When to cut wholecrop silage?

Anyone planning on saving a cereal crop for wholecrop silage should keep an eye on crop growth stages and dry matter (DM) percentages.

Farmers may be planning to put winter wheat, triticale, rye or spring barley under the knife in the coming weeks and should be keeping an eye on progress. Some crops may already have been made.

Crops should ideally be harvested at a DM content of 45%.

If the crop reaches a DM content of 50% the grain will need to be cracked going through the harvester, so make sure that the contractor has fitted the cracker before they get to your crop.

How to identify when the crop is ready?

Identifying the DM content is the hard part. Teagasc has a guide to identifying the DM content of cereal crops which is outlined below.

The guide outlines what action needs to be taken at different stages.

If you simply want to harvest the crop and produce fermented wholecrop then the crop should ideally be harvested at a DM content of 45%. The grain will be at the soft cheddar stage. The ear will be yellow and the stem will be starting to turn.

After this stage, the crop will need to be treated and, as mentioned above, the grain should be cracked if it goes past a DM content of 50%. This is when it is at the hard cheddar stage.

The hard cheddar stage is when the grain can still be split with a thumbnail, but is not soft and still holds its shape.

Image source: Teagasc