Tips on how to harvest grainlage

By Gary Sliworsky, Ag rep, Emo

The weather we’ve had this spring and summer certainly has provided some challenges to producers.
The grains are looking fairly good, but in some cases it may be iffy as to whether the weather co-operates enough in order to actually get grain off.
If you are considering it, here is some information on taking the crop off as green feed, or grainlage.
Small grains such as oats, barley, wheat, and rye are versatile crops that can be used either for grain or forage.
More and more, small grains are being used as a forage crop. They either are baled and wrapped or taken as chopped silage, sometimes called cereal haylage.
These crops can be used in emergency situations or as an alternative when extra forage is needed.
The key to getting the most out of small grain silage is putting it up right. Since the correct moisture content is essential, exclude as much air as possible during storage and make sure fermentable carbohydrates are available by controlling moisture and maturity.
Dry matter content of small grain forage at ensiling should be similar to that of alfalfa silage—40-60 percent, depending on type of storage. Too much moisture is likely to cause a sour, strong-smelling, unpalatable silage.
Moisture content below 40 percent, meanwhile, results in greater field and harvest losses. It can lead to incomplete fermentation, the feed may not pack tight enough, and cattle may not eat as much as they normally would.
Yield and feeding value are affected by stage of maturity. Various maturities have been recommended and used when making oat, barley, rye, and wheat silage.
Several things must be considered in choosing the proper maturity. Small grains cut for silage in the boot to milk stage have more protein and less crude fibre, but yield less than when harvested in the dough stage.
Soluble starches and sugars increase with kernel development, as does total digestible nutrient (TDN) yield per acre. However, cows generally eat less silage as maturity of the small grains moves from boot (just before the head emerges from inside the sheath or stem) to the dough stage (when contents in the kernel have a dough-like consistency).
In one study, cows fed boot stage silage ate 56 percent more than those fed dough-stage oat silage.
Timing of harvest is particularly critical with large acreages since the period for ideal harvest lasts only a few days. Cutting small grains at the boot to early milk stage results in the highest quality and most readily-eaten feed.
This short period lasts about one week, so harvesting must be managed carefully.
The ideal harvest stage for you will be determined by the type of livestock you will be feeding.
Dates to remember
•Aug. 19-21—Rainy River Valley Agricultural Society Fall Fair, Emo.

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