise the buffering capacity of forage but also because high nitrate is biologically linked with low grass sugar – the substrate needed for fermentation.

“I’d therefore recommend using a high-strength chemical additive, proven to inhibit growth of clostridia and enterobacteria, rather than a bacterial inoculant and just hoping for a good fermentation.

“By killing these harmful bacteria, which are likely to be abundant on swards which had slurry applied that had not ‘washed-in’, you reduce the risk of undesirable fermentation and you will make far better silage,” he says.

Furthermore, silage without either enterobacteria or clostridia will be far more palatable and better for animal health and performance.

Andy Strzelecki, technical director for forage preservation specialists, Kelvin Cave Ltd advises on the use of the silage preservative, Safesil Challenge, in this situation.

He says: “This product has been developed for use on low dry matter forages and contains the correct levels of sodium nitrite to eliminate undesirable bacteria. The additional ingredients, sodium benzoate and potassium sorbate, are also proven to eliminate the activity of yeasts and moulds without compromising silage fermentation.”

Independent nutritionist, Pete Kelly, concurs with the use of a high-strength preservative and explains why nitrates are so harmful to animal health.

He says: “If cattle consume high nitrate silage it can affect their ability to circulate oxygen and lead to under-performance.

“Furthermore, elevated levels of nitrate in the silage when fed can also upset rumen fermentation. This results in high rumen ammonia concentrations making dung very loose, increasing milk urea nitrogen and potentially compromising fertility.

“This can be seriously exacerbated by feeding alongside urea-treated cereals. So, if in doubt this year, consider all aspects of the ration before treating any forage or cereal grains with urea. As a rule of thumb, the total nitrate intake/cow/day should be less than 150g.”

Meanwhile, he says the potentially high levels of clostridia and enterobacteria expected with this year’s first cut silage can have further implications for animal health.

“These bacteria will lead to a poor, butyric silage, which won’t give the best animal performance,” he says.

“Many of my nutrition clients started preserving their silage with Safesil in 2012 when grassland was highly contaminated by flooding, and they haven’t stopped using it since,” he says.

For more information about forage preservation, please contact Kelvin Cave Ltd on 01458 252281 or your area manager. 

COVID 19 – Our interaction with you.

Given the current advice from the government to work from home if possible, we feel that in order to best protect you, your families and employees, as well as ourselves, from the risk of COVID 19 we have decided to suspend farm calls, unless requested by you, with immediate effect.

Hopefully the situation will soon improve if others also follow this advice and we can get back to normal as quickly as possible.

We would like to re-assure you, with the silage season fast approaching, we are very much ‘open for business’ and will be keeping in touch by phone, email and social media to ensure that we continue to provide our complete package of products and support.

Thank you in advance for your understanding and continued custom during these difficult times

Top grade organic lamb finished without concentrates

Organic farmer, Matt Ridley, has finished his lambs without concentrates for the past seven years. He explains how high quality silage, preserved with organic-approved Activator + CA, is the basis of this process. 

Finishing lambs without a single grain of concentrate feed is impressive by any standards, but doing so under an organic system demands even more care with sheep forages and breeds. All going to plan, Northumberland farmer, Matt Ridley will achieve this for his 2020 lamb crop, just as he has done for the past seven years.

Mr Ridley keeps 2,000 ewes in his hefted flock at the top of the Coquet Valley in the Cheviot Hills. But it is his 1,000 head lowland flock, kept on the home farm at Aydon North, Corbridge in the Tyne Valley, which is produced to organic standards.

Growing as much feed as possible on the farm is a key priority, and he says: “As anyone who has tried to buy organic protein knows, the price is horrendous.”  

To this end, he concentrates on growing swards containing high protein red or white clover, producing silage with minimal waste while maximising nutrient retention, and introducing sheep breeds which are proven to do well on forage and grass. 

Almost all lambs hit the target grade of U3L or E3L, and the average carcase weight is 20kg. 

Lambing starts this year, as it did in 2019, from 20 March and runs for just one month. The earliest single lambs are drawn off for sale in July and a gradual flow of twins and triplets is usually sold through to mid-December.

The first focus to meeting these targets is maintaining the condition of ewes, considered essential in giving the lambs the best possible start.

“Sheep in good condition can cope better with whatever situation they face, including the weather,” says Mr Ridley. “We certainly don’t want lean sheep in late pregnancy as you can’t put weight on them after that when they’re putting everything into their lambs.”

He has therefore fine-tuned his system, moving ewes from grazed grass and on to high quality silage through the winter months, as conditions dictate.

“The ewes will be out on silage from tupping, depending on the weather and the amount of grass,” he says. “This winter we switched to silage later – in around mid-December – because we had plenty of autumn grazing.”

The key to maintaining their condition during pregnancy is said to be presenting them with quality, palatable silage which the ewes will eat in quantity and with ease.  

“We used to treat silage as belly-fill and made it from old pastures and into big bales,” he says. “But the sheep didn’t use it efficiently, rushing for it when it was brought out, spending a lot of time clambering on top of the bales to pull out the silage, and probably using lots of energy in the process.”

Since then he has switched to short-chopped clamp silage but has spent several years searching for the most effective method of preservation which conforms to organic standards.

“I really wanted to use the salts-based preservative, Safesil, as we know it gives the most stable fermentation but we were unable to use this under an organic system,” he says. “So, we continued to try several bacterial inoculants which are organic-approved, but unfortunately, they’ve tended to give us disappointing results.

“The silage would often heat up and some had mould at the surface and there was usually some rejection by the stock,” he says.

Having exhausted many options, Kelvin Cave Ltd suggested he tried Activator + CA, an inoculant containing a specific strain of Lactobacillus plantarum in combination with a specific, organically certified, citrate which produces powerful yeast and mould inhibitors and improves the aerobic stability of silage (see panel).

Feeding pregnant ewes high quality silage is key to lamb growth.
Activator + CA: How it Works

Activator + CA comprises the same elite strain of Lactobacillus plantarum used in Activator Plus, with the addition of a specific citrate which provides an additional food source for the bacteria, leading to the production of powerful yeast-inhibiting compounds. This makes Activator + CA ideal for use on higher DM grass silages (28%DM+), wholecrop cereal and arable silages, maize silage and crimped cereals, all of which can be prone to aerobic spoilage by yeasts, which are present on the crop at harvest.

As they grow, the yeasts consume lactic acid and sugars, causing significant loss of nutrient value and raising the silage pH to a point at which moulds can grow. These cause further losses and increase the risk of raised mycotoxin levels which can hit animal health, performance and fertility.

Activator + CA has been independently demonstrated to give substantially better aerobic stability than Activator Plus. The product is organic-approved.

Michael Carpenter, the company’s northern manager explains his recommendation, remarking that L plantarum is a homofermentative bacterium.

“As a homofermenter, L plantarum converts sugar to lactic acid, which is the strongest fermentation acid. This results in a rapid drop in the silage pH which has been proven to ensure maximum retention of true protein and energy,” he says. “It’s important to note that this is in contrast to heterofermentative inoculants which ferment sugars in a far more inefficient way, producing water and carbon dioxide as by-products – a process we’ve completely avoided with this new fermentation pathway.”

The result, according to Mr Ridley is a stable, palatable product which keeps fresh for days and produces high dry matter intakes.

“We feed it to the ewes in trailers every three days and it stays completely cold and fresh during that time,” he says.

Anything left after that is fed to the farm’s cattle when it still remains palatable and cold.

Because of its long-lasting qualities it is effectively available to the ewes ad lib which has led to a noticeable increase in dry matter intakes, less of a rush for the food and a more contented flock.

“By the end of gestation the ewes are in good condition, and receive just a small amount of home-grown concentrates for the final four weeks,” he says. “We find if they are in good condition in late pregnancy the lambs get off to a good start and never look back.”

At the earliest opportunity, lambs are moved for rearing and finishing on to high quality swards, all of which include either red or white clover.

“We grow the best grass varieties we can and reseed every 5-7 years,” he says. “But there’s a limit to how much red clover we can grow as we can’t tup ewes on red clover because of its negative effects on fertility.”

Red clover is often undersown with an arable silage, such as a barley, oat and pea mix. This will usually be whole-cropped in August and
the undersown clover used for autumn grazing the lambs.

“We’ll only graze it lightly in autumn, just to encourage tillering,” he says. “We’ll return to it the following spring, and possibly again the next autumn.”

With only one cut of silage taken in June, there is plenty of grazing for fattening the lambs.

Sheep Breeds

Equal attention has been given to the replacement breeding programme, with the same aim of maximising performance from forage and grass.

For the past four years, this has involved the use of Aberfield rams on the Texel x Lleyn lowland flock.

“These rams have been bred to perform on grass and would have been removed from the breeding programme if they didn’t do so,” he says. “I buy them as shearlings and when they arrive, it’s clear they have never seen a bag of feed.

“We use one ram per 30-40 ewes despite their mating capacity of 80-100, as it’s important for us to lamb in a tight block.”

Selecting his rams on Estimated Breeding Values (EBVs), he says he has focused selection on maternal traits.

“We want a reasonable but not excessive lambing percentage, good maternal ability and a relatively lightweight ewe, as the larger animals require more feed for maintenance,” he says.

While building up his closed flock of breeding ewes to include the Aberfield bloodlines – also using the Aberfield SR which includes some Lleyn blood – he continues to use a Texel ram as a purely terminal sire. 

Lambing percentage was 190% for the March 2019 crop, which was recorded through a benchmarking service against other organic flocks with the University of Newcastle.

“This year we hope for a similar lambing percentage,” he says. “We don’t want to scan at more than 200% as this means we’ll have too many triplets.”

With the start of lambing now upon us, he is implementing a few changes he hopes will further improve performance, including a lower stocking rate when the ewes lamb outdoors. 

“We normally lead the lambs in to spray navels and ring tails and once they have sucked we turn them back out,” he says. “But this year we are trying a simpler method and hope that keeping them on a larger area will reduce mis-mothering as well as infectious disease such as watery mouth and joint ill.

“All going to plan, this will be less labour intensive, and if the weather permits, we won’t bring them in for lambing at all.” 

latest-press-coverage

Back to Basics on Silage preservation and protection

Good practices in preservation and compaction are key to making great silage and minimising fermentation losses during storage and aerobic losses during feed out. The proven products outlined below are designed to help you retain the maximum feed value in your silage.

Safesil Pro is the ideal treatment for high dry matter silage where aerobic deterioration is a concern. Safesil Pro ensures long-term stability in the open clamp and during feed-out, minimising nutrient loss and mycotoxin formation.

Safesil Challenge is ideal for treating grass, grass/clover, legume and arable silages with DM content below 30%. Its ability to eradicate harmful clostridia and enterobacteria ensures a controlled, effective fermentation in high-buffering, low-sugar and lower dry matter forage.

SilaPactors are the heavyweight answer to making light work of compaction.

Available in a range of widths from 2.1 metres to 4 metres weighing from 2.5 to 6.0 tonnes, a SilaPactor will speed up the compaction process, saving both time and fuel, and can increase dry matter compaction density by up to 40% when compared to conventional tractor rolling.

For more details about the full range of ensiling products please click on the links above and for information on best practice in sealing and protecting silage and forage clamps then click on O2 Barrier 2in1, KlampClips and side sheets

The Tension is Mounting

The latest addition to the range of products from Kelvin Cave Ltd that are designed, and proven, to reduce ensiling losses and improve the quality of silage crops, while reducing workload, comes in the form of Agritec® Silage Safe, a unique clamp cover system with full-surface tensioning built in.

Designed as an alternative to netting and weighting down with tyres or sandbags, Silage Safe is laid over silage sheets, such as O2 Barrier 2in1 and ClampFilm, to afford added protection from wind, rain and vermin.

The integral tensioning straps replace the need for weights and prevent the ingress of wind and rain that can penetrate and dislodge traditional top sheets leaving the underlying layers vulnerable.

With a projected service life of at least 10 years, Silage Safe can be used time and time again. When not in use it can be rolled for ease of storage and takes up far less space and is a lot cleaner and easier to handle than tyres.

As may be seen from the diagram above, Silage Safe is installed from both sides of the clamp in 2 metre widths, each with an integral connecting tube, prior to filling, so it also forms an additional barrier between the clamp sides and the silage sheets, enveloping the feed completely. Once the clamp has been filled and the silage sheets laid, Silage Safe is then unrolled over the clamp and the ends of each width overlapped and drawn together with tensioning straps. As feed is consumed the straps can be released and individual widths of Silage Safe rolled back or removed. 

Silage-Safe-clamp-protection-system
Silage-Safe-clamp-protection-sysyem

Going Green Just Got Easier

While debate rages about the long-term effects, and even the existence, of climate change, one thing that cannot be ignored or denied is the negative impact waste plastic is having on our planet. And, although single-use plastic bottles, straws, food packaging and other domestic plastics are all too often used to highlight the dangers posed to ocean environments and wider pollution issues, he part played by farming and other large-scale industry consumers of single-use plastics cannot be ignored.

Before we chastise ourselves too harshly, and to put things into perspective, the 44,000 tonnes of agricultural plastics sold into the UK market every year represents less than 4% of the nation’s total consumption of plastics. Nonetheless, it plays a significant role in the production of crops, livestock, and feed storage and preservation which together contribute to at least 60% of all agricultural production. Yet how to dispose of agri-plastic waste efficiently, ethically and affordably is a dilemma facing many farmers on a regular basis.

Now however, a new UK national collection scheme has just launched giving farmers and growers access to a network of collectors and drop-off centres from which all non-packaging agricultural plastic will be sent for reprocessing, including silage wrap, silage sheets, side sheets, bale nets and twine, greenhouse and tunnel film. The scheme will soon be extended to include silage protection sheets, crop fleece and other non-woven products.

The body behind the scheme is Agriculture, Plastic & Environment UK (APE), a non-profit organisation made up of producers and distributors of agri-plastic products representing some 80% of the UK market. It is being funded initially by an Environmental Protection Contribution (EPC) of 2p/kg
included in the product price across all product categories. Once the scheme is fully established the EPC will be subject to review based on collection rates and the consequential financial needs to ensure its continuation.

IT’S GREEN FOR A REASON

It’s the world’s first silage clamp sheeting and vacuum combination, and farmers already using O2 Barrier 2 in 1 silage protection sheets from Kelvin Cave Ltd, have chosen a product that is not only recognisable by the distinctive green hue of the top layer of its two-part construction, but is also the only oxygen barrier sheet that is 80% recyclable.

Easy to lay as a single sheet which transforms into two on the clamp, O2 Barrier 2 in 1 offers up to a tenfold decrease in oxygen permeability compared to conventional sheeting systems and better preserves the quality and nutritional value of feed within the clamp, minimising spoilage and wastage.

Furthermore, our original ClampFilm silage protection sheet and range of heavy-duty side sheets are also 100% recyclable, so disposal issues are fast becoming a thing of the past.

Until now, UK farmers have had limited options available to them beyond landfill or incineration, with less than 35% of used agri-plastics being collected for recycling. In other European countries operating similar national APE collection schemes, more than 70% of used agri-plastics are collected, resulting in a significant reduction in landfill or potentially polluting incineration.

There is little doubt that, for the time being at least, alternatives to plastics in agriculture are limited. But, by making informed choices and specifying products with a high recyclable content, it should now become a lot easier to go green and be part of a circular economy that reduces on-farm plastic waste.

You can find out more at apeeurope.eu

The 9-stage circular economy for recovery of agri-plastic waste

Team Visit to Sweden

Just before last Christmas the Kelvin Cave sales team were invited by Salinity, the manufacturers of Safesil Pro and Safesil Challenge, to visit their new factory at Falkenberg, on the south west coast of Sweden. 

The team also had the opportunity to visit several farms in the area and discuss aspects of the Swedish dairy industry, and the importance of quality forage, with the farmers.

As well as producing the Safesil range of forage preservatives, which is now sold in 10 countries, Salinity is a major producer of salt products, from road de-icing salt to animal salt licks and speciality table salt.

The main production and storage facility for road salt, Safesil and the blocks was previously located around 40km further south in the port of Halmstad, but the site was destroyed by fire in 2012 and, after six years working from several different sites, the new facilities we visited were opened in 2018.

The Safesil production line consists of powder mixing equipment and mixing tanks which ensure that the three active ingredients (sodium nitrite, potassium sorbate and sodium benzoate) are mixed accurately, and remain in a stable solution, at a higher concentration than other preservative-based products on the market. It is a time-consuming process with a maximum output of 35,000 litres per eight-hour shift. 

Of the farms the team visited, the most interesting and impressive was Bjäragården, located in the Bastad area, near the sea in south west Sweden. The farm is owned and run by Anders Svensson in partnership with his brother Jonas.

They run a well-respected pedigree Holstein herd of 155 cows, yielding 11,394 litres at 4.3% butterfat and 3.6% protein (11,996kg energy corrected milk), which are milked through two robots.

The current milk price equates to around 3.48 SEK (~27p) per litre. A bull bred on the farm has recently been sold for AI, demonstrating the quality of the herd’s breeding.

The cows are fed a TMR consisting of:
27.4% Maize silage
43.3% First cut 
7.5% Second cut
19.9% Ensiled sugar beet pulp
1.2% Wheat straw
0.2% Mineral
Automation and robotics are key factors in the efficient management at Bjäragården.

All forages are treated with Safesil preservatives and the impressive attention to detail at filling and feed-out resulted in no visible waste at the clamp and no rejected feed at the feed trough.

The big difference in the grass silage, compared to the UK, is the absence of ryegrass in the sward. Ryegrass does not survive well in what has, until recently, been a typical Swedish winter.

Current seed mixture consists of: 45% Timothy, 35% Tall fescue, 15% Red clover, and 5% White clover.

The TMR is mixed in a static mixer and distributed hourly using a rail wagon. This system, rarely seen in the UK, is common in Scandinavia. Anders explained that it reduced the tendency for cows to crowd the feed fence as they soon learnt that fresh feed would be available all the time. Due to the very high quality and stability of the silage there was never a need to clean wasted TMR from the feed fence. Concentrates are fed to yield through the robots.

Heifers’ age at first calving is around 25 months and
cows remain in the herd for an average of three lactations. Because of the high yields and flat lactation curves, the average lactation length is planned to be 14 months.

Calves are fed milk through an automatic feeder along with Timothy/meadow fescue hay and concentrate.

Some wheat is grown and straw retained for home use. The wheat is not fed but sold at harvest as only a small quantity is produced which would be insufficient to be included in the diet.

The climate and soil type at Bjäragården contribute to the brothers’ secondary enterprise – the production of early potatoes. These command a premium price and fit well into the farm’s general cropping rotation.

Wagyu Producer Raises Silage Quality with Safesil

Forage contractor and Wagyu beef producer, David Leighton (pictured), started using Safesil Challenge around two years ago and says he is now advising his customers to do the same. 

Farming at Cloverley Hall Farm near Market Drayton in Shropshire, where he rears around 400 Wagyu beef to sell as stores and 200 Jersey x Holstein Friesian breeding bulls for sale to grazing-based dairy producers, he says any additive he used would have to prove its credentials in his eyes.

So, when he tried Safesil Challenge for the first time, he was keen to assess its performance for himself, and carried out a small trial on the farm.

“Before we made the commitment, we treated some bales of haylage and not others – all made from the same field – and you could tell just by looking that the treated bales were better,” he says.

“The cattle also preferred to eat the treated bales which are fed in ring feeders where they stay for up to three days. They ate them from the first to the last day, so there was no waste at all and the haylage stayed completely cold and certainly didn’t grow any mould.

“The additives we’ve tried in the past did not have the same effect, and the haylage would heat up in the feeder and some bales would be mouldy,” he says. 

“We also like the fact that the Safesil Challenge comes in an IBC and is simple and ready to use. We much prefer this to mixing sachets with water, which doesn’t sit well with me.”

Aiming to make his baled haylage at a dry matter of 30-35% and his clamp silage at around 30%, he says DM sometimes drops below his ideal, to 25%.

“We prefer the 30-35% dry matter forage as it feeds so well,” he says. “This is particularly noticeable in the youngstock where you get no scouring with the drier product.” 

With his Wagyu stores all ultimately destined for high-end outlets through Warrendale Wagyu, he has seen other improvements to health through better quality forage. In particular he notes the lack of dust, which improves respiration and has cut out ‘silage eye’.

He says: “Now that we have confidence in using Safesil Challenge I’m recommending it to my contracting customers, as it just makes nicer silage.”

Andy Lee, Kelvin Cave’s manager across England’s central counties, explains why Safesil Challenge suits the farm so well.

“Safesil Challenge is designed to be used on either clamp silage of 30% DM or wetter, or baled silage of no more than 50% DM, where the risk of contamination by undesirable soil- and slurry-borne bacteria is higher,” he says. “These bacteria risk a poor fermentation and the associated losses of dry matter and nutritional value.

“Unlike other silage additives, Safesil Challenge contains ingredients which actually kill these bacteria while also promoting a fast and efficient fermentation.

 

“However, it will also inhibit the growth of yeasts and moulds which normally grow in the presence of oxygen, causing heating and spoilage,” he adds. “Used at the correct concentration, the human food grade preservatives contained in Safesil Challenge have been independently demonstrated to guarantee prolonged storage stability.” (Ref: Journal of Dairy Science, 94:824-831.)

Grass silage and robots drive up milk production

High-spec grass silage and state-of-the-art robots are driving milk production beyond 12,000 litres on a Somerset farm.

Hugh Miles has spent a lifetime breeding dairy cows, as did his father and grandfather before him. However, only over this winter does he feel they have reached their full potential, with a combination of the highest quality grass silage he has ever made and a state-of-the-art milking system driving their performance.

What is perhaps more remarkable is that they’ve achieved their performance with just a single forage – without the use of maize or wholecrop silage and without any soya in their total mixed ration.

Farming with his family at Withamhall Farm in Witham Friary near Frome in Somerset, Mr Miles says much of his herd’s lift in performance – which now runs at a 12-month, 305-day rolling average of 12,500 litres at 4.24% fat and 3.55% protein – is due to the silage they are fed.

“They’ve been milking really well through the autumn and winter, and some of this has to be due to the silage,” he says.

His confidence comes from the fact that when the herd was switched to the new silage last July, their production increased immediately by one litre/cow/day.

“Nothing else changed,” said Mr Miles. “And what’s more, they were going through disruption at that time, with building work for the new robots going on in the cubicle house all around them.”

The silage to which he refers is the first cut he has made using Safesil Challenge, one of the top-of-the-range preservatives from the Kelvin Cave stable.

“I knew Kelvin Cave had an additive we should probably be using, so last April, I called David Warner [Somerset and West Dorset area manager] who I’ve known for many years,” he says. “We had been using another product for some time and it was doing OK, but I could
see it wasn’t getting the full potential out of
the cows.”

The switch to Safesil was made last season and everything else about the silage-making remained exactly the same as before.

“We take two cuts which we feel gives us best 

value for money from our contractors,” says Mr Miles. “We take first cut in the third week of May and second cut at the end of July.”

The usual system was followed which involved mowing after midday and until midnight, wilting for 24 hours, raking the grass about an hour ahead of the forager and bringing the grass to the clamp.

“We use Ashton Farms Ltd as our contractor and they do a great job,” he says. “They have two people on the clamp; one with a loading shovel and the other with a SilaPactor to compact the grass, which is quick enough to keep ahead of the trailers bringing in 16-18 tonnes every three minutes.

“Within half an hour of the last load we have the clamp sheeted, which is important as it excludes the air and starts the fermentation process as quickly as possible.”

Two months later, the first-cut clamp was opened and the immediate striking feature was its aroma.

“It smelt absolutely lovely – certainly better than normal and so sweet. You could smell it from quite a distance from the clamp,” says Mr Miles.

An analysis confirmed its quality, at a massive metabolisable energy (ME) of 12.1MJ/kg DM and D-value of 75.8.

“We were delighted with this as it’s the highest ME we have ever had. We’ve had high 11s but never 12, and it’s not as if it was cut in April,
but actually quite late in May,” he says.

Dry matter target is always under 30% and Mr Miles was pleased with this, at 28.3%.

He says: “At under 30% the ration is palatable and succulent and it’s easier for the cows to eat.”

Fed through a Kuhn tub mixer in a TMR comprising ground maize (5kg/head), protected rape meal (5kg/head), grass silage (50kg freshweight) and seaweed with Himalayan rock salt, dry matter intakes immediately rose, driving the lift in production.

Dairy farmer, Hugh Miles says his 2019 silage has the best analysis he has ever achieved.

We feed the TMR in troughs which we clean once a week, and it’s noticeable that over this time the silage remains completely cold,” he says. “Under the previous system it would have heated up within 48 hours and inevitably lost quality and palatability in that time.”

Two new-model DeLaval VMS V300 robots came on stream around a month later in early September, by which time the cows were perfectly primed to respond to the additional milkings. And going from two milkings a day at 12-hour intervals to an average of 3.5 under the new voluntary milking system saw a further impressive lift in performance.

“It was predicted that milk would increase by around 13% but our cows’ yields just kept going up,” he says. “DeLaval couldn’t believe it – at one point they were up by 20%.”

With cows still learning their way and no longer pushed into robots, the increase has currently settled at around 15%. However, the highest yielders in the year-round calving herd are still producing a remarkable 90 litres/day.

Bucking another trend has been concentrate use which has not increased since the robots came on stream. With 2.5kg of a high starch, 18% protein concentrate dispatched for each milking visit, cake consumption has fallen from the previous 12kg per day. However, with slightly more maize and rape now fed in the TMR, total concentrate consumption has remained stable at 0.40kg/litre. 

Milk from forage has also increased from 2,900 litres a year ago to an impressive 3,200 litres today. 

“We’re aiming to drive this higher as it’s strongly linked with profit, and we are confident we can do so with this system,” he says. 

Health has also improved with the new system, with displaced abomasums virtually non-existent, milk fever cases rare and fertility on target. Cell counts run at 100,000 cells/ml, Bactoscans have fallen to 11 and there have been only two cases of mastitis since September.

“I am really confident that all links in the chain are now pulling in the right direction,” says
Mr Miles. “I have spent a lifetime breeding cows and as a family we’re in it for the long haul.

“We have no intention of wasting what we have done and now we feel we are reaping the rewards. And yes, we’ll be using Safesil Challenge this year; I have ordered it already!

“I knew it was expensive at the outset but was prepared to try it for a season to see. And we can certainly see!” he says.

The silage fed to Withamhall Holsteins has helped lift production to 12,500 litres at 4.24% fat and 3.55% ptn.

Haylage Unwrapped

Why single-use plastic may have had its day

Everyone hates the sight of plastic in fields and hedgerows and knows the damage it can cause to livestock and wildlife.

This is one of several factors driving the use of preservatives for baled haylage, which in many situations can be used as an alternative to plastic wrap.

Andy Lee, our central counties manager, says some livestock and forage producers across his area have significantly cut the use of plastic on their farms. 

He says: “High moisture hay and some high dry matter haylage can be reliably made without any plastic wrap at moisture contents of up to 25%.”

Traditional, unwrapped, field-dried hay is baled at a typical moisture content of 15% or drier, and should be well preserved when this can be achieved. However, in many British summers, this low moisture target can be difficult to meet, and farmers often opt to make haylage instead.

“Haylage has a higher moisture content than hay and traditionally is wrapped in plastic, intended to prevent the entry of air and limit damage by yeasts and moulds,” he says. 

However, when the haylage has a high dry matter – or a moisture content of up to 25% – it can be treated with the preservative, BaleSafe, and remain completely stable when it is left unwrapped.

“This forage additive contains a mixture of human food-grade preservatives and organic acids which are proven to kill yeasts and moulds,” he says. “Using the product can be a game-changer when a crop is slow to dry or when rain is threatened, reducing the time required for the forage to remain on the field.”

A cost analysis has also shown that unwrapped bales preserved with BaleSafe are cheaper to produce than bales wrapped in plastic.

Using the latest figures from the National Association of Agricultural Contractors (NAAC), the average price to wrap a 1.2m round bale with six layers of wrap is £6.22, which, at a bale weight of 400kg, equates to £15.55 per tonne.

“Using BaleSafe as an alternative for bales of 15-20% moisture uses 4-5 litres of additive per tonne at the recommended application rate,” he says. “This equates to a maximum cost of £11.70/tonne, making the non-wrapped alternative a very competitive 25% cheaper
to produce.

“Obviously an applicator has to be used, which fits on to the baler, but this represents just a one-off cost,” he says.

Specialist grassland farmer

Nottinghamshire grassland farmer, Matt Blant (pictured above), who farms 400 acres at Swingate Farm in Strelley, admits to using ‘a phenomenal amount of plastic’ but says he’ll always avoid wrapping when he can.

He says: “Historically, we have aimed to make hay at 14-15% moisture but at anything higher than that you can start to have problems.”

Mr Blant has used BaleSafe and its predecessors for around eight years and says he now prefers to preserve grass like this and produce a slightly moister hay.

“It actually makes a better crop in my opinion and is good for all livestock including horses which are particularly susceptible to respiratory problems caused by dust,” he says. “These bales are completely dust free and I am also confident I won’t sell a bale that is likely to go mouldy.”

However, he says the biggest advantage of preserving hay with BaleSafe comes through improvements of operation, since hay can be baled earlier and in more difficult conditions. 

“Last summer we took a chance and cut 80 acres on one day with the promise of good weather to follow,” he says. “However, the forecast changed and storms were threatened, so we decided to bring the whole crop in on the same day. 

“My son, Seth, and I started baling early in the morning when the grass was registering a moisture content of 23%,” he says. “We turned the applicator on and applied the BaleSafe, reducing the application as the grass dried out, and cutting it off in the middle of the day.

“We continued into the evening and turned the applicator on again as the moisture went up. We got 900 big bales into the shed that day and can definitely say the BaleSafe saved that crop,” he says.

Furthermore, he says the lack of leaf shatter and dust made for better handling and a more palatable feed. And overall, he says the preservative has cut his plastic use across the farm by around 30%.

Wetter Forages

For forages whose moisture is over 25%, Kelvin Cave say that plastic is still required.

“BaleSafe can be used for wrapped haylage whose dry matter is from 50-75%, after which we would turn to another preservative to address the different challenge,” says Mr Lee. “For example, where soil and bacterial contamination are more likely in a wetter
forage, we’d recommend a product with a different range of ingredients to eliminate these spoilage bacteria.

“But in drier hay and haylage, our focus is on preventing aerobic spoilage by limiting the activity of yeasts and moulds,” he says (see table).

Wet Weather Recovery Ideas

We are (hopefully) coming out of one of the most prolonged wet periods that most of us have ever experienced and normal winter cereal sowings are down by 65% to 85% in many parts of the country. This will, almost certainly, result in strong winter wheat prices in the coming year as well as disruption to cropping rotations into 2021.

Spring cereals

Many will be reluctant to opt for sowing spring cereals due to their later harvesting date, but, if spring-sown crops are harvested for crimping, they will be off the fields three to four weeks earlier than if combined dry. Harvested at a grain moisture content between 25% and 40%, processed through a crimping machine, treated with the preservative CrimpSafe 300 and ensiled, crimped cereals are the most cost-effective way of producing a high-energy concentrate feed for milking cows, growing and finishing cattle and sheep. Spring barley, wheat, triticale, rye and oats are all suitable for crimping and are easily traded between farms. An added advantage, particularly in a year when it is likely to be in short supply, is that the yield of straw from crops harvested for crimping is likely to be higher and of better quality than conventionally harvested straw.

Crimped cereals also make an excellent feedstock for biogas production, giving high yields of methane per kilo of dry matter (DM). This, together with the earlier harvest, will help those arable farmers in areas where there are lower livestock numbers and land is currently lying fallow. Harvesting at the crimping stage has been shown to remove a high proportion of blackgrass seed from the field, and this seed is rendered unviable by the crimping process – an additional opportunity to gain some income from the land and help to reduce the blackgrass problem.

Crimped grain maize

The projected shortfall in feed wheat will mean that livestock farmers will be looking for high-quality starch replacements for their rations. For growers situated in suitable parts of the UK, combining and crimping grain maize might be another option worth considering. Sourcing seed of early-maturing grain maize varieties may prove easier than finding seed for other spring cereals.
Crimped maize production in the UK peaked 10-12 years ago with several large growers and contractors, predominantly in the south and the east midlands, developing markets with livestock farmers in the north and west. However, due to the increasing demand for feedstock for anaerobic digesters putting pressure on land rent, many diversified again to meet this requirement. 

 

Livestock farmers who were feeding crimped maize have had to look for alternative sources and many are now feeding dry grain maize imported from France. However, the benefits of utilising UK-grown, high-starch crimped maize have already been proven and many would be delighted if this was available again.

Combining maize is an option..
Pulses

With increasing pressure to reduce the use of imported, and potentially genetically modified (GM), protein sources, another option to consider could be beans. Independent agronomist Steve Harrison, who covers parts of South Gloucestershire, Somerset, Wiltshire and South Wales, and Simon Vaux, regional head (north) for Agrovista, both agree that spring-sown beans could be useful for many growers this year.

“Their seeds are large and vigorous,” says Mr Vaux, “can germinate from deep in the ground, and although the best results come from drilling, the traditional method of broadcasting and ploughing in, could still be used. 

“Drilling would normally be carried out from February to April, but growers would need to be sure they had an outlet for the crop,” he says. “They could either opt to harvest them as whole-crop silage or combine them to produce a high protein, concentrate feed.”

“Growers need to be sure that beans fit in around their existing crop rotation,” adds Mr Harrison, “but harvesting options such as whole-cropping, crimping or rolling and treating with Propcorn NC bring the harvesting date forward far enough so that autumn drilling of winter wheat is perfectly feasible.”

As readers of KnowHow will know from previous issues, all three options for treating beans have been used successfully by many farmers.

Whole-cropping beans will produce a high-protein forage that can add structure to any ruminant ration. Harvested at 60-70% DM with a typical crude protein level of 18-20%, whole-crop beans require an effective preservative, Safesil Pro, to ensure maximum feed retention and prevent the risk of losses and mycotoxins from mould growth. Close attention to achieving good compaction in the clamp and really effective sealing is essential. Use of a SilaPactor for optimal compaction, and O2 Barrier 2in1 sheeting, protected by ClampNet and well weighted down with gravel bags or ClampTiles, to seal the clamp, will result in a palatable, rumen-friendly forage for dairy cows, growing and finishing cattle.

Alternatively, combining the beans provides the option of harvesting at a range of moisture contents, to produce a high-protein/starch concentrate for older cattle. This ensures a good chance of clearing the crop between mid-September and early-October and drilling winter wheat, which will benefit from the nitrogen fixed by the previous crop.

Beans harvested with a moisture content of 30-50% can be crimped, treated with CrimpSafe 300 and mixed with a moist feed such as brewers grains or draff, and ensiled. The added moist feed helps to ensure better compaction of the large, crimped beans, eliminating the risk of air pockets in the clamp. As with any ensiled feed, effective sealing and clamp management is essential to produce a first-class end product.

Flooded and waterlogged fields have become a familiar sight across the UK this winter.
Typical analysis of crimped beans/brewers grains mix (on dry matter basis)
Crude protein (%)
26.85
Starch (%)
32.22
ME (MJ/kg DM)
12.80
Dry matter (%)
30-50%

If a dry, weather-proof grain store is available some growers may consider harvesting at a lower moisture content (below 25%) and storing aerobically using Propcorn NC, the modern, non-corrosive and low-fuming alternative to straight propionic acid. Suitable for treating whole or rolled cereals and pulses, this approach eliminates the need for expensive drying and produces a readily saleable product.

Rob Moore with his beef cattle

– Over the Hedgerow – A Farmers View February 2020

This month, our ‘Over the hedgerow’ contributor is Rob Moore from Benbrook Farm, Rugeley, Staffordshire.

Rob, in partnership with father Andrew, run a farming and contracting business in Staffordshire. In recent years, the contracting operations have focused on providing specialised services to livestock farmers centred around making best use of home grown or locally sourced feeds.

Rob Moore with his beef beef cattle
Rob Moore with his beef beef cattle
  • 445 acres split over 2 farms, 150 acres of maize, 40 acres of spring barley, 135 acres of temporary grass leys, 80 acres of permanent pasture, 40 acres of potato land rented out, turnips/cover crops are grown where possible prior to potatoes and maize.
  • 100 head of beef cattle all fed on home grown feeds.
  • Crops are grown for home consumption and also supplied dairy farmers throughout winter months.
  • 2500 acres of straw is brought in the swath and delivered off the field or stored for delivery through winter

Another wet day here in Staffordshire, not that it’s been any different since the middle of September following what was described as a tricky corn/straw harvest. As for the maize harvest it’s still not finished yet!

We've upgraded the mill to a Korte 1000 to expand our crimping and dry rolling service

In mid-November we took the decision to swap our corn mill for a higher-output Korte 1000 because we could see an opportunity in the market that something was going to have to be done with all this maize that hadn’t been got with the forager.

Contracting is the main part of our business and we are having to move with the times as livestock farming practices in the area are constantly changing with no 2 years being the same. Having successfully chopped all the maize we had lined up, apart from a few wet patches in a few fields, we were then approached by a couple of farmers where we go straw milling (In 2018 we purchased a Teagle c12 and now process 2800 tonnes of straw per year) asking if we could crimp their maize if they were able to get it combined.

The Teagle straw chopper has proved extremely popular with customers since it's purchase in 2018
The Teagle straw chopper has proved extremely popular with customers since it's purchase in 2018
Lee Gilbert provides a maize harvesting service to allow us to offer a complete grain maize package
Lee Gilbert provides a maize harvesting service to allow us to offer a complete grain maize package

This encouraged us to team-up with another local contractor, Lee Gilbert, who purchased a maize header for his combine, to provide a complete harvesting and processing service for grain maize. We have then worked together, and with Michael Carpenter from Kelvin Cave, to do the job to our best ability. We have recommended and supplied CrimpSafe 300 and involved Michael for the technical support and knowledge so that we could pass it on to the farmer. In some cases we’ve been getting the farmers to talk direct to ‘the man in the know.’

Because of the cabbage-stem flea beetle problem maize is becoming a crop that more and more people are wanting to grow and have in their rotation instead of rape, but it’s getting frowned upon when farmers are leaving stubbles bare over winter and cause water run-off and nitrate leaching. This is something being looked at heavily around us by a local water company, South Staffs Water (SSW). We are working with Nina Yiannoukos-Benton from SSW and fitting an inter-row precision grass drilling kit to our Vaderstad Tempo 8 maize drill to help with the challenges the industry and SSW are facing.

With very little winter corn having been drilled and a limited choice of varieties, or high seed cost making the ‘easy option’ of spring barley less attractive, as well as extra maize we will undoubtedly see more peas and beans grown. In order to harvest these crops as early as possible we intend to be fully equipped to offer whole-cropping, crimping or Propcorn NC treatments to our customers.

On the home farm the last few years has seen change. We had 130 pedigree/pure bred Simmental suckler cows and kept all followers through to strong stores. However, the return from keeping a cow for a year for 1 calf wasn’t stacking up so we have now restructured what we do. We are now buying in weaned calves, trying to stick to native breeds such as Angus x and Hereford x with named sires, and taking them through to strong stores or finishing them depending on where the market is at the time and where we see profit.

Weaned calves come on to the farm and we get them on a diet of first cut haylage and a mix of milled straw (10mm-15mm chop length), barley, beans, soya and molasses. This creates a palatable ration which gets the rumen working from an early age. They then go onto home grown forage as they get older whilst being grazed in summer on permanent pasture that is in an environmental scheme because it isn’t fit to be ploughed up.

Kelvin Cave SilaPactor
Silapactor improves forage quality for our customers

We have also prided ourselves in offering a very good forage-harvesting service for our customers and were one of the first contractors in the area to invest in a SilaPactor. This has proved to be a good investment, with most famers seeing a great benefit in using it. We currently chop a total of around 3200 acres of grass, whole crop and maize.

Something we are looking to do in the future is to fit additive applicators on the two balers we bale most of the silage with. We have had some of our customers asking us about this.

We know that Michael and Andy Lee from Kelvin Cave Ltd will look after our customers in the same way we do and, hopefully, by working with them we can grow our new crimping service as well as improve the results our customers get from their forages.

We don’t just want to turn up and do a job, we want to provide the best possible service for our customers. We know that margins are tight and feel that making the best use of what you can grow yourselves, and not have to rely as heavily on processed or imported feeds, has helped us with the beef enterprise at home and will help them too.

– Over the Hedgerow – A Farmers View January 2020

Jenkins and Rees Ltd have been in business since 1996 when I went into partnership with my uncle, David Jenkins, at the home farm, Trefere-Fawr, Penparc, Cardigan, Ceredigion.

Starting with our original 125-acre dairy farm we increased the acreage quite quickly by renting and purchasing land nearby and, in 1999, the decision was made to convert to an organic system.

Aled Rees, Owain Rees, Hedydd Rees

As the business grew, Hedydd, my wife, joined the team and we rented another 130-acre farm from my parents, who took early retirement in Eglwyswrw, North Pembrokeshire about ten miles from the home farm. In 2007 the opportunity arose to purchase Treclyn-Isaf, a 130-acre farm originally owned and farmed by my grandparents, which adjoined the rented farm in Eglwyswrw resulting in a convenient 260-acre block which was all converted to organic.

In 2017, our only son Owain returned home after studying for three years at Hartpury Agricultural College in Gloucestershire, and we knew that the home farm, the base for the dairy herd, wasn’t going to be big enough to keep all four of us at home. This led to the big decision to build a new set up at Eglwyswrw. With housing for 300 cows, a 54-point rotary DeLaval parlour, handling facilities including automatic footbaths, drafting gates, AI race, a one-million-gallon slurry lagoon and a 120 x 30 ft polytunnel to house 60 calves, the new unit was up and running in January 2018.

54-point rotary DeLaval parlour

Owain manages the 275 autumn-calving herd at Treclyn-Isaf, while at Trefere we have 130 spring-calving cows, looked after by a cowman and Uncle David who does all the feeding. Trefere is a fairly dry farm near the coast enabling early turn out from February to November (depending on the weather). I’m responsible for overall management of both units, ably assisted by Hedydd who manages the calves in both farms and takes care of all the paper work!

We employ three full time workers and four relief milkers covering both farms. All the boys are local, apart from our Polish team member, Krzysztof, who has been with us for the last four years.

Before the new set up started the herd was all-year-round calving, but, when everything was up and running at the new unit, we decided to split the herd, leaving the spring-calvers at Trefere and the larger autumn batch calving at Treclyn.

At the moment we are free of TB (the scourge of dairy and beef farms in West Wales) and therefore only Friesian/Holstein calves are reared as replacements. All other beef calves are sold before 42 days at local markets or at home.

Prior to the expansion of the dairy enterprise we used to grow around 100 acres of arable crops, a large proportion of which we crimped and ensiled for use as high-energy concentrate for all the stock. From this I developed a contracting business with help and support from Andy at Kelvin Cave Ltd, crimping and Agbagging for farms across Ceredigion and North Pembrokeshire. Five years ago we decided to sell this business because of increasing time pressures as the farm business expanded.

Increasing dairy cow numbers meant we needed more forage so we decided to cut down on the arable acreage. Now the only arable crops we grow are harvested and ensiled as arable silage for the spring calving herd with the acreage reduced to around 50 acres.

To accommodate the new set-up extra land has been rented giving us a total of 850 acres farmed of which 300 is owned. A total of around 1200 acres are taken for silage each year in three cuts. First cut is usually taken in the first week of May, then every six weeks, weather permitting, and a total of 2000 round bales are made as silage as we have limited space for silage clamps. We aim to address this over the next few years by extending or building some more silage clamps to accommodate more silage and minimise costs and workload. We’ll also be doing our bit for the environment by reducing farm plastic usage.

The autumn-calving herd has recently been using out-of-parlour feeders. This is working very well, with feed being targeted for cows that are performing, rather than feeding a flat rate through the mixer wagon in a TMR to the whole herd, resulting in appreciable savings on costs. The focus this year for the spring-calving herd will also be cutting down on feed cost and making more from forage. The autumn-calving herd are being fed just silage and mineral with yeast which through the mixer wagon, and the computer system in the new rotary parlour is working on feed to yield, which is also linked to the out-of-parlour feeders. 50 acres of red clover and rye grass were undersown with the arable silage last year and hopefully will be cut in four cuts this year to produce high quality silage for the autumn calvers.

Also, about 300 store lambs are purchased from September onwards and fattened on grass over the winter months. This makes use of winter grass growth and helps to reduce the levels of dead material in silage swards in the spring.

Our aim for the next few years is to consolidate the business by cutting down on costs and getting a better work / lifestyle balance!

Flooded maize crops could be salvaged for livestock or AD

Flooding across north, east and central England has brought the last of the maize harvest to a halt, and reports suggest thousands of acres remain in the ground. While taking the crop as silage becomes increasingly unlikely, feed and forage preservation specialists, Kelvin Cave Ltd, say there may still be options which will salvage maximum feed value from the crop in its current condition.

“Most of the maize across the UK is grown for forage, either as livestock feed or for anaerobic digestion [AD], but much of the crop remaining in the ground has severely decreased in digestibility and feed value, and will be impossible to harvest as silage in the current wet conditions,” says the company’s northern area manager, Michael Carpenter.

“However, by taking only the cob and leaving the stover in the field, the
combine will have a bed of stalks and leaves on which to drive,” he says. “This makes a massive difference to the cleanliness of the harvest, reducing the removal of soil from the field and cutting soil compaction.”

However, the biggest bonus to be gained from the process is by taking the grain, which generally remains in good condition and can be preserved by crimping at moisture contents of between 25 and 35 per cent.

Flooded fields - the result of more than a month’s rainfall in just a few days across many parts of the UK.
Flooded fields – the result of more than a month’s rainfall in just a few days across many parts of the UK.

“There’s a widespread misunderstanding that maize is difficult to harvest for grain in the UK and is likely to require drying,” he says. “But by using a crimping preservative instead, it can simply be rolled and treated on the day of harvest and compacted and covered in a clamp.

“The resulting fermented, concentrate feed is of a high value for both livestock and anaerobic digestion, typically analysing at over 70 per cent starch in the dry matter (DM) and with a metabolisable energy (ME) of around 14MJ/kg DM,” he says. “It will also be a good complement to the high forage stocks most producers have been able to secure this year.

“Although we are not advocating waiting longer than necessary, there is also a far larger window of opportunity for a grain harvest,” he adds. “The cob is generally better protected from disease and the elements, and we know of people who have successfully harvested and crimped grain maize beyond the New Year!”
Independent silage consultant, Dr Dave Davies from Silage Solutions reinforces the challenges of preserving maize silage as the crop matures beyond its optimum 32-35 per cent dry matter.

“As wholecrop maize matures, so its dry matter increases while its digestibility, energy content and total harvestable yield go into decline,” he says. “The plant as it dies also becomes more prone to fungal infection in the field, increasing the mycotoxin risk and greatly increasing the challenge of aerobic spoilage of the silage at feed-out.

Maize harvesting has been thrown into turmoil due to adverse weather, but there are ways to salvage maximum feed value from the crop, even in its current condition.
Maize harvesting has been thrown into turmoil due to adverse weather, but there are ways to salvage maximum feed value from the crop, even in its current condition.

“The highest harvestable yield for maize silage occurs at around 33 per cent dry matter,” he continues. “But as dry matter increases, harvestable yield rapidly declines, by 10 and 15 per cent at 45 and 50 per cent dry matter respectively.”
Charlie Bowyer who offers independent nutrition advice for AD plants through Biologic Biogas Solutions Ltd, knows growers who are now considering switching from forage to crimped grain maize in view of conditions.

He says: “With this year’s abysmal maize harvest, we are seeing over-mature maize crops with high dry matter, highly lignified stover. Very high DM wholecrop maize silage can create some serious headaches in the clamp with poor compaction leading to poor aerobic stability, losses of biogas yield and potentially problems in the AD tank, such as crusting and depressed performance.

“Crimping means you can negate some of these issues by leaving the stover in the field and get a real bang-for-your-buck by producing feedstock which would be ideal for many biogas plants, particularly those with a short retention time and no maceration.

“Crimped maize grain is a highly digestible feedstock for AD with the potential to yield over 500m3 of biogas per fresh tonne, depending on dry matter and quality,” he says.

In order to preserve maize in optimum condition, Kelvin Cave recommend treating it with Crimpsafe 300, a product containing preservation ingredients which are licensed for use with human food.

“This preservative works by controlling the fermentation of crimped grain, thereby retaining its nutritional value and cutting the losses which would occur in a poorly controlled fermentation,” says Mr Carpenter. “The formulation is designed to give maximum protection against spoilage organisms which could cause deterioration of the feed once the clamp is opened at feedout.

“Independent farm-scale trials have shown that Crimpsafe 300 will keep crimped grain fresh and stable for up to 300 hours after exposure to air, as reflected in its name,” he says.

A contractor’s view

Tim Russon runs an agricultural contracting service across Lincs, Notts and Yorks and says most of the maize in his area has long past the foraging stage, leaving very few alternative options.

“One of these is to harvest and crimp the grain which will salvage the best of the crop, which I am doing for both anaerobic digestion and livestock feed,” he says.

“We have around 1,200 acres of     maize left to harvest and a   number of our customers have   agreed that combining the grain is the best way forward.

Tim Russon
Tim Russon

 “We would ideally do this at the  earliest opportunity but the  ground is still too wet. But by taking this option, with weather and ground conditions permitting, we can salvage it through till March.”

What is crimping
Crimping involves the rolling of cereals or maize grain through a crimping machine to expose the carbohydrate and protein, and the application of a preservative. This ensures a controlled fermentation and maximum nutrient retention once stored in an airtight clamp (or plastic tube). A range of modern preservatives allows cereals or maize to be crimped at moisture contents of 25%-40%. Crimp must remain sealed for at least three weeks and can then be fed throughout the year.

Why crimp grain maize
• Produces high nutrient density, highly digestible concentrate feed
• The process is simple – crimp, ensile, feed
• Typical grain yield at 30% moisture is 4-5t/acre (10-12t/ha)
• No drying or specialist storage is required
• A wet maize grain harvest causes less soil movement, contamination and
  damage than maize silage
• Provides high value feedstock for anaerobic digestion
• Can yield about 500m3 of biogas per fresh tonne depending on DM and
  quality
• Improves animal performance (dairy, beef or sheep) over dry-rolled grain
• Backed by over 40 years successful use in Finland and northern Europe

Get more information about the crimping process 

Download a pdf of the above article

Forage moisture meter

Wet harvest threatens crops – but they can be salvaged

Persistent rain through August has left large acreages of cereals still unharvested across the UK, with many growers worried they will have to sacrifice crops.

Some are reporting that grain is germinating in the ear, which leads to changes in feed value, while also complicating harvest and storage.

Feed preservation specialists, Kelvin Cave Ltd, have therefore urged growers to consider using preservation techniques which would allow them to harvest their grain immediately, at moisture levels of up to 30 per cent.

Andy Strzelecki, the company’s technical director says that if the crop will go through a combine, there’s a preservation method which can be employed. This will allow crops to be salvaged at a reasonable feed value and prevent any further losses through disease and germination.

“Growers often don’t think of alternative methods of harvesting and preserving their grain, but this year, they could be waiting in vain for their crops to dry out,” says Mr Strzelecki. “We are certainly aware that many winter wheat crops in particular are turning black with fungal disease, and some are reported to be chitting in the head.

“If it gets to the stage of chitting, the only feasible option is to crimp the grain and ensile it in a clamp or plastic tube, with a suitable preservative applied,” he says.

He recommends using CrimpSafe Hi-Dry on cereal crops at moisture contents of up to 30 per cent.

He says: “Crimping and ensiling the cereals involves a rapid but controlled lactic fermentation which quickly kills yeasts and moulds. However, it will also stop the enzymic activity associated with sprouting, which in particular breaks down starch.

“Grains which are already chitting can be compacted and stored in anaerobic conditions,” he continues. “However, they must have an effective preservative applied to prevent spoilage on opening and exposure to air.”

Advising growers to carefully select an appropriate preservative for the conditions and level of moisture, he says some products are only suitable for lower moisture crops.

“Before a product is chosen it is important that an assessment is made of the condition of the crop,” he says.

For example, if the crop has not chitted, and the moisture content is below 25 per cent, it could potentially be preserved with Propcorn NC, the non-corrosive form of propionic acid.

“Propcorn NC has the advantage of turning grain into an easily saleable feed,” he says. “It doesn’t require ensiling but can be stored in a dry grain store, bin or covered bunker as either whole or rolled grain.”

Remarking that many growers have taken this advice during previous difficult harvests, he cites some who had all but written off their crops before opting to change their approach to harvest.

“I have rarely seen a crop which is completely unsalvageable but I would urge growers to act with speed, as warm weather after the rain will encourage chitting and every day that passes sees a reduction in the value of the crop,” he says.

“However, by preserving moist grains either in a clamp or with Propcorn NC, they will salvage the highest feed value possible and make the best of a bad situation.”

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 harvesting and additives for preservation

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.

Bean silage and crimp drive profits in beef

 

Brothers, Martin and Richard Grix, have found a niche in the beef industry involving finishing cull cows as they leave the suckler herd. But the profitability of the enterprise depends entirely on sourcing cattle well from markets across northern Britain and quickly and cheaply moving animals through the system.

Such has been the success of the venture on their Northumberland farm that today, it is considered a key part of the family’s overall business and matches the 750 acre (300ha) arable enterprise in the generation of profit. It does this by finishing the cows in as little as 60 (and up to 100) days and feeding them at a daily cost of £1.65/head.

But this achievement has only been possible by growing and carefully processing key feed ingredients at home in Morpeth on Hillhead Farm.

When the beef enterprise was started in the mid-2000s, it placed a heavy emphasis on by-products and dried rolled cereals grown on the farm, but the brothers soon discovered there were drawbacks in their choice of feeds.

Martin says: “When you use by-products, you can suddenly get that phone call which leaves you high and dry.”

This was the case when the supply of waste fruit – which had been a key ingredient of the ration for many years – suddenly dried up.

“Our supplier lost the contract and the fruit we fed to the cows now goes to anaerobic digestion,” he says.

Equally, while dried, rolled cereals may seem an obvious choice on an arable farm, he says they have their limitations. There is the acidosis risk of feeding dry cereals – a particular problem with some older cows which have spent their lives on forage – and there’s the cost of drying and rolling grain.

“The cost of diesel was going up, there was the glyphosate for desiccation, the gas for drying the cereals and we had to roll the grain throughout the year,” he says. “There was also the rent for the shed to store the dried grain, although even here, it was vulnerable to vermin.

“The more we thought about it, the more illogical it seemed, as we were basically drying the grain to 15% moisture to subsequently mix it with a wet ration.”

Aware of the possibility of preserving moist cereals they first sought advice from Kelvin Cave’s Michael Carpenter, who had been recommended by a friend from Cumbria.

“Michael advised us that we could harvest our cereals between 30 and 45% moisture, crimp the grain using a specialised crimping preservative, and store it in a clamp,” he says.

Farming brothers Martin (right) and Richard Cox)

The attractions of this option were numerous, including the earlier harvest around three weeks before dried cereals; a higher dry matter yield and feed value, as the crop would be harvested at its maximum nutritional value and before it starts to deteriorate; less acid loading on the rumen than conventional cereals; and easy storage on the farm.”

The brothers took the plunge with crimping in 2011 and say the process met their expectations in every way.

“We expected a higher tonnage and we’re definitely getting an extra tonne to the acre; it gives us a longer harvest window and the earlier harvest allows us time for muck-spreading and to make a good start with cultivations for winter cereals or rape; and it’s definitely more animal-friendly,” says Martin.

The outcome he says is a much cheaper ration, no acidosis and easy storage on the farm, while the earlier harvested straw – which dries on the field for five to seven days before baling – is said by the brothers to make better quality feed than drier straw.

Buoyed by the success of the crimping process, which cut the cost of the ration by around five percent to £1.93/head/day, the brothers saw there was scope to further reduce the bought-in feeds, particularly those with the highest cost which increased the ration’s protein.

“We had been feeding a ration based on the crimped barley, potato mash, wheat straw, pot ale syrup and feed-grade urea, but we were convinced by Michael that we could make further improvements while also reducing the cost,” says Martin.

Taking Michael’s advice to try spring beans for harvesting as whole-crop silage, the brothers trialled the idea by buying a small standing crop in 2016.

“Michael felt that bean silage would suit our system well, as it would provide forage and protein which could replace some of the straw and the feed-grade urea we were buying in,” says Martin.

“We liked what we saw from the little we had and felt the cattle on the bean ration came through with a better finish,” he says. “So, we seeded 58 acres (23ha) in April 2017, and harvested it as whole-crop on 17 October.”

The brothers opted to use Safesil Pro to preserve the whole-crop silage, as it is formulated specifically for high dry matter forages, and they wanted to be certain of killing harmful bacteria and eliminating the activity of fungi and moulds.

Richard Grix (left) with Michael Carpenter of Kelvin Cave Ltd looks at the ration before bean silage was introduced.

“I recommended they used this chemical-based preservative rather than an inoculant because a high dry matter, stemmy and fibrous whole-crop, harvested late in the season, is amongst the most challenging of forages to compact and ensile,” said Michael. “Some bacterial additives can give variable results, and we saw no point in taking that risk.

“The Safesil Pro, used by the Grixes, 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,” he says. 

The brothers opened the clamp for feeding around three weeks after harvest and introduced the beans to a newly formulated ration. This is mixed in a Keenan feeder equipped with an InTouch controller to ensure precise and consistent feeding.

The farm’s Keenan nutritionist, Chris Lord, reduced the straw in the ration by over 50 percent and removed the urea altogether (see table). Pot ale syrup was also cut down as this had been an important source of protein.

  “I’d always wanted to reduce the straw because it was diluting the energy in this ration, but we needed to find an alternative source of structural fibre,” says Chris Lord. “Whole-crop beans not only bring physical structure and fibre to the ration but they are also a great source of protein and starch.”

The bean silage analysed at 71 percent dry matter and 19 per cent protein and was included in the ration at 6.4kg/head/day (fresh weight). 

The overall total mixed ration was costed at £1.65/head/day compared with £1.93/head/day when straw and urea were part of the TMR (last year’s feed prices, with straw, costed at £80/tonne). With cows on the farm for a maximum of 100 days, but ideally somewhat less, this has the scope to cut as much as £28 per head from finishing costs, equating to £42,000/annum for the 1,500 head which passes through the system every year.

This saving, from the introduction of bean silage, is on top of that made through changing to crimp and is likely to be higher this year as straw increases in price to upwards of £100 per tonne.

The brothers have sown beans again for 2018 and increased their acreage to 90 (36ha).

“We’ve found they suit our system well,” says Martin. “They give us another entry into first wheats [used for biscuit making] which is really useful for the arable rotation and the extra nitrogen the beans have left in the soil gives our wheat yields a lift.

“If, as a bonus, we can eliminate the need to purchase extra straw, it will also greatly reduce the risk of importing blackgrass to the farm,” he says.

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Is the use of urea or urea-containing additives really the way forward to preserve home-grown high-moisture cereals?

 

Dr Horst Auerbach, International Silage Consultancy (ISC), Wettin-Löbejünthe considers wether the use of urea or urea-containing additives is really the way forward to preserve home-grown high-moisture cereals?

The answer to this question is a straight ‘no’, or, at least, ‘it depends on what the farmer’s intention is’. This article aims to give farmers food for thought regarding the best suitable technology to preserve high-moisture cereals.

Urea-treatment limits harvest date flexibility 

It is well accepted that 22% is the maximum moisture level for preservation of cereals with urea – either as rolled or as whole grains. 

Targeting this moisture requires the cereals to be left in the field for an unnecessarily long period, enabling moulds to infest the plant and produce mycotoxins. It also reduces the time available for following cropping actions, eg reseeding or catch-crops. In addition, evidence suggests that an earlier cereal harvest may play a promising role in preventing the spread of black grass in continuous cereal rotations, given that harvest occurs before black grass seed begins to shed. Narrowing the time window by having to have as low as 22% moisture can also result in challenges to farmers and contractors regarding available capacity for harvest and/or crimping. Only the harvest of cereals at 30% or even higher moisture content, and subsequent crimping and ensiling, offers maximum flexibility. 

Is the protein added by urea treatment equal to the protein fed in the ration?

Indeed, urea application increases crude protein (CP) content of the treated cereals. However, about 25% of the urea is lost by volatilisation and evaporation of ammonia released from it (Spiekers et al, 2005), especially once the sheeting is taken off the heap. This is supported by empirical evidence from farmers who notice a strong smell of ammonia in the storage barn after removal of the plastic cover, which gets weaker and virtually disappears with progressing time. At the typical urea inclusion rate of 2% (20g/kg) resulting in a CP increase of about 6% units, 25% loss amounts to 1.5% less, or just 4.5% more CP, in the cereals. Thus, if CP content of the treated cereals is not regularly determined, then the ration may contain less CP than required to maintain a given animal performance level.

One should also always bear in mind that urea only delivers CP that is readily available in the rumen but no rumen-undegradable protein (RUP). The RUP fraction, however, is particularly important for high-producing dairy cows. If ammonia and carbohydrate supplies are not in balance, surplus ammonia is quickly absorbed from the rumen and has to be detoxified in the liver, thereby detrimentally affecting animal health. This also has the potential to affect fertility adversely since ammonia in the bloodstream can cause foetal mortality.

Is urea treatment effective in reducing the risks of acidosis caused by too much cereal in the diet?

Data on the effects of urea-treated grains on rumen function is lacking. Of course, the ammonia released from urea which is still present at the time of feeding can buffer dietary acids, originating from the silage in the ration, or from lactic acid production related to cereal starch digestion in the rumen.  

However, in order to address the practical relevance of this frequently made claim, we need to do the maths! 

Unfortunately, we cannot predict how much lactic acid is produced from cereals in the rumen, but it is correct to say that the more cereals fed, the higher the risk of excessive lactic acid formation, thereby reducing the amount of ammonia available for buffering lactic acid, the strongest of all fermentation acids, coming from silage. Each gram of ammonia from urea can neutralise 5.3g of lactic acid, to form ammonium lactate. At an assumed urea application rate of, again, 2% (20g/kg), and an ammonia concentration of 56% in urea, minus 25% ammonia losses during storage, 8.5g/kg of ammonia can be released. 

This amount has the potential to neutralise about 45g of lactic acid. Thus, 90g or 225g of lactic acid in the ration can be buffered if 2kg or 5kg respectively of treated cereals are fed per head and day. Indeed, there may be a buffering effect, especially in fattening cattle, but only when cereals are offered at a daily rate higher than normal (5kg/head) and if the silage in the ration only contains low to moderate lactic acid concentrations of 50g/kg DM. However, in particular, low DM grass and maize silage often contains >100g of lactic acid per kg of DM, rendering the buffer effect of ammonia from grain urea treatment negligible, especially in the feeding of milking cows having a daily intake from silage >10kg of DM. It has to be noted that silage does not only contain lactic but also other fermentation acids, eg acetic acid, at significant concentrations. These can be bound by ammonia too. Unless controlled animal studies have proven positive effects of urea-treated cereals on rumen health, care should be taken not to simply imply them or take them for granted. 

Pure feed-grade urea or urea plus enzymes, full-fat soya, essential oils and other additives?

It is more than questionable and, on financial terms, not a wise decision to spend more money on urea-containing additives than on pure material as far as the urea-related effects, eg increase in
CP level, microbial inhibition, are concerned. 

There is no evidence at all that formulated products offer advantages over feed-grade urea, but they are certainly much more expensive. The cost for cereal treatment with urea vary between £20 and £30/t. At 2% inclusion rate, this equals to £1.00-£1.50/kg of product whereas feed-grade urea sells at only around £0.40/kg. 

Farmers who consider the use of urea-containing additives must ask suppliers for a detailed composition of the product – especially the content of substances other than urea and their beneficial effect – in order to be able to evaluate the return-on-investment compared to the sole use of pure feed-grade urea.

What is the way forward in preserving crimped, high-moisture cereals?

No technology other than crimping at >30% moisture offers so much flexibility in preserving home-grown cereals and their use in the nutrition of all farm animals. 

Crimping guarantees cereal harvest at optimal nutritional value and hygienic quality, together with several agronomical advantages and reduced peak times of machinery use due to a wide harvest window. Crimped cereals treated with an acid- or salt-based additive can be fed, without any restrictions, to all animal species and categories whereas urea-treated grains must not be offered to monogastrics or calves without a fully developed rumen. 

Should there be the unlikely situation of a shortage of soluble CP in the ration, feed-grade urea can always be added depending on its composition and the animal category.

This approach is far more flexible and economical than the treatment of the entire cereal inventory with urea or urea-containing products. 

by Dr Horst Auerbach,
International Silage Consultancy (ISC), Wettin-Löbejün, Germany

Dr Horst Auerbach runs the International Silage Consultancy in Germany and has published numerous research papers on the effective preservation of cereal grain for livestock feeding.

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To crimp or not to crimp by Lizz Clarke, LC Beef Nutrition

 

Having worked independently in beef nutrition for 14 years, I can certainly say that crimping grain has made a huge difference to a number of my customers, and the answer is yes, seriously consider crimping.

The good old British weather, among other reasons, has resulted in an ever-increasing struggle to ensure that quality grass silage, and other forages, are made each year. Crimped grain has proved to be a safe energy boost that can be fed at much higher levels than rolled or ground cereals. It allows a higher overall proportion of grains to be fed in beef diets without the increased risk of acidosis and other rumen issues.

Apart from moisture content, the analysis of crimped grains does not vary significantly from dry cereals. However, when harvested at the correct stage, a lower proportion of the grain dry matter is rumen-degradable (fast fermenting) and a higher proportion bypass (slow fermenting) when compared with dry grain. This has immense benefits, allowing the animal to fully process feeds later in the gut and absorb more of the nutrients from those feeds. As a result more energy is utilised into animal production, rather than being wasted as excrement.

A good mixture of rumen-degradable and bypass feeds is the best option and having rolled, dry cereals (or other rumen-degradable energy feeds) with crimped cereals gives you this mix. Crimping is not limited to just cereal grains; beans, peas and maize are all ideal candidates for the crimping process.

Crimped grains are beneficial in all beef diets from young calves through to finishers if the diet is in need of added energy.

I work individually with farmers, tailoring the rations and mixes to their own ‘on-farm feed supply’ needs and, of course, and importantly, the requirements of the end processor. I have found that crimp is an asset to nearly all beef-production systems, from a lower energy, higher grass-based finish for extensive systems (those that need to have had a grazing season and need to have a higher percentage of forage within the finishing diet) to higher energy, more potent diets for bull beef systems where crimp is fed from weaning onwards for rosé veal or the processing market.

Knowledge of how all your available feeds work within the animal is hugely beneficial, and ensuring all aspects of the animal’s dietary requirements are catered for is critical. Crimping has enormous benefits, but I find that feeding a mix of dry-rolled cereals (supplying rapidly-fermentable energy) and crimped cereals (for slower fermenting and rumen-bypass energy) gives even better results. Ensuring the animal has something to chew on and stimulate the rumen is also vital and must be taken into consideration, ie forage, straw etc.

The two separate farm diets shown were advised originally when a move to crimped cereals was being considered. The objective was to improve performance and outcome. Now, a few years down the road, neither of these farms has returned to their previous systems and they continue to see good economic performance.

When cereal prices are low, it is not unheard of to utilise your maximum recommended amount of dry cereals (for a fully grown 500kg+ animal), let us say 3-4kgs of dry rolled wheat (in a TMR) and then 8-10kgs of crimped wheat, along with the rumen stimulants (fibre) and protein sources. This, in many cases may be the cheapest feed option.

If cereals are in short supply and expensive, then purchased, cheaper products to satisfy the rumen fill can be used allowing crimped grain, maybe at lower levels, to still provide that much needed bypass energy.

With its earlier harvest, one-stop processing and its readiness to be fed after ensiling, crimped grain requires no further treatment of the cereal is required before it can be fed to the animal. No waiting for the mill and mix, or dusty home-milling. Once ensiled in a pit or silo bag for the recommended period of time, it is just a case of mixing with other required feeds and feeding as it is – simple! All you need now is all the other elements of the diet taken care of to ensure it is all balanced to give you the most cost-effective ration with the feeds available.

by Lizz Clarke, LC Beef Nutrition

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Costs of beef production slashed by crimping grain

An overhaul in feed preservation has slashed costs, improved rumen health and increased performance on Duncan Fairbairn’s Gloucestershire farm.

Duncan Fairbairn (pictured above) had been growing and drying grain at New Meadow Farm in Winchcombe, Gloucestershire for his beef rearing and finishing business for many years but was gradually beginning to question whether the costs and hassle involved were really worthwhile. Finding the right window for cereal harvest at the ideal 14-15% moisture was an age-old challenge and using a specialist mobile roller to process the grain added extra cost. Once the corn was in from the field, there was also the issue of dry grain storage, which – for his then small beef enterprise – was a relatively costly business.

Buying his own grain roller was the first step in reducing his processing costs and for this, Mr Fairbairn approached Kelvin Cave Ltd.

“Using a contractor for rolling dry grain had become expensive – I reckon it added about £15 per tonne,” he says. “So, having my own grain roller was the first step in cutting costs and I managed to obtain a second-hand Murska 350.”

But when Mr Fairbairn took delivery of the machine, he was questioned by Kelvin Cave’s sales director, Ian Hall, about the wisdom of rolling dried grain at all. Mr Hall also introduced him to the concept of crimping, a process by which moist grain is treated for long-term stable storage.

“The machine Duncan had bought was perfectly suited to rolling dry grain but it is also designed for crimping,” said Mr Hall. “This means high moisture grain can be harvested around three weeks earlier than conventional harvest and is processed with the preservative CrimpSafe through an applicator on the machine.”

The crimped cereal is then stored in a similar way to silage – compacted and sheeted in a clamp without specialist equipment.

“This process not only brings the cereal in at a higher feed value, it also comes in at a higher dry matter yield and in better condition, usually before there’s any disease, shrivelling or loss of grain,” says Mr Hall. “And with the right preservative, a quick and controlled fermentation is achieved and the crop’s nutritional value is retained.”

Mr Fairbairn could see the appeal of the process and was prepared to try it on a small scale.

“We had a long, narrow silage pit which I’d used for storing moist feeds, so we used this for the crimp,” he says. “I did have reservations because it was completely new to me and I was worried about what would happen if it didn’t work out.”

In the first year he cut two fields of winter barley and the crop came in at 5t/acre (12.4t/ha) at 42% moisture.

“Even allowing for the extra moisture, we had good dry matter yields for these fields,” he says. “However, we think we cut the corn a few days earlier than ideal, and now aim to harvest at 28-32% moisture.”

Opening the clamp for the first time three weeks after harvest, Mr Fairbairn says: “I thought that was 10 steps to heaven! It smelt like honey, the cattle loved it and there was absolutely no wastage.”

Continuing to use crimped cereals has now allowed him to rethink how he feeds his cattle and to make operational changes to the whole system.

“We used to buy in calves at around five weeks and put them on to milk and creep, followed by a pellet until they were around five months old,” he says.

“But this was a costly system, so they now come on to the farm at three to four months and go straight on to the grower total mixed ration [see panel]. They will stay on this until they weigh around 450-500kg and then move on to the finisher ration.” [see panel].

In the finishing period, the ration is based on two-thirds of the grower ration and one-third crimped barley (fresh weights), which ramps up the starch to 35%.

“We have no scouring and have absolutely no worries about acidosis when feeding crimped cereals as unlike dry rolled cereals they are slowly fermented and very safe for the rumen,” he says.

Crimped cereals
Crimped cereals

David Hendy, the farm’s nutritionist explains: “Clearly there are practical and logistical benefits to crimping cereals but from a nutritional perspective it also has advantages. It’s safer for rumen stability, is more digestible and degradable than conventional rolled grain and can be safely fed at a higher rate where finisher rations need to have optimum performance.”

The cost of the crimped barley has been meticulously worked out by Mr Fairbairn, who says it’s considerably cheaper than rolled, dry-stored cereal.

 

“Last season, my growing, harvesting and transporting costs were £372/acre for winter barley and the first 10 acre field we harvested – even earlier than usual on 22 June – yielded 57 tonnes of grain (5.7 tonnes/acre fresh weight and 4.1t/acre dry matter).

“This means our growing cost was £65.26/tonne at 28% moisture,” he says. “Added to this is our crimping cost, which includes the CrimpSafe, sheeting, depreciation and labour, and worked out at a further £19 per tonne.

“This gives a total cost of £84/tonne of fresh weight, which, at 28% moisture, is £116.66/tonne of dry matter – and that’s an over-estimate as it assumes zero value for the straw which came in at 2.9 t/acre (7.2t/ha).”

He compares this with the £148/t DM he has calculated as the cost of his dried, rolled barley although says this varies from year to year depending partly on whether drying is needed.  However, this figure fails to account for the additional yield to come from the earlier crimp harvest which, on average, has been over one tonne/acre extra on a dry matter basis because of the lack of losses.

The cost of crimped barley has been worked through to cost the entire TMR which Mr Fairbairn says is £88.45 per tonne of dry matter for the growers and £106.50/t DM for the finishers.

However, he says: “The most important thing to me is not just the cost of the feed nor getting the highest growth rate, but the cost of producing a kilogram of liveweight gain.”

With growth rates averaging 1.1kg/day for growers and 1.45kg/day for finishers, he says this costs the business 66.7p/kg and 90.3p/kg of liveweight gain respectively (see table).

Confident these figures are appreciably better than his earlier ration, he says he has cut the cost of bought-in feed by at least £5,000/year and now aims for 96-98% self-sufficiency.

However, he says the knock-on benefits of harvesting and using crimp extend beyond the cost of liveweight gain as there are agronomic and health benefits which help the finances of the whole farm.

“The contractor loves the job because harvest is so early, it’s no longer weather-dependent and it doesn’t matter if – like last year – there is uneven ripening ofgrain,” he says.

“We also get more and better quality straw which has a higher feed value, and we can get on the fields early for autumn cultivations and potentially get in a forage crop for autumn grazing,” he says.

Today, the business has expanded to a throughput of 110-130 head finished each year from the 160 acre holding. Performance of the beef continues to improve and the kill sheets from St Merryn Meat show grades of up to -U3 and deadweights of up to 387kg for stock aged 19-23 months.

Most are 50:50 dairy x beef breeds and Mr Fairbairn says: “I find cattle fed a better ration for longer seem to have better carcass quality with a higher killing out percent.

“With our previous ration and dry cereals as our main energy source, we would have waited until at least 24 months to finish the dairy cross cattle and used to have around 15% more O+ and fewer R and –U grades,” he says.

As a farm contractor himself – specialising in silage, racehorse hay and cultivations – he has now switched the preservation of every forage made on the farm to a Kelvin Cave product and upgraded the crimper to a Korte 700 with a throughput of over 10 tonnes/hour.

“We use CrimpSafe 300 for grain which comes in at over 24% moisture and CrimpSafe Hi-Dry for grain at between 16 and 24%,” he says. “We’ve also switched to Safesil Challenge for grass and lucerne silage, Safesil Pro for wholecrop and maize silage and we treat the racehorse hay with Propcorn NC as it’s so important in this to prevent the growth of fungi and moulds. All silages are also sheeted in O2 Barrier 2in1.

“We know it will cost us more than some other products but it’s all about maximising the value of everything we grow on the farm. We are confident we will get the money back… and then some again.”

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Silage Making Essentials

Five essentials to making good silage

For more information please click the link below.

 

Safesil is a special blend of food-grade preservatives that eradicates all the major spoilage organisms. Proven to be supremely effective across a wide range of dry matters and crops.

 

At 3m wide and weighing about 4,000kg with 11 individual roller rings, a SilaPactorspeeds up the compaction process almost four-fold, saving both time and fuel and can increase dry matter compaction density by up to 40% when compared to conventional tractor rolling.

 

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

 

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

 

Made from 90 per cent re-cycled material with a life expectancy of around 15 yearsClampTiles 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.

An Overview of the Place for Beans – Starting and Finishing with Your Policy

By Roger Vickers CEO of PGRO (Processors and Growers Research Organisation)

Policy – a word that turns most people off – is probably an unpromising one to start an article.

It was, however, CAP reform that started some mixed farmers thinking about how best to make the most of the greening regulations to maximise their home-produced protein and reduce their outgoings. Since then the national crop area of beans, practices of home feeding, and utilisation within the feed industry in general have increased.

As a result, with a focus on produce grown and fed on farm both as preserved grains and as wholecrop silage a previous edition of KnowHow featured the feeding qualities of beans. Pages 4-9 Spring edition 2016 (‘Hold on to more profit with home-grown beans’) (link is external).

The current CAP regulations, announced in 2014, encompass the probably now well-understood ‘Three-crop rule’ and its requirements for Ecological Focus Areas (EFAs). These requirements accelerated what was an already increasing interest in UK pulse cropping – especially in field beans. Bean area rose steadily year on year following the CAP ruling, and as of harvest 2016 stood at approximately 175,000 hectares in England and Wales (source: DEFRA).

Policymakers love to make changes and, just as we were all getting used to the new situation, it was confirmed at the beginning of August 2017 that changes to the EFA greening requirements would come into force from the 1st January 2018. The changes will apply to crops from the point of sowing through to harvest. Thus encompassing crops sown in autumn 2017 and prohibiting the use of any plant protection products on EFA fallow, EFA catch & cover crops and for EFA Nitrogen Fixing Crops.(Read More)

It is too early to say what effect this will have on the area of beans sown for 2018 harvest – but what is certain is that the underlying reasons for growing them and the very real farming benefits they deliver to the rotation have not changed.

Beans are widely recognised as a low input crop. That said, to get the best out of them they cannot simply be ignored. Planning and attention to detail, from the initial field selection right through to harvest, will help to ensure that the very best crop is realised. Inputs may be few but attention is required to ensure that the crop is well established, with free drainingsoil and an unimpeded root zone. Weed competition should be minimised, sufficient nutrition should be available and, as far as possible, the crop should be maintained free from the stress of pests and disease.

As nitrogen-fixing crops, beans do not require the application of any nitrogen fertiliser and can be expected to fix about 240kg of N during the growing season, leaving behind a residue of 50-70kg for the following crop. (Value £36-£50/ha based on ammonium nitrate at £245/t) (Read More (link is external))

This nitrogen residue and the positive impact the beans have on soil structure and soil biology are a large part of the reason that cereal crops following beans are so much improved. These benefits are readily visible in a following wheat crop, but have a decreasing but still present impact for subsequent crops too. A typical first wheat after beans is likely to yield 0.8 to 1.0t/ha more. At current values this represents additional income of approximately £145/ha.

Being legumes, beans offer a very real break in largely cereal crop based rotations, giving the opportunity to control weeds both physically and with a different chemical armoury, therefore assisting in addressing the issue of developing pernicious weed populations. Weeds such as blackgrass have, in some areas, become extremely expensive or even impossible to control with conventional agrochemical tools and can have enormous negative impact on yields. In places, this has made cereal cropping almost unviable, hence beans in a wider rotation offer an opportunity to fight back and establish more robust cropping practices.

Soil borne diseases such as verticillium wilt, (Read More (link is external)) clubroot (Read More (link is external)) and take-all (Read More (link is external)) are becoming real barriers to sustainable productivity.

For growers used to producing oilseed rape and wheat, or any other crops in a close cropping sequence, the benefits of beans in extending their rotation are significant.

Of course, this does not mean that beans are without their own problems, and close sequence cropping of pulses should also be avoided. It is recommended that beans should not be grown in a closer than 1:5 rotation and seed should always be checked for freedom from stem nematode and ascochyta.

The nature of bean physiology has an impact upon annual workload on farm. A spring-sown crop opens the autumn workload window and the general maturity of the crop means it rarely competes with the winter wheat harvest. Earlier maturing varieties can be selected in northern growing areas and desiccation techniques can be adopted where even a few days can be a huge advantage.

The market for beans is diverse but the primary outlets are for human consumption and for animal feed. By far the largest human consumption market is in the export trade and depends upon having a bright and pale colour sample with good visual appearance. Crops making the grade will normally receive a premium which can be £15-25/t. The visual appearance is largely irrelevant for the animal feed market, however, a major barrier for the feed merchants is continuity of supply. In recent times this has been less of an issue and the feed merchants have enthusiastically taken the additional quantity of home-produced protein for processing. There is every indication that given reliable availability they will continue to do so.

Nor does any of this affect the fact that home- produced beans remain an excellent feed and an opportunity to retain more profit within the farm enterprise.

So often in articles such as this you will find gross margin figures quoted in an attempt to persuade you that the crop being discussed is the most profitable, or at least comparable, to others you might consider. If we did that here for beans you would find that they more than hold their own – even without trying to monetarise the many agronomic and practical benefits outlined above, most of which are misleadingly accrued in and attributed to the following crops.

In reality, crop gross margin presentations are rarely accurate, for unless they take account of an individual’s costs and performance, they can never truly represent a specific farm enterprise. The work of the PGRO is aimed at trying to improve the ability of growers to increase their output and profitability from pulse crops.

The leading growers do not have significantly greater input costs than anyone else and yet reach yields of 8 t/ha or more – measured against the average of nearer 4 t/ha. Hence, there are clearly a lot of possibilities to make a nonsense of many of the theoretical gross margins presented.

Whilst most farmers are almost certain to see the new EFA requirements as irritating, the reality is the same for all crops previously grown on EFA areas – the changes are not a peculiarity of beans. Growers are going to simply have to look elsewhere, to hedgerows, copses, field margins, catch and cover crops and fallow to meet their 5% obligations.

The key message to take away from all the above is that – with a little attention to detail – there is some serious profit to be had on farm from pulses, and that fact has not changed.

Those who have been growing beans will, hopefully, have realised that it is a crop that offers so much more than the opportunity to tick a box for the regulator and, after full consideration, will keep beans in their well-deserved place in the farm’s rotation policy.

For more information on how best to harvest and preserve home grown beans please read our spring 2016 issue of KnowHow (link is external) to find out more from other farmers on how they are benefitting from growing beans and the techniques used to maximise their return on investment.

Family Fortunes

Using crimped maize and cereals to rear and finish dairy-bred beef has transformed the fortunes of a Yorkshire farm.

Rearing pure dairy bull beef was introduced at Cross Hill Farm near Goole, as a side-line to the arable business, but today has grown to become the farm’s financially most important enterprise and enabled the next generation of the family to work at home.

The success of the dairy-beef business has hinged upon the use of home-grown feeds, with crops chosen carefully to fit the arable rotation and to provide high energy feeds for breeds which can be challenging to finish.

However, with the right feeds, the mainly Holstein bulls are sent to slaughter at 12 to 13 months, achieving deadweights averaging 230kg and returning a net margin of around £60/head – with home-produced feeds costed into the ration at their market values.

“With over 600 head going through every year, this makes the beef just as important as the arable business,” says Neil Welburn (pictured opposite), who farms with hiswife Deirdre on the largely tenanted Yorkshire farm.

The cattle were introduced to the farm in 2008, at around the time the couple’s son and daughter, Chris and Claire, returned respectively from Askham Bryan and Bishop Burton Colleges ‘full of ideas’.

Because of the low price of dairy bull calves, the family were able to purchase high numbers, beginning with around 100 head in their first year, but soon scaling up the operation.

“Initially, we bought two- to four-week-old calves from local dairy farmers, and sold them as stores at six to eight months at a local market,” says Mr Welburn.

They would remain on milk and creep feed until eight to 10 weeks, and then go on to the largely purchased ration.

“This included a bit of everything such as chopped lucerne, flaked maize, dried, rolled cereals and sugar beet pulp, but when we worked it out, it was costing us a fortune,” he says. “I’d say it was at least £40-£50/tonne more just because we were buying so much of it in bags.”

It was after about a year on this regime that two landmark meetings occurred, both of which would transform the system on the farm.

“We met Adam Buitelaar, (managing director of the Buitelaar Group which manages supply chains and processes rosé veal and young beef from the dairy herd) and we met Michael Carpenter (from feed and forage preservation specialists, Kelvin Cave Ltd),” he says.

The two meetings set off a series of changes which would lead to a shake-up of the arable rotations, significant revisions of the rations, and cattle being finished on the farm and sent directly to Buitelaar (the Woodhead meat plant in Lincolnshire) for slaughter.

“We had been growing wheat and getting around four tonnes/acre but when we met Michael at LAMMA in 2009, he told us that if we harvested three weeks earlier, we’d get closer to six tonnes,” recalls Mr Welburn. “He was absolutely right with this prediction, as that’s exactly what we did the following harvest.”

Although he accepts that some of the extra weight was accounted for by moisture, he says the dry matter yield per acre is also higher and the nutritional value of the crop at the time of the earlier harvest is at its peak.

The earlier-harvested wheat meant the grain had to be crimped – a process which involved passing it through rollers on the day of harvest to expose its carbohydrate and protein.

“A preservative is applied to the rolled grain which is then stored in an airtight clamp or plastic tube,” says Kelvin Cave’s Michael Carpenter. “The process involves a controlled fermentation and will retain the maximum possible nutrient value and give better performance than dried grain.”

Mr Welburn committed around 200 tonnes of wheat to crimping in the first year, admitting he was nervous about keeping a high value of feed ‘outside in plastic bags’.

“It came home to me when a neighbour pulled up and pointed out we had £30,000-worth of feed in those bags,” he says.

However, he says he liked the way the moist product fed and how the cattle performed, and that storing the crimp outside freed up shed space for cattle.

“The cattle did really well on it,” he says. “The minute we started feeding crimp, they stopped coughing – as we do have a problem with pneumonia which is under investigation.”

The area of cereals for crimping across the 900-plus acres the family farms increased every year, and in 2011 the decision was taken to apply the same technique to grain maize.

Everything except the grain is left in the field including the entire stover and centre of the cob. This makes harvesting much cleaner and protects the soil from run-off and erosion over the winter.

Everything except the grain is left in the field including
the entire stover and centre of the cob. This makes
harvesting much cleaner and protects the soil from
run-off and erosion over the winter.

“It’s not something that’s normally grown around here but we’ve found it fits perfectly into the crop rotation,” says Mr Welburn.

They chose to sow the maize after carrots, which are grown by a neighbour on short-term rented land and harvested in April or May. Because the maize is harvested as grain, many of the problems associated with a late harvest are overcome by the return of the crop’s stover to the land, which creates a mat under the combine on which it can travel without damaging the soil.

“I made up my mind I was definitely going to crimp the maize – I didn’t even consider maize silage or anything else,” he says.

“Our contractor had told us we could bank on yields of three tonnes/acre but may get up to six, and he was also exactly right,” he says. “We tried just 40 acres of maize in the first year, using the lightest, blow-away sandy land – the sort that would only yield two tonnes of wheat – and harvested 3.5 tonnes/acre.”

Rations were reformulated by independent nutritionist, Lizz Clarke, and included 3.5kg crimped maize, 1.6kg crimped wheat, 0.5kg crimped beans, 1.5kg baled silage, 1.5kg dry barley, 2kg of a high protein molasses feed and 1kg Trafford Gold.

She says: “Crimped grain is a superb energy source for cattle because it is slowly fermented so bypasses the rumen, which is perfect in this system when you are aiming to finish from 10 months onwards.

“It is better utilised than dried grain and particularly suits these Holstein cattle which are difficult to put weight on.

“It is equally suited to dairy cow rations, and is much safer to feed than dried grain and less likely to cause acidosis,” she says.

However, she says she has complemented the crimp in this ration with highly degradable ingredients to feed the rumen, which, on this farm, have variously included potatoes and molasses, depending on availability.

“In this system, energy is key while protein can be lower, and this ration analysed at a metabolisable energy of 13MJ/kg DM and 12% protein,” she says.

Today, the area of maize grown for crimping by the Welburn family has increased to 240 acres and will hopefully expand in the future, with most used on the farm and some sold to neighbouring dairy herds. A temporary clamp has been built from wrapped silage bales and has been filled with around 550 tonnes of crimped maize.

The monitor in the combine shows a yield of more
than 10t/ha and moisture content of 36.2%.

“This has saved a substantial cost as plastic tubes are £300 a time and we’d need at least five for this amount of maize, costing around £1500,” says Mr Welburn.

“All we now have to buy on a yearly basis is O2 Barrier 2-in-1 for the top sheet at around £300, but we’ll cut this in half and use it for the sides of the clamp the following year,” he says. “Everything else including the netting is a one-off expense so it’s a cheaper and tidier way to store the crimp.”

Meanwhile, he says that crimped maize fits in perfectly with the spring-harvested, strawed carrots which are otherwise difficult to follow, is now yielding closer to 4t/acre and appeals to local landlords as it leaves the ground in a better condition than many of the alternatives.

“Rents are high and we have to compete with land for anaerobic digestion, but the landlords like the fact that we return organic matter and structure to the soil and don’t leave the field in a mess,” he says.

“We put farmyard manure on to the land before seeding, and the only thing we take off is the grain. The combine pulls the stalks through the header and chops and lays them in a mat so there’s no mess at harvest and no exposed soil or run-off over winter.

“We feel we have found a system which dovetails perfectly with the rest of the farm, makes good use of difficult land and has doubled the turnover of the business – but most of all, it’s allowed all of the family to stay at home and work on the farm,” he says.

Main picture: The crimped maize clamp – constructed from bales.
Inset: Ingredients in this TMR include crimped maize, crimped wheat and dry silage.

Evolution, not revolution, in crimped grain preservatives

Many of the things we take for granted in our modern lives have evolved over time.

The wheel, for instance, has been around for millennia. But transforming it from a roughly hewn disc of stone or wood into a high-performance lightweight alloy rim has been an evolutionary process – the product of initiative, innovation and a desire to make something that performs better than its predecessor.

The same has been true when it comes to crimped grain preservation. Since its beginnings, in the early 1960s in Finland, it was realized that an effective preservative was essential in order to ensure a reliable and efficient fermentation and an end product that remained stable during feedout. At that time the active ingredients available that proved most effective were blends of formic and propionic acids, which ensured a controlled fermentation and good control of aerobic losses during feedout.

While using acid-based grain treatment was a huge improvement over non-treatment, the downsides were that it was potentially hazardous to use, produced unpleasant fumes and was corrosive to the machinery used to handle it. These concerns, and the resistance from users they posed, were reduced by the development of the gaseous ammoniation process pioneered by Kemira. This reduced the corrosivity and fuming of the acids to a more acceptable level without compromising their effectiveness, and Crimpstore 2000S, introduced by Kelvin Cave Ltd to UK farmers at the start of the millennium, became the benchmark crimped grain treatment.

Crimpstore 2000S was shown to out-perform biological inoculant treatments (proposed by some as an effective alternative) in controlled independent tests, with far higher nutrient retention and better aerobic stability in the treated cereals. This resulted in better energy utilisation and significant increases in milk yield in dairy herds.

Now, however, Kelvin Cave Ltd has once again raised the bar with the introduction of CrimpSafe 300, the next generation crimped grain preservative.

The product of four years of extensive laboratory and on-farm trialling in the UK and mainland Europe, CrimpSafe 300 retains the acknowledged benefits of its forerunner but with even better aerobic stability (see graph below) and minimal fermentation loss. Based on state-of-the-art human food preservative technology, CrimpSafe 300 is virtually odourless and totally non-corrosive with a pH>8.

CrimpSafe 300 is designed for ‘traditional’ crimped, ensiled grain harvested from 45% down to 25% moisture.

When grain is harvested below 25% moisture, and ensiling in a clamp or plastic tube is the desired storage method, CrimpSafe Hi-Dry is the most effective preservative choice.

Both offer unrivalled, cost effective performance, setting a new benchmark in crimped cereal preservation – but don’t just take our word for it.

Read what independent farm contractor, Frans de Boer, has to say about the new product (below).

CrimpSafe 300 assessed on south of England farms
Everything Frans de Boer does for his contracting business is carefully calculated and based on sound science, so when he was asked by Kelvin Cave a couple of years ago to test a new crimping preservative on UK farms, he was keen to take part in the product’s assessment. As a West Sussex-based farmer himself and a contractor across the south of England, it’s important that Mr de Boer can recommend products which are tried and tested in real-life farming situations.And because his own farming business now includes anaerobic digestion, he is also keen to find the best way of retaining the maximum energy value of any home-grown feed.

So, setting about the task, he introduced the new preservative, CrimpSafe 300, on his own farm and to a selected number of his clients. “The first thing we noticed was how long CrimpSafe kept the cereals and maize fresh after the clamp was open,” he says. “It was longer than anything we had ever used before and it also kept the product very well after feedout.

“This is really important to us as we sell a lot of crimp to customers and they will tend to take delivery of a full lorry-load, which may last them a week to 10 days,” he says. “They reported that the crimp kept really well and stayed cold – right down to the dregs at the end.”

Making around 1,000 tonnes of crimped cereals every year plus 5,000 tonnes of crimped maize, it is absolutely essential on a commercial basis that Mr de Boer gets the process right.

“For our anaerobic digester it’s all about getting the highest possible gas yield from our crops and we’ve opted to use crimp as part of our feedstock as we believe it’s the most cost-effective in terms of gas yield per hectare on land that is some distance from the farm,” he says. “By leaving the straw on the field we are not bringing in the part of the crop with lower gas value but returning it as organic matter to the soil as well as benefiting from a longer retention period in the digester.”

A 1,000-tonne clamp of crimped maize destined for anaerobic digestionA 1000-tonne clamp of crimped maize for anerobic digestion

Meanwhile, since cereals for crimping are harvested at 35-40% moisture and at their optimum nutritional value before they begin to senesce, they have a higher feed and gas value than more mature grain, have less disease losses and – since they are preserved in a clamp or farm tube at the moisture content at which they are harvested – they incur no drying or dry storage costs.

“I’ve never understood why more growers don’t opt for crimp rather than dry grain,” says Mr de Boer. “Why would you want to incur the fuel cost of drying grain when you are only going to make it wet when you either feed it to your stock or put it in the anaerobic digester?

“We know for a fact that we get more energy per hectare out of crimped than dry grain and if you are feeding stock, you get rumen benefits too,” he adds.

As for CrimpSafe 300, he gives it an emphatic thumbs up and will be using it for all of his crimped cereals and maize, running it through his fleet of Korte crimping machines, whether bagging or elevating into a clamp.

“Farmers trust us to do what we do,” he says. “And I am completely confident in offering this product.”

KC’s SilaPactor Receives Award for innovation

The team at Kelvin Cave Ltd is celebrating a major industry award, having returned home from the Royal Welsh Show with the prestigious Dr Alban Davies Trophy.  The prize was awarded for the SilaPactor – the heavyweight implement which has the capacity to increase the density of silage by as much as 40% – which fought off competition from every machine exhibitor at this major farming event.

Awarded for the ‘machine, implement or device which is likely to be of most benefit to Welsh farmers’, the judges were not only fulsome in their praise for the SilaPactor itself, but commended the entire Kelvin Cave silage-making system.

John Robertson, chairman of the judges, said: “This is a company that knows its stuff and impressed the three judges. They are experts in efficient forage production and this innovation could be of great value on Welsh farms where forage is so important.”

Praising the efficacy and simplicity of the SilaPactor, he said: “In all respects it’s a great device and for the cost involved it’s good value for money – you are winning in all directions.”

Previous winners of the award – which has been an annual highlight of the Royal Welsh Show since the 1950s – include Massey Ferguson, The Ford Motor Company and Lister.

“We feel it’s a great honour that our silage-making system has been recognised in this way and always strive to find the best feed and forage preservation solution for any UK situation,” said company managing director, Kelvin Cave.

Top Gear – That Really Packs a Punch!

Henry Ford was once quoted as saying of his iconic Model T motorcar that “you can have it in any colour you like, so long as it’s black.” Yet, despite his somewhat intransigent attitude to customisation, he went on to become one of the most successful car makers of all time.

Here at Kelvin Cave Ltd we’re known for our brand leading Korte (green) and Murska (purple) grain processing machines, all of which are synonymous with quality and reliability. However, we don’t subscribe to a ‘one size fits all’ philosophy – and we’re not just talking throughput capacities of 1.5 to 50 tonnes/hour either. We understand that farmers and contractors often have very different and specific needs and expectations from their machines, which, unlike Henry Ford, we are more than happy to deliver.

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.

Korte 1400 by Kelvin Cave LtdThanks 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), which is destined 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.

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.

Turning the Corner in Clamp Protection

David Warner, our Southern Area sales manager, has come up with what we think is a very simple, but highly effective way of making an O2 Barrier 2in1 covered clamp really airtight.

This simple method of sealing a clamp with the top quality silage sheet O2 Barrier 2in1, ensures full contact between the polyamide vacuum film layer of the sheet and the silage, right to the edge of the clamp. It also stops almost all the rain water from the top of the clamp from running down between the side sheet and the clamp wall (water is channelled to the front of the clamp), providing a level of protection to your valuable feed crop that really doesn’t get any better.

We’ve christened this method of sheeting the ‘Warner Corner’.

Give it a try for yourself and let us know what you think.

The Making of a Warner Corner

  1. Use side sheets with a surplus of at least 1 to 2 metres on each side
  2. When ordering your O2 Barrier 2in1 ask for a size that will give you at least 1 to 1.5 metres surplus on each side
  3. Cover the clamp with the O2 Barrier 2in1, draping the surplus sheet over the clamp walls on top of the side sheets
  4. Place gravel bags tight to the edge of the clamp on top of the O2 Barrier 2in1
  5. Now bring the side sheet AND top sheet together and fold inwards over the gravel bags and weight down both sheets with ClampNet Gold and further gravel bags or ClampTiles
  6. This creates your Warner Corner – a complete airtight seal

Managing Forage to Cut Out Waste

David Allin runs a typical British dairy farm and has a typical British farmer’s attitude to waste. Avoiding it at all costs wherever he can, he has implemented strict procedures to ensure this applies to forage – the most important source of winter feed on the farm.

Farming with his wife, Rachael, and son, Stuart, at Brittons Farm in Goldworthy, near Bideford in Devon, he says this includes using the top-of-the-range silage preservative, Safesil; using heavy machinery to roll the clamp; taking the time to cover his silage as thoroughly as possible with the most impermeable sheeting on the market; and keeping the silage face flat and tidy during feed-out.

The results, he believes, have been more than worthwhile, as his forages – comprising up to four cuts of grass as well as wholecrop wheat and maize – have lasted well throughout even the hottest summers and cut out his earlier losses.

“Maize was the first crop we tried with Safesil, and from the first year we tried it we could see there was no waste,” he says. “The face always stayed cold – even when we used it through the hot summer weather – and there was no wastage at the shoulders.”

However, he insists that sheeting is also carried out meticulously and says that using O2 Barrier 2in1 has significantly helped with the process.

“O2 Barrier 2in1 is applied as a single sheet but separates into two when it makes contact with the silage,” explains Rachel Webber, Kelvin Cave’s area manager for West Devon and Cornwall. “The lower layer is a vacuum film which separates from the top film as it absorbs moisture from the silage, and is sucked on to the forage to form an airtight seal.”

This effect ensures anaerobic conditions are rapidly created while the extreme impermeability of the sheeting – allowing through six to ten times less oxygen than previous systems – prevents further air from entering the clamp.

“Previously we used two separate sheets but have found that by applying them together as one, it is so easy to use and has saved so much time,” says Mr Allin. “You can guarantee when you’re sheeting that the wind will always come from somewhere, and when you have two sheets to apply separately, the process is more difficult.”

Once the sheeting is covering his well-compacted silage – which has been rolled with a heavy telehandler which has smaller tyres than his tractor and so concentrates the weight – he takes great care with the sealing.

“Some of our clamps have earth banks so we have to take particular care with these,” he says. “We actually use the top sheeting from the previous year to line the sides of the earth clamp and leave these sheets hanging over the side before sheeting the top.

“Then we put sandbags on both side and top sheets and fold them both over, adding another layer of sandbags and securing the cover on top of the whole thing.”

This is said to cut out wastage on even these difficult clamps, while the silage in the concrete-sided pits is said to have the ‘textbook look’.

“The maize in last year’s maize clamp was our best ever and had no waste at all,” he says. “And I’ve noticed all of the forage has had a better analysis over the last few years.”

The 135 cows at Brittons Farm are also milking well on it, yielding 8,500 litres at 4.25% fat and 3.35% protein from the Total Mixed Ration (fed to maintenance plus 26 litres) with a top-up of concentrates for the higher yielders.

“We are certainly very happy with the forage and this year’s crop is looking good too,” says Mr Allin. “But there are many other areas of the farm which we still have to improve!”

(Top photo: Farmer David Allin with KC’s Rachel Webber)

Going Through the Mill

Mill-and-Mix Upgrade Transforms the Working Day
Finishing 800 store cattle on the farm every year and processing all of the stock’s grain through a small static mill, the Wilcock family from Gladden Hey Farm in Wigan knew the time had come to upgrade their system.

Comprising a family partnership of David and his son Martin with his two brothers and nephew, the team – which also runs a busy haulage business – was keen to streamline the farming day and cut the hours of labour spent preparing cattle feed.

“The old mill would only process around 1 tonne of grain an hour which meant we had it running for about 28 hours a week,” says Martin. “But when we started looking around for an alternative we found there was very little which offered us the flexibility, ease of operation and the time-saving we wanted.”

They were finally introduced to Michael Carpenter, Kelvin Cave’s northern area manager, who explained that the company not only offered a range of Korte and Murska mills which would meet their required throughput, but that the mills could be modified at the company’s Somerset workshop to precisely suit the family’s needs.

“They opted for the Murska 700 which offers a throughput of 10 to 12 tonnes per hour and can be adapted so that other ingredients can be added after the grain has been processed,” says Michael.

The Wilcocks chose to add a hopper which would be used for their high protein concentrate plus a smaller hopper for minerals, while the framework for an IBC allows molasses to be fed straight into the mix.

“The hoppers are very easy to calibrate via a variable speed hydraulic motor, and the final product is dust-free and palatable, which is important for driving intakes on their ad lib feeding system,” he says.

The M700 mill has now been on the Wilcocks’ farm for around three years where it is estimated to have processed around 4,000 tonnes to date and has transformed the family’s working day.

“We feed around 4 tonnes/day and prefer to mix a few small batches each week to keep the feed fresh,” says David. “It takes less than an hour to mill each batch which means a job which used to take 28 hours is now done in around three hours each week.”

With most of the grain from the farm’s 500 acres of wheat and barley going through the mill, the family says the machine has lived up to their expectations in every way.

“We’re very pleased with its performance and reliability and receive good back-up as Michael has popped in a few times to reset the rollers if the sample has not been to our liking,” says Martin.

He also believes the key to its trouble-free operation is in keeping the machine maintained so he steam-cleans the mixer every six weeks and greases it regularly.

“We also wanted a mill that travelled well on the road and did not have too large a horse power requirement as at peak times there may not be a large tractor in the yard,” adds Martin’s nephew, Thomas, who now does most of the milling. “We find it is economic to run and a 100HP tractor handles it easily and in terms of ease of use and the time it has saved it is probably one of the most useful machines on the farm.”

Martin concurs and says he would happily recommend Kelvin Cave mills and will not look elsewhere when the time comes to trade it in.

The proof of the product is seen in the finished cattle which are mostly sold through Chelford where the family has a good reputation for the quality of its stock.

Most are bought by independent butchers rather the larger processors and as David pulls out the previous week’s report it shows that six of the sale’s top seven cattle came from the Wilcock family and all were purchased by the same buyer.

Pictured above are Martin Wilcock (right) and his nephew Thomas with their Murska 700 mill-and-mix machine which processes much of their farm’s 500 acres of cereals.

(Pictured above are Martin Wilcock (right) and his nephew Thomas with their Murska 700 mill-and-mix machine which processes much of their farm’s 500 acres of cereals)

New trailed model of KC Bruiser 600 for mobile grain rolling

On-farm feed preservation and grain-processing specialist, Kelvin Cave Ltd, has launched a new trailed version of the smaller of its two British-built grain rollers. The KC Bruiser 600, which will be on display for the first time at the Yorkshire Agricultural Machinery Show (YAMS) on Wednesday 4 February, adds a new level of flexibility to this popular range.

The KC Bruiser 600 will deliver a throughput of traditional, flat-rolled grain for home-grown cereal blends and crimping, at a rate of 7-20 tonnes per hour, depending on grain type and quality. Because of its smaller size, this model is suited to processing grain in more confined situations than the larger and higher capacity model in the range – the KC Bruiser 1250. This makes the Bruiser 600 particularly suited to contractors who wish to take equipment into tight spaces on smaller farms.

Bruiser 600However, despite its size and agility, the KC Bruiser 600 features the same heavy-duty 600mm diameter flat rollers as its bigger brother; is fully adjustable to produce exactly the quality of roll required for any situation; and will process any type of grain.

Suitable for crimping grain for ensiling at 30-45% moisture as well as rolling drier grain for aerobic storage, the KC Bruiser range features magnetic protection to remove ferrous metal debris and tough marine-quality paint for long-life protection. It can also be equipped for grain preservative application.

Both models can be fitted with the unique Kelvin Cave Ltd on-board digital weighing system, making them ideal for contractors who have to deal with unknown quantities of grain at different locations. These weighing systems ensure greater application accuracy when preservatives are being added and a reliable measurement of crop yield.

Supplied mounted on a robust trailer-chassis as standard, bespoke options to suit specific requirements are available to special order.

When to harvest cereal crops for wholecrop and crimping

Andy Strzelecki our Technical Director was invited by EBLEX (link is external) to record some guidance videos demonstrating the ideal stages to harvest cereal crops for wholecrop and crimping. We hope you find them helpful:

For further useful information on profitable beef and sheep production visit www.eblex.org.uk