WITH a shift in weather patterns leading to unpredictability when growing maize in the North of the England, wholecrop silage is an option well worth considering for dairy, beef and young stock diets.

Mike Burns, regional business manager at Lallemand Animal Nutrition, explains that wholecrop cereals offer a flexible alternative which can be harvested when the weather’s generally good.

“Wholecrop silage provides a highly digestible, fermentable starch energy source, reducing the need for energy in purchased feeds. Its high straw content can also help balance out a highly digestible silage based diet,” he says.

“This is particularly useful in the North where grass silage is often wetter and more acidic, or where farms are short of grass silage.

Making wholecrop silage

There is a good window of time for making a wholecrop cutting decision, and Mike explains farmers can often wait until first and second cut grass silage has been analysed before deciding.

“Dry matter content in wholecrop silage varies between 30 and 45 per cent but the target range, in the northern region, is 36 to 40 per cent. This is too immature for combining but taking it at this stage for silage ensures it does not contain too much lignin.

“As a guide, the crop should look green in the field and, when you press the grain, it should feel like soft cheddar cheese, with no liquid,” he says.

Mike adds that because of the higher dry matter and straw in wholecrop, it can be much harder to compact and ensile than grass silage, meaning there is a higher risk of fermentation problems.

Why use a crop-specific inoculant

“Ultimately, if there’s pockets of oxygen in the clamp, yeast and mould can survive and become active, causing spoilage. So, it’s crucial to use an inoculant that’s specifically designed to inhibit yeast and mould,” says Mike.

“Traditional silage inoculants only provide acidifying bacteria that produce lactic acid, but this is not enough for wholecrop silage. It can also have an effect when the clamp is opened up.

“Without the anti-fungal bacteria there to inhibit yeast and mould during the fermentation, they will become active once the clamp is opened and will use the lactic acid produced by the bacteria in the homofermentative bacteria as a feed source.”

“Magniva Platinum Wholecrop contains multiple bacteria, providing a combination of antifungal bacteria L hilgardii CNCM I-4785, L buchneri NCIMB 40788, and the homolactic bacteria, P Pentosaceus. These bacteria ferment the crop effectively and protect it from aerobic spoilage by producing lactic, acetic and propionic acid.”