A frustrating harvest season this fall means many acres of crops in the province still need to be combined. Barry Yaremcio, beef and forage specialist at the Alberta Ag-Info Centre, looks at using high moisture barley if cattle are in need of grain supplementation this winter. Photo by Stu Salkeld

Harvesting and using high moisture grain in cattle rations

Calcium and magnesium are typically deficient and phosphorus is adequate

A frustrating harvest season this fall means many acres of crops in the province still need to be combined. Barry Yaremcio, beef and forage specialist at the Alberta Ag-Info Centre, looks at using high moisture barley if cattle are in need of grain supplementation this winter.

Yaremcio says that harvesting the barley crop at 25 per cent moisture or higher and storing it in a grain bag or silage pit will result in the barley fermenting no differently than a whole plant cereal silage. “To have a high quality, palatable finished product, packing the grain to exclude air, or oxygen, is key.”

“If using a bag,” says Yaremcio, “The brake on the bagging unit needs to be engaged sufficiently to really pack the grain well. When the bag is being filled, the height of the bag should be constant without ‘hills and valleys’ which is caused by the machine rolling too far at one time. There is more air in the bag when the height is uneven, and that can cause problems during fermentation. If filling a silage pit, pack the grain with a tractor no differently than a crop of cereal silage. Cover with plastic and seal the pit as within three to four hours, if possible.”

Yaremcio explains why high moisture barley can help to improve animal performance. “Higher moisture barley kernels are swollen due to the moisture, so the pericarp – or hull on the outside of the kernel – is not held as tightly to the seed as when the grain is dry. Rumen microbes and bacteria have an easier time breaking down the kernel, and digestive efficiency is increased, by eight to 10 per cent. Some research states that the higher digestive efficiency eliminates the need to roll or process the grain before feeding. Average daily gains for growing or finishing animals is also improved by approximately eight per cent. If the barley is to be rolled, it should be done before the grain goes into the bag or pit. Rolling frozen high moisture grain can result in more shattering which increases the amount of fines in the ration.”

However, the higher digestive efficiency can create a few problems. Says Yaremcio, “With a more complete and rapid fermentation, the starch in the grain is more readily available. It can produce digestive upsets such as acidosis or bloat. If high levels of grain are fed in a straw-grain ration for pregnant cows, increase the grain content gradually to prevent this problem. If the ration starts off with approximately six pounds of grain per day, increase the grain portion one pound every second day. This increase allows the rumen bacteria to adjust to the change which prevents problems.”

Yaremcio says to evaluate the consistency of the manure to determine whether the changes being made to the ration are causing subclinical acidosis. “With a healthy rumen that is functioning properly, the manure ‘pie’ is fairly flat in structure. If the grain is causing acidotic conditions, the manure will become very wet and sloppy, resulting in a ‘splatter’ or runny consistency. As well, it can have a sour smell. If this happens, reduce the amount of grain to allow the rumen to recover. Be sure to monitor the herd to ensure all the cows have access to the feed and the dominant cows aren’t pushing the younger or weaker cows out. That could result in the boss cows eating too much grain and cause acidosis.”

“With most grain–straw rations, calcium and magnesium are typically deficient and phosphorus is adequate,” adds Yaremcio. “The use of a feedlot type mineral with roughly 20 per cent calcium and three to four per cent magnesium is recommended to prevent downer cows or winter tetany. A 2:1 mineral will not supply sufficient amounts of calcium to the diet.”

Alberta Agriculture and Forestry has a factsheet on Storage of High Moisture Barley (https://www1.agric.gov.ab.ca/$department/deptdocs.nsf/all/agdex101/$file/114_61-1.pdf?OpenElement ). For more information, contact the Alberta Ag-Info Centre at 310-FARM (3276).

-Submitted by Alberta Agriculture

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

Just Posted

There were 410 COVID-19 cases recorded in Alberta Wednesday. (File photo)
Alberta records 410 COVID-19 cases Wednesday

Central zone dropped to 160 active cases

Shaun Isaac, owner of Woodchucker Firewood in Trochu, is awaiting a new shipment during a firewood shortage in the province. All of the wood he has left is being saved for long-time customers who need it to heat their homes. (Contributed photo).
Firewood shortage in central Alberta caused by rising demand, gaps in supply

‘I’ve said “No” to more people than ever’: firewood seller

file photo
Maskwacis RCMP investigate pedestrian fatality

Collision on Highway 2A causing fatality still under investigation.

Shaela Dansereau/ The Pipestone Flyer
City of Wetaskiwin cases rapidly climbing

City of Wetaskiwin reporting 11 active cases of COVID-19

Royal Alexandra Hospital front-line workers walk a picket line after walking off the job in a wildcat strike in Edmonton, on Monday, October 26, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta labour board orders health-care staff who walked off the job to go back to work

Finance Minister Travis Toews said in a news release that he was pleased with the labour board’s decision

Children’s backpacks and shoes are seen at a daycare in Langley, B.C., on Tuesday May 29, 2018. Alberta Children’s Services Minister Rebecca Schulz says the province plans to bring in a new way of licensing and monitoring child-care facilities. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Alberta proposes legislation to change rules on child-care spaces

Record-keeping, traditionally done on paper, would be allowed digitally

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau shakes hands with US Vice-President Joe Biden on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Friday, December 9, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Patrick Doyle
A Biden presidency could mean good news for Canadian environment policy: observers

Experts and observers say even a U.S. outside the Paris agreement may ultimately end up in the same place

People take a photo together during the opening night of Christmas Lights Across Canada, in Ottawa, on Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2019. The likelihood that most Canadians will enjoy a holly jolly Christmas season of gatherings, caroling and travel is unlikely, say public health experts who encourage those who revel in holiday traditions to accept more sacrifices ahead. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
Ho, ho, no: Experts advise preparing for a scaled-back COVID holiday season

Many of the holiday season’s highlights have already been scrapped or are unlikely to take place

Sen. Kim Pate is shown in Toronto in an October 15, 2013, file photo. The parliamentary budget office says a proposed law that would give judges discretion on whether to apply a lesser sentence for murder could save the federal government $8.3 million per year. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Colin Perkel
Judicial discretion for mandatory minimum sentences for murder would save $8.3M: PBO

The result would be fewer people in long-term custody at federal correctional institutions, experts say

Husky Energy logo is shown at the company’s annual meeting in Calgary on May 5, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Husky pipeline spills 900,000 litres of produced water in northwestern Alberta

The energy regulator says environmental contractors are at the site

A raccoon paid a visit to a Toronto Tim Hortons on Oct. 22, 2020. (shecallsmedrew/Twitter)
Who are you calling a trash panda? Raccoon takes a shift at Toronto Tim Hortons

Tim Hortons said animal control was called as soon they saw the surprise visitor

Sharon Hickin, general manager of the Days Inn Sylvan Lake and the new Lake House Diner, poses for a photo outside the new restaurant. Photo by Megan Roth/Sylvan Lake News
Pandemic puts extra hurdles in place for new Sylvan Lake businesses

Over the past seven months numerous new businesses have opened in Sylvan Lake, despite the pandemic

Most Read