Urea for Wholecrop Cereal Silage
The Urea treatment of Wholecrop Cereal Silage will:
* Aid preservation,
* Increase digestibility and
* Increase Crude Protein levels.
Urea reacts with the naturally occouring enzymes in the Wholecrop to produce ammonia gas, which permeates the clamp. The ammonia breaks down the seed coat to make the grains more digestible.
Urea treated Wholecrop will provide the following benefits:
- Higher forage intakes
- Increased protein & fat yields
- Greater farm flexibility
The Step-by-Step Guide to Alkaline Wholecrop Cereals
This guide sets out to cover the fundamentals of preserving Wholecrop cereals using Feed Grade Urea. The method of harvesting cereal crops at relatively high dry matter has been shown to produce high quality forage, which is an excellent complement to grass silage. Both controlled feeding trials and on-farm experience have shown the benefits of alkaline Wholecrop cereals – improved forage intakes, increased protein and fat yields, and greater farm and feed flexibility.
STEP 1 – Growing the crop
Winter or Spring sown cereals can be used with wheat, oats, rye or triticle, being more suitable than barley. The crop should be grown using standard crop husbandry.
The benefit of high total DM yields favours the use of Winter wheat. Barley is less suitable as it tends to shed grains at harvesting and the grain may be poorly digested when fed to livestock. The crop husbandry objectives are identical, with the main priorities being good establishment and minimal disease to maximise yields.
STEP 2 – Timing of harvesting
Wholecrop cereals should ideally be cut at 60-80% dry matter to optimise DM yield. At this stage the crop is yellow with a hint of green on the stem ranging to yellow brown in colour. The grain will be hard and difficult to penetrate with a thumbnail. Remember that during the ripening period the DM can increase at a rate of 1% per day.
Crops cut at a lower DM will have lower yields and will not readily produce an alkaline forage, but will be susceptible to nutrient loss through fermentation in the clamp and at feed out. Higher DM crops have a risk of grain shedding and it may take longer to achieve preservation.
STEP 3 – Harvesting Equipment
Harvesting can be by direct-cutting with some contractors adapting foragers for use with Urea treated cereals by adding an old combine header. Alternatively, the crop can be mown, preferably with a rape swather, before moving in with a precision or double chop forager.
Direct-cutting has the advantage of being a single operation. It is most important not to use a conditioner or drum mower, as the likelihood of grain shedding is increased, especially with drier crops.
|STEP 4 – Choice of additive
Feed Grade Urea is of high chemical purity, with small prills to aid distribution. It is recommended for the successful preservation of Wholecrop cereals.
Feed Grade Urea acts rapidly within cut forage, preserving it with minimal nutrient loss, through the release of ammonia. It is this ammonia which confers upon Urea treated cereals due to its alkaline nature.
|STEP 5 – Application rate
Feed Grade Urea should be applied at a rate of 40-50kg per tonne of harvested crop DM (approx 25kg per tonne fresh weight) and must be evenly distributed. The Urea can either be added at the forager from a bulk supply, or at the clamp by using a disc or oscillating spout distributor onto the clamp or onto tipped loads before clamping.
Where even application can be guaranteed for instance, if applied at the forager, the rate may be reduced to 30kg per tonne of dry matter (approx 15kg/tonne fresh weight).
|STEP 6 – Consolidation
Feed Grade Urea treated cereals should be well consolidated.
Successful preservation of cereals relies upon good distribution of Feed Grade Urea prills and effective exclusion of air from the clamp. It should therefore be well consolidated before sheeting.
|STEP 7 – Storage
Clamps or simple outdoor silos are equally suitable. It is however, most important that the ensiled crop is effectively sheeted as soon as possible. At least one metre of underlap should be put down before filling commences.
Alkaline Feed Grade Urea treated cereals produce no effluent and old clamps that are unsuitable for grass silage, can be used quite satisfactorily. It is necessary to sheet the forage tightly to exclude air and to prevent the escape of ammonia gas.
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