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Planning wholecrop harvest

Seasonal challenge Seasonal challenge30-6-2020

Wholecrop is a flexible crop and can provide a versatile alternative source of home-grown forage, with the associated benefits as part of a rotation or break crop. 

Wholecrop can be harvested at a variety of dry matters. As the crop ripens the sugars in the plant are converted to starch, and are typically fermented at one of three stages.

Using an inoculant is important to avoid problems associated with secondary fermentation and loss of valuable nutrients at the clamp face. 

Wholecrop harvest

Dry matter levels

A dry matter of between 30% and 40% will give the maximum amount of fresh weight tonnage and is typically fed to dry and young stock. This crop ferments well and can be more aerobically unstable, so a suitable additive must be considered. 

Crops cut at between 40% and 50% dry matter crops are more typical, with a better starch level for improved animal production. The crop will be drier so will be more difficult to keep aerobically stable (it’s more prone to heating up in winter) so it is more important to use a good additive.

At a dry matter of between 50% and 60%, producers looking for more starch and ‘scratch factor’ in the diet for higher production animals, particularly when other forages are low in fibre. The crop will be fairly difficult to compact. All silages should be added to the clamp in thin layers filled (between 10am and 15cm), but it is vital at this dry matter level to adhere to this practice to avoid pockets of heating and mould. 

Bi-crops

Other crops to consider include bi-crops. Peas and barley are often grown for wholecrop, Lupins can also be used instead of peas. These crops tend to be fairly moist and ideally mown (without a conditioner) and wilted.

This crop can be aerobically unstable so would benefit from an additive. And, because it is high in protein, it is more difficult to ferment, so an additive to help the fermentation should be used. 

For more information

For more details about maximising your homegrown forage, wholecrop or additives please contact your local Account Manager or contact our specialist forage team here.