Advice for beef farmers: Why don’t more buy grain off the combine?

Spring crops are still four or five weeks from cutting, but in general have improved significantly since the rain came after the mini drought.
Advice for beef farmers: Why don’t more buy grain off the combine?
Agricultural contractor Tommy Prendergast, Cashel, Co  Tipperary, started harvesting Belfry six row winter barley this week. The crop yielded 3.9 tons per acre at 18% moisture and  bushelled at 66. It was purchased by Dairygold Co-op, Outrath. Tommy is pictured with his son Gary and  grandson Sean Hayes. Picture: Tony O'Gorman

Combines started rolling last weekend in some parts of the country. Winter barley is obviously the first crop to be cutb and most of it will be fit to cut by the weekend.

Spring crops are still four or five weeks from cutting, but in general have improved significantly since the rain came after the mini drought.

Forage and concentrate planning

Every year I do feed budgets for customers and I always try to encourage them to consider locally grown cereals as a means of reducing production costs while also helping to boost animal performance.

This model must be encouraged and can mean a better margin for those growing the grain, while also reducing costs for end users feeding the grain.

Irish feed for Irish cattle

Native Irish cereals are the most versatile high energy feeds that farmers can grow or buy.

Margins are tight in beef, so what can you do to make savings and enhance animal performance?

Traditionally, grain was dried or stored on air at moistures of 18% or lower. New technologies developed over the last number of years regarding additive type, processing methods, and storage options have left native grain as the most cost-competitive concentrate feed source available for all classes of livestock.

This is as relevant in 2020 as any other year. No matter what the price is off the combine, the same mark-up per tonne is added to it by the time it is dried, stored, processed and delivered back out to you.

That results in you making the same saving per tonne, regardless of whether the price of green grain is high or low off the combine.

Dairy and beef farmers that store their own grain or purchase grain in whatever form from neighbouring cereal farmers can make significant savings (€60/€70/t) in their winter concentrate costs. Irish barley, wheat, oats and triticale offer outstanding quality and value and provide top class energy for stock in a correctly balanced diet.

Storage options

Various treatment and storage options are available to both the producer and end user this harvest. Every process has its merits. The process you choose should be based on your animal’s requirements in relation to grain being used, the volume to be fed, the protein requirement, other available feeds and required animal performance.

With all grain processing options, seek expert advice when considering which one is best for you and your livestock this winter.

This applies to feed value, ease of storage, operator safety, and reliability of the process. Most over-think storing of grain, and can often be talked out of doing it, for the most petty of reasons.

But the expertise is out there to guide you through each process. Do the sums and see how much your farm could potentially save.

All treatments are appropriate for barley, wheat, triticale, and oats.

Here are the options for moist grain (28%-35% moisture). Next week, options for mature grain (zero green material).

Crimped grain

Not as common as in the past, because it can be a little more difficult to keep stable in clamps, and is quite acidic, which can lead to digestive upsets. The harvest window is narrow if crops ripen quickly. Grain moisture should be 25%-35%, extra careis needed under 30%.

The grain is crimped and additive applied; use a proven additive to suit the particular moisture content, which aids fermentation and reduces heating at feed-out.

Prompt ensiling within 24 hours of harvesting, proper rolling, compacting and covering/sealing are essential. Create a narrow pit face where possible, proper pit face management is critical.

When fermented, the grain stabilises at pH 4-4.5 and is ready for feeding.

It can’t be included in meal premixes due to its high moisture content, which can be an inconvenience when space is limited.

It is highly susceptible to attack from birds and vermin. Storage losses can be 2%-3%. The storage period is four to six months.

Feed rates: dairy up to 4kg, beef up to 8kg.

- Next week, options for storing mature grain

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