Selecting and using a wholecrop inoculant

Why Grow Wholecrop?

Wholecrop can provide a versatile alternative or additional source of home grown forage for all types of livestock. It can also be part of a rotation or a break crop whilst yielding good volumes, especially when under sown with a suitable grass mixture. Wholecrop is a very flexible cost effective crop, of consistent quality and palatability being able to be harvested at a variety of dry matters.


Fermented Wholecrop?

Wholecrop silage is made by cutting and ensiling an immature cereal crop. A winter or spring sown crop can be utilised. Fermented wholecrop which is the most popular is harvested when the grain is at around the soft to crumbly cheese stage. It is harvested early July with winter barley being the first followed by winter wheat approx. 10 days later. Once ensiled the harvested crop undergoes a fermentation process producing a high energy, high fibre, low protein forage. It can be fed to dairy, beef or sheep.

Using an Inoculant

When ensiling wholecrop, using an inoculant is important to avoid any problems associated with secondary fermentation and loss of valuable nutrients at the clamp face. When the clamp is opened, heating at the face is very common, particularly in the top half of the clamp and especially during warmer weather.

Any warming of the clamp will reduce the energy content so treatment of wholecrop has been proven to significantly increase milk yield or live weight gain. As these crops tend to be low in readily available sugars using an additive will effectively convert the sugar to lactic acid to reduce the pH.

Tabel cereal growth

When selecting an inoculant for wholecrop the below needs to be considered:-

  • Reduce dry matter losses, minimising nutrient loss.
  • Provide more digestible NDF and crude protein
  • Generate more lactic acid
  • Reduce ammonia production
  • Inhibit mould formation, therefore reducing mycotoxin risk

As the crop ripens the sugars in the plant are converted to starch, and are typically fermented at different dry matters:

30 – 40% DM – This will give the maximum amount of fresh weight tonnage and is typically fed to dry cows and young stock. It can be harvested without the need for any specialist equipment such as grain processor. It can be mown prior to harvest without the conditioner turned on or directly cut with a Wholecrop Header. Spring sown crops will be around 9-10t fresh weight and winter crops 10 – 12t/ac fresh weight.

40 – 50% DM – This is a more typical range, with a better starch level for improved animal production. The crop will be drier so more difficult to keep aerobically stable (heating up in winter) It is therefore more critical to use a good additive to keep it cool. Ideally 2-3ft (60 – 90cm) of fresh grass on top will help aerobic stability and prevent vermin and birds attacking the cover sheet. Mowing the crop is not an option due to loss of grains, so should be harvested with a wholecrop header, and ideally above about 45%DM a processor may be used, unless the crop has been undersown. Spring crops will be around 10t/ac Fresh weight and winter crops possibly up to 12t/ac.

What product to use:-

Ecocool - Provides aerobic stability and fermentation. Supplies Lactobacillus plantarum for a fast efficient fermentation and Lactobacillus buchneri for reduced heating and spoilage at feedout. One bottle treats 100t. Application variable from 20 ml to 2 l/t.

DA Ecocorn - Provides aerobic stability and fermentation. Supplies lactobacillus plantarum for a fast efficient fermentation plus potassium sorbate as it is a very effective inhibitor of the yeasts and moulds that cause aerobic spoilage. One bottle treats 50t. Application rate 2 l/t

Advance Wholecrop – Improves aerobic stability, reduces heating and mould growth. Contains Pediococcus pentosaceus, Lactobacillus plantarum and Lactobacillus brevis. One bottle treats 50t. Application 1 l/t

Pioneer 11A44 – Reduces aerobic heating. Suitable for higher dry matter crops up to 45%. Provides very good improvement on aerobic stability. Recommended usage six weeks after ensiling to prevent heating. One bottle of 500ml treats 50t or 2500ml treats 250t. Application rate 10 mls – 2l / t. Also available as Rapid React.

Pioneer 11G22 Rapid React – Reduces fermentation losses and aerobic heating. Suitable for dry matter crops of 25-35%. Can be fed 1 week after ensiling. One bottle of 500ml treats 50t or 2500ml treats 250t. Application rate 10 mls – 2l / t.

Pioneer 11GFT – Reduces fermentation losses, aerobic heating and increases fibre digestibility. Recommended usage six weeks after ensiling to prevent heating. Includes enzyme to improve digestibility especially on fibrous crops. One bottle of 500ml treats 50t or 2500ml treats 250t. Application rate 10 mls – 2l / t

Sil – All 4x4 – Provides faster fermentation with aerobic stability. Contains Propionibacterium acidipropionic bacteria to keep the silage stable at feed out when the silage comes into contact with oxygen. One sachet treats 50t. Application rate 50ml to 2l/t

Using an Acid

50 – 60% DM – At this dry matter farmers are generally looking for more starch and “Scratch Factor” in the diet for higher production animals, especially when other forages are low in fibre. The crop will be fairly difficult to compact, as it is always important for any silages to be filled in thin layers (10 – 15cm) it is vital at this DM to adhere to this avoid “Pockets” of heating and mould. Again a layer of grass over the top is very good practice and additive to reduce aerobic loss is very important. A processor on the harvester is also needed to crack the grains to prevent them passing straight through the cow. Fresh weight will be around 10 -12t/ac.

For very high dry matter crops (50 -60%) then an acid treatment needs to be considered.

Wholecrop pea en barley portrait