Making The Most Of Home-Grown Cereals

UK - Beef producers should explore their many and varied options for making the most of home-grown cereals this season to offset escalating purchased feed costs and limited supplies of both grass silage and straw across much of the country.
calendar icon 6 June 2011
clock icon 2 minute read

This is the firm advice from EBLEX which stresses that the earlier producers assess the options the more flexibility they have to match home-produced cereal feeds to their particular farm situation and system requirements.

Wholecrop cereals can be harvested and ensiled in a number of ways – at 30-45 per cent dry matter with traditional wet fermentation, 45-75 per cent with a drier milled process and 50-80% with a urea-based alkaline treatment.

All wholecrops are relatively high energy forages, typically delivering Metabolisable Energy contents of 10-11.3 MJ/kg DM. However, their balance of starch and fibre depends on the stage at which they are harvested as well as their cutting height. In general, foraging earlier at a lower dry matter content or with a lower cutting height increase the fibrous energy component, while later harvesting or higher cutting heights produce more starchy forage.

Attention to detail in crop consolidation and sealing is essential to minimise clamp losses, in all cases. Drier wholecrop cereals (over 50-55 per cent DM) are particularly susceptible to aerobic spoilage in the clamp and during feed out and should generally be made with a preservative. Using urea in this role can typically improve crude protein contents from a normal nine per cent to around 17 per cent.

Harvesting cereal grain separately from straw through a combine is better suited where high energy feeds – typically higher than 12.0 MJ ME/kg/DM, depending on the crop – are required for inclusion in growing and finishing rations. In this case some form of processing will be essential to ensure sufficient digestibility.

Again harvesting can take place at a variety of different stages with different processing options. Moist grain between 30-45 per cent moisture is suitable for crimping while at lower moisture contents processing is best achieved with treatments such as urea, caustic soda or propionic acid. Dry grain, of course, requires traditional milling or rolling.

Earlier combining at higher moisture contents when the seed coat is less lignified increases digestibility and overall utilisation. Slower rates of starch fermentation, beneficial in lowering the risk of acidosis, can be achieved by more gentle processing, with crimping being especially valuable in producing more slowly fermented starchy feeds.

To help producers assess which home-grown cereal options will suit which classes of stock and farm facilities best and include them in diets as effectively as possible, EBLEX has produced a Better returns from cereal preservation and processing leaflet. It is available free of charge to levy payers from the BRP beef literature section of or by calling 0870 241 8829.

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