Options for harvest

17 Jun 2020

By Alistair Stewart, Harbro Beef and Sheep specialist

The prediction is there will be plenty of feed barley this harvest and it will be discounted. This is firstly due to the wet autumn which reduced winter wheat sowing, resulting in an increased area of spring barley being drilled. More recently, COVID-19 has forced closures of distilleries and the subsequent drop in demand for malting barley will be likely to lead to more being destined for the feed market.

The majority of spring crops were sown in great conditions and though things are dry at the moment, most winter and spring crops are looking very good and there should be a decent crop. This makes an even more compelling case for feeding home-grown cereals, down to cost, traceability and more control over rations.

Looking at how to get the most from crops, it is important to try and find the correct long term solutions for each individual business. There are plenty of options to suit each situation, livestock requirements and available storage. We’re speaking to our customers now to determine the best long term solutions to get the best value from their crops and readily available local grain.

Options available are: drying, Maxammon, and prograin treatment.

Drying grain

Drying grain makes it stable, safe and if the market changes, there is still a saleable product if the grain is not used for feed. However, drying can be costly and time-consuming at a busy time of year. Dry grain is more unpalatable for livestock, suppressing intakes and performance and if over-processed, the resulting small particle size increases the risk of acidosis.  

Grain below 20% moisture

For grain below 20% moisture, Maxammon treatment is a great option. Developed by Harbro, Maxammon is a game-changing product which increases grain pH and protein content and has now been in use for over a decade. The efficient treatment service provided by Harbro is suitable for whole or bruised grain and results in a moist, palatable feed. Grain can be treated at harvest time, or throughout the year.

Protein content is increased by 3-4% and key to improving rumen health, the pH is raised from 6 to 8.5-9.3 (based on 4,000 + samples tested to date). Treated bruised grain has a three month shelf-life, six months if whole.

One customer who has experienced the benefits of Maxammon first hand is John Thomson from Fife who uses the Harbro Superbruiser to Maxammon treat his home grown barley. Previously John had bruised his own barley but quickly found that bought in protein costs were escalating and of equal concern was the health of the bulls when they were nearly fat with some of them struggling to stay on their feet.

John commented: “After starting Maxammon in 2016, the first batch of bullocks we sold that winter were sold three weeks earlier than previous years and were 50kgs heavier; I was delighted with the results. I can push cattle as hard as I like using Maxammon and have had no issues with feet or acidosis. All our cattle are tagged using EID and are weighed every time they go through the crush; I'm finding DLWG up by around 0.20kg head/day using Maxammon.”


John Thomson with David Allan, Harbro Beef and Sheep specialist

Grain over 20% moisture

Grain over 20% moisture needs to be preserved to prevent spoilage. Treatment with Prograin results in moist grain which is safe, stable, palatable and easy to store. Grain can be treated whole or bruised and at moisture up to 25% which can be a real advantage if weather is poor. Roll and Treat – which can be provided by Harbro is a quick, efficient and hassle-free service.



In addition to grain treatment options, straw should also be considered as a commodity which has a greater value than just being used for bedding. Straw itself is difficult to break down in the rumen and a huge proportion passes through without being utilised. Treating with ammonia is a very efficient way of enhancing the feed value, which works to break down the lignin in the straw thus releasing the available energy and the nitrogen gives additional protein.

Cost is a considerable benefit. Based on straw being worth £30/tonne on farm, you can maintain a spring calving cow for around £1/head/day. You can bale behind the combine, the ideal moisture being 18-20% and straw can be fed three weeks after treatment. Treated straw can be stored in a tubeline or individual bales, thus freeing up buildings. Using treated straw can also free up grass acres so more stock can be kept or other additional land use can be considered.

Treated straw has a higher pH to help maintain a healthy rumen and with less variation in dry matter, it is a more consistent product compared to silage. Cows are firmer in the dung, lessening the usage of bedding.

A devotee of ammonia treatment, Alex Sanger of Rosemount Farms, Montrose who runs a herd of pedigree Aberdeen Angus has used this feeding system for well over 25 years.

Barley and predominantly wheat straw are treated and dependent on the season and contractor availability, there could be round or Hesston bales, but he does like to try and get some straw chopped and wrapped. “The fine chop is ideal for the TMR.”

Alex told us, “We don’t grow enough of our own straw and buy from farms locally. There is always a bit of pressure to get straw off fields and we have the confidence that we can go straight in after the combine, bale up and treat, finding the ammonia works better if there is some dampness in the straw. We wouldn’t have storage for all the straw we require but it isn’t an issue with this system.”

“I think the treated straw is excellent. We out-winter our spring calving cows on it along with kale or stubble turnips and a little bit of silage. The straw fills them up, they are very content and they don’t go fat.”

“If the cows make fat off the summer grass, you want to utilise that as feed over the winter. The cows are in great condition on it and we have very little intervention at calving. They are very happy eating treated straw, they just dive into it.” says Mr Sanger.

“It is very easy to manage cow condition on this system” concluded Alistair Stewart. “So, food for thought. Now is the time to start thinking about what you want from your harvest and as always, there is nutritional support available from Harbro to ensure that your livestock are being fed a balanced ration for optimum nutrition and maximised performance.”






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