Act fast to preserve wholecrop silage

Wholecrop silage is a very popular option for farmers this season, as fodder stocks remain low. Farmers have been busy saving winter barley, winter wheat and triticale in recent weeks and the focus is now moving to spring barley.

As the cost of wholecrop is high this year, farmers should be ensuring that they harvest a good-quality crop and preserve it at the right stage – 45% dry matter.

Quigley Agri Contracting harvesting triticale for wholecrop silage on Gowing’s farm outside Portlaoise. Image source: Carl Newell

Teagasc’s tillage specialist Ciarán Collins gives two top tips when buying or selling wholecrop silage.

1. The correct stage to harvest

It is important to harvest the crop at the right growth stage. Farmers should be aiming for a dry matter content of 45%.

Visual assessment of the crop:
  • Grain should be at the soft cheddar stage (just passed milky ripe);
  • There should be some green in the canopy;
  • Stems should be mostly green.
Quigley Agri Contracting harvesting triticale for wholecrop silage on Gowing’s farm outside Portlaoise. Image source: Carl Newell

2. Calculating yield

Yield can be estimated in two ways according to Ciarán. Where no weighbridge is available, farmers should count the number of ears/m² and the number of grains/ear. They should also calculate the thousand grain weight.

Using these figures, a harvest index or a yield estimate can be calculated. The straw yield estimate should then be added to the grain yield.

Where farmers have access to a weighbridge, all loads should be weighed or at least a certain proportion of the loads. If all loads are not weighed, farmers should calculate an average yield.

Four-to-five weeks after harvest, Ciarán advises that dry matter be measured to estimate a value for the crop and to allow a comparison between other feeds on the market.

Crops passed the ‘cheesy’ stage

Where crops have passed the cheesy stage and grain is beginning to harden, farmers should be using a harvester equipped with a grain cracker.

The crop can also be treated with propionic acid to aid preservation. A 150-tooth, multi-crop cracker belonging to Quigley Agri Contracting’s Claas Jaguar 970 is pictured below.

Here’s the video from Teagasc’s Ciarán Collins.