A healthy, well grown winter wheat crop will be ready for cutting as whole crop silage soon according to Iain Johnston and Michael Garvey CAFRE Development Advisers in Armagh.

They say that typically 30 tonnes per hectare of fresh whole crop silage at 40% dry matter could be harvested for feeding. Used as a partial replacement of grass silage it can increase overall cow dry matter intake this winter.

Both advisers say that farmers should walk your crops to assess readiness for cutting by stripping the grain from a number of ears and squeezing the grain between your fingers. When the grain texture has passed the sticky ‘brie cheese’ stage and the grain is like a drier ‘soft cheddar’ the crop is ready for cutting (approx. 40% DM). Standing crops are now at various stages of maturity:-

Crops that received a comprehensive spray programme remain green with the ears starting to turn yellow. On inspection the grain texture is not completely ‘soft cheddar’ but also produces some ‘soft brie’. The % dry matter of these crops is in the low 30’s. These crops will require further inspection but are probably not more than seven days from harvest.

Crops that showed some disease are now at the correct stage and increasing in dry matter. With potential ‘drying rates’ up to 2 ½ units of dry matter daily, there is a limited harvest window. If dry matters exceed 45%, the crop should be harvested with equipment that incorporates a mill unit.

Harvesting and silo management will have an effect on the fermented silage: –

• Direct cutting reduces grain loss.
• Long stubbles give high energy silage; short stubbles give high fibre silage.
• Make sure that your additive is applied at the correct rate for the crop dry matter and yield.
• Preferably chop to 25mm and
• Fill a narrow pit that has side sheeting on the walls.
• Roll well during filling
• Cover the crop with a good layer of grass
• Cover with heavy gauge polythene and tyres.