Advice for beef farmers: Your 2016 cereal harvest options

With high prices still being paid by farmers for weanlings and store cattle, even with Brexit market uncertainties, costs will need to be closely monitored this winter if profits are to be realised.

Silage quality is going to be good on most farms this year, so hopefully, lower levels of concentrates will be required on most farms to achieve performance targets.

As is always the case, native Irish grain is the most versatile high-energy feed that farmers can grow or buy.

Traditionally, grain was dried, or stored at moistures of 18% or lower, with aeration.

New technologies 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.

Dairy and beef farmers that store their own grain, or purchase grain in whatever form from neighbouring cereal farmers, can make significant savings (€60 plus per tonne) in their winter concentrate purchases.

Farm-to-farm trading has seen significantly higher amounts of grain traded over the last few years, particularly at harvest time.

The opportunity for the livestock farmer to secure their winter energy supply at a lower cost from the cereal farmer has great merit.

The harvest of winter crops will begin within the next four weeks.

Now is the time to begin constructing feed budgets and deciding how much concentrates you will feed next winter, and establishing how much of this can be made up of locally produced cereals.

Grain price projections for this harvest are similar to 2015, with green barley expected to be at around €130 off the combine.

When you add to this the rising cost of fuel for the traditional method of drying, storage and rolling will encourage livestock producers to look at the more cost-effective options.

All imported alternative protein feed sources are after taking a hike in price over the last few weeks, which will result in higher concentrate costs this coming feeding season — all the more reason to ensure that the energy proportion of your concentrate feed is sourced as cost effectively as possible.

Various treatment and storage options are available to the producer and end user this harvest.

Every process has its merits.

The process you choose should be based on your animals’ requirements in relation to grain volume to be fed, protein requirement, other available feeds, required performance and storage facilities.

Ammonia-based preservatives have been gaining in popularity over the last few years, because they increase the final protein content of the grain by 4%-5%.

They also increase the pH of the grain, which significantly enhances the finished diet of the animal.

This method also allows you to feed high levels of cereals to all types of stock.

This method can be used for grain harvested at 20% moisture or less.

When buying traditional moist crimped grain, make sure that it is not too wet.

Moisture contents can easily exceed the recommended 30%, and this should be discounted for the extra moisture, when agreeing a purchase price. There is no point in buying water.

Using an appropriate additive to suit the particular moisture content of the grain is advised.

Acid treatment, while quite popular as a storage and preservation method, will not enhance the feed value of the grain, and in some situations where the main forage is a wet, low pH silage, digestive upsets may occur, when using high levels of acidic grain.

It is important that you understand the preservation/storage method that you choose, and that you have established the ideal moisture content for this method to be successful.

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

Consider the feed value, ease of storage, operator safety and reliability of the process.

Storage of cereals off the combine

When storing cereals off the combine, it is very important that your storage facility is fit for purpose.

The first thing in ensuring this is to clean and thoroughly powerwash your storage facility.

The store should also be treated with an insecticide, at least three or four weeks before the cereal arrives on your farm. Any storage facility must also be waterproof, regardless of what type of treatment you use.

Most will store grain indoors but it is also possible to store it outdoors, if you can prevent moisture from entering the clamp.

A relatively new storage method is the Agbag or sausage bag, which is now being used to store a variety of materials, including a significant amount of cereals.

This is an excellent method of outdoor storage, as it uses very strong plastic, and is both air tight and waterproof.

As a rough rule of thumb you will need one cubic metre of storage for each tonne of grain that you wish to store.


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