With July upon us, and having ensiled less than the usual quantities of first-cut silage, the focus on some minds is to ensure we have adequate quantities of forage in stock for a long winter ahead.

Now is a good time to look at Agri-King’s options, and one that often comes to mind are alternative energy forages. A popular choice for many is fermented wholecrop.

With a variety of cereals on offer from both winter and spring plantings, we have time to consider our choices, with harvesting commencing now until the end of August.

The advantages of wholecrop cereals are well documented:

  • They offer a high-energy forage, due to their high starch content;
  • Wholecrop forage brings some additional fibre into the diet, often needed when cows go to pasture in early spring, or even on housed systems fed high digestible grass silage;
  • Wholecrop fulfils this need perfectly;
  • It offers additional energy into the diet through the available starch.

Investment pays

Spring-calving cows on early grass often lack energy as they approach peak milk and the breeding season commences. This is where body condition score (BCS) becomes crucial and including wholecrop achieves success here.

In addition to this, the structural fibre in wholecrop increases the “rumen mat”, which slows down the fast rate of passage on grazed grass; therefore, allowing microbes to extract more from the diet.

Simply offering 4-6kg of wholecrop as a buffer feed will increase dry matter intake (DMI), increase the energy content of the cows’ diet and can act as a natural buffer against sub-acute rumen acidosis (SARA) through increased cudding.

The result is that we increase/hold BCS and increase milk components through more energy and fibre digestion, as we utilise the grazed grass in the rumen better. Managed well, in a wet spring / early summer, it fills that DMI gap perfectly without replacing any grazed grass in the diet.

It’s worth considering having 1t/cow of either wholecrop or maize silage available for buffer feeding fresh cows in early spring. For example, 6kg for 100-120 days, with the rest being allocated in the autumn when grass dry matter (DM) declines.

This investment pays with increased components through better rumen function, more milk from higher DMI and better BCS leading to improved fertility.

It is encouraged that dairy farmers talk to cereal and maize growers, with the intention of doing a deal for whatever tonnes of wholecrop or maize that’s required.

The challenge with wholecrop is to ensure that it gets harvested at the correct stage – 30-40% DM.

Cereal crops harvested as wholecrop can often carry high levels of yeasts and moulds and other undesirable bacteria, which have the potential to grow in the sealed clamp and at pit face after opening.

It’s in the clamp during ensiling that we have to ensure the correct environment is provided (i.e. anaerobic; low pH; cool; clean) to prevent growth of these toxins.

Stable forage

Silo-King is Agri-King’s forage treatment product, unrivalled within the industry.

When Silo-King is applied at harvest it ensures:

  1. The right environment is provided. Agri-King’s unique lactic acid bacteria work fast to ensure a completed fermentation in five to 10 days after ensiling, and this is achieved at much lower temperatures;
  2. The unique enzyme combination ensures that we get cellulose and hemicellulose breakdown. These are structural carbohydrates that contain trapped energy, which get released after breakdown. The amylase enzymes breakdown the starch granules, increasing starch digestibility;
  3. Silo-King contains anti-oxidants that scavenge up excess oxygen after ensiling. Wholecrop harvested at high DM will have oxygen (tiny air pockets) and this makes it prone to spoilage after opening. It takes oxygen to get respiration, which gives off heat and secondary fermentation;
  4. Silo-King also contains potassium sorbate, a food-grade mould inhibitor. The role here is to fight off fungus, yeast and moulds from growing, ensuring a clean, safe forage fed to the rumen.

Be aware of nitrates

In recent days high nitrates have been reported extensively in grass ready for second cutting, largely due to ideal growing conditions, and the fast uptake of available N.

Nitrates found in forages can reduce animal productivity. The oxygen carrying capacity of the blood is decreased, when nitrates bind to the hemoglobin, forming methemoglobin.

Low blood oxygen inhibits cellular and energy metabolism by the cells and the cows will appear “sluggish”. More importantly, low blood oxygen starves the embryo of oxygen, it suffocates, and gets reabsorbed, affecting the herds fertility.

Agri-King’s product Silo-King provides some of the solutions, by incorporating a plant extract into the product. This basically quickly converts the excess nitrates to ammonia, a form of N that the rumen microbes can deal with. The overall affect is like reducing the nitrates in the forage by approx 50%.

Agri-King area managers can test for nitrates and sugars on your farm with on-the-spot results.

Agri-King’s clients always remark that with Silo-King applied at harvest, they get a very stable forage that fermented fast and is much cooler in the pit and after feed out.

They simply won’t risk ensiling wholecrop without treating with Silo-King, as the economic losses are too high. With increasing forage costs, now is the time to protect that forage from spoilage and waste, and capture all the nutritional value within the forage.

One of the services offered by Agri-King is analysing the forages ensiled. The analysis is carried out in the company’s state-of-the art lab in the US. It carries out over 40 tests, to include all minerals, fermentation profiles, etc.

Agri-King’s unique energy test involves a calorific value, which takes account of all parameters that predict milk output. Results are available after five days from leaving the farm.

This analysis sheet is unrivalled in the feed industry, unique to Agri-King because of its calorie value and pre-calving index values that assist in attaining the highest standards in dry cow and milking cow rations. Agri-King’s forage analysis is included in its forage programme.

Free consultation

Agri-King area managers are always available throughout the country for a free consultation regarding your options on alternative forages this summer, and can visit the field for crop assessments and suitability for harvest.

Find your local Agri-King area manager in the list below:

  • Matt Tungate: 07554-401457 – Donegal and Derry;
  • Stephen Watterson: 07795-673003 – Antrim;
  • Robert Kinnear: 07881-315059 – Fermanagh and Tyrone;
  • Alan Lockhart: 07813-857618 – Armagh and Down;
  • Séamus Brady: 086-0432700 – Cavan and Monaghan;
  • Domhnall Waldron: 087-2545035 – Mayo and Galway;
  • Nicholas Leen: 087-9228000 – Kerry and Clare;
  • Michael O’Neill: 087-2436612 – Limerick, South Tipperary and West Cork;
  • Amy Lynott: 087-4174287 – East Cork and Waterford;
  • Stephen Hughes: 086-7013463 – Wexford and Wicklow;
  • Gerard Dunne: 086-8529955 – Kilkenny, Carlow and North Tipperary;
  • Kevin McWey: 086-7916250 – Laois, Offaly and Kildare;
  • Alan Walker: 087-9877742 – Roscommon, Westmeath, Meath, and Louth;
  • Terry Sloane: 087-8106184 – all other areas.

Additional information is available on the Agri-King website, or by contacting the office in the Republic of Ireland on: 01-6575628; or the UK on: 01243-558884.

You can also e-mail: [email protected]; or, alternatively: [email protected].

In addition, you can also visit the Agri-King website at: www.agriking.com.