In his second year of growing maize in tandem with beans, Jonathan Evans of Berry Hill Farm in Pembrokeshire has learned some valuable lessons, particularly in terms of crop establishment, variety selection and the importance of weed control.
Crop Farming & Harvest
Seen firstly as a good alternative break crop to oilseed rape – which has become harder to establish due to the difficulties in controlling flea beetle – maize is now a valuable forage for their beef finishing enterprise as well as an additional cash crop sold to neighbouring dairy and goat farms.
The importance of upholding soil health and sustaining its productivity for the future is essential. No matter what the enterprise, we are reliant on soil for all production, either to produce our crops or forage to feed livestock. Therefore, measures must be taken to conserve soil, which is more vulnerable to erosion and the leaching of essential nutrients over the winter months, especially after the harvest of maize crops.
Autumn 2023 was a difficult one for many, with the only real drilling window way back in September we have seen a deluge of rain since which seems to have no end in sight, with forecasts predicting wet weather into the new year. This has meant only a handful of opportunities to get on the land to cultivate and then sow autumn crops.
As we start to look to what 2024 will bring, it’s a natural instinct to turn to spring cereals for any land that didn’t get planted in the autumn - deliberately or otherwise! However, with shortages of spring cereals it’s now more important than ever to remember that autumn cereals can be sown successfully into the new year. So, here are my top tips for late sowing winter wheat!
Quantifying the level of mycotoxin contamination in your feeds is always difficult, as there are >400 different species of mycotoxins, all with varying levels of toxicity, and they may not be in every part of the silage clamp or TMR that we sample! Generally speaking, any plant with a flowering head (such as maize or wheat) could have developed fungi in the field, under stress conditions such as drought or wet weather, which produce the ‘in field’ mycotoxins on the plant. When harvested, the mycotoxins remain in the silage, and in some cases, further mould/fungi growth in the clamp can lead to more ‘storage’ mycotoxin production.
What are the main symptoms of Mycotoxin damage?
- Reduction in dry matter intake
- Reduced rumen function – cud balls
- Poor fertility, particularly cystic ovaries and cycle abnormalities
Types of mycotoxins and how they can affect your herd
The Type A Trichothecenes will potentially cause issues such as loose/variable dung, reduce feed intake, cause intestinal damage, alter rumen functions and result in poor nutrient digestion. We can also see issues with conception rates, embryo health.
The Type B Trichothecenes will potentially cause issues such as loose/variable dung, reduce feed intake, cause intestinal damage, alter rumen functions and result in poor nutrient digestion. We can also see stillborn births with the Type B. These symptoms can lead to lower milk production. Cows may also become lethargic and their immune system can also be suppressed.
Zearalenone can cause issues with reduced reproductive overall performance of cows, resulting in delayed sexual maturity or altered conception rates, irregular heats. We can also see cystic cows or early embryonic deaths.
The emerging Mycotoxins contain toxins such as Moniliformin, Alternariol and Tenuazonic acid, these can cause issues such as damage to the heart muscle, including myocardial lesions and increased relative heart weights, also muscular weakness, respiratory distress, decreased feed intake, BW gains, liver damage, diarrhoea, vomiting, haemorrhages, muscle tremor and convulsion and can have a negative impact on reproductive functions.
Other Penicillium mycotoxins may decrease beneficial microbial populations in the rumen, decrease synthesis of volatile fatty acids and change microbial protein production. Such effects may result in digestive disorders, a decrease in animal performance and altered milk production or milk quality. Suppression of the immune system could also occur.
Fusaric acid can play a part in reducing intakes and efficiency and causing lameness along with feed refusal and udder edemas.
How can mycotoxins be dealt with on-farm?
MYCOSORB A+ reduces mycotoxin absorption, negating the effects on production:
- Proven Broad spectrum binder tackling most mycotoxins
- Fast acting, and at low doses (50-150g/cow)
- Proven by scientific research – 146 peer-reviewed studies
- 50g/cow costs approx. 10p/head/day – ROI of 2.5:1 (increased milk profit over cost)
Wynnstay customer Rob Powell has found wintering ewes at home, on grass and root crops, a cost-effective option.
Nutrient management planning ensures that crops receive the right nutrients in the right amounts at the right time. When done effectively, it not only promotes healthy crop growth but also maximises yields and minimises environmental impacts.
Rachel Clifton, one of our experts in nutrient management planning, sheds light on the plan’s key principles and practices, and what is involved in the process of getting one.
Low grass silage stocks have been a significant subject of conversation this summer, stemming from the adverse impact of a dry June on grass growth.
Although we had rain towards the end of June, it was patchy. Where rain did fall, it often came in short, heavy bursts. If the ground was baked hard, this made it prone to run off. What we needed was prolonged rainfall to wet the ground so it could soak in.
When it comes to selling wheat, many growers revert to selling it for animal feed, however it is important to evaluate and maximise the potential of grain in terms of market and premiums, as many could be missing out on opportunities to add value to their grain.
It is important to remember that not only group one varieties on the recommended list have the potential to offer a premium, as many group twos, threes and fours can also provide this if the specs are met, which many of them are capable of.
In Season 3, Episode 7 of the Wynnstay Agri-Hub podcast, Rob Hess one of our Senior Traders at GrainLink has joined me to discuss the potential of grain in terms of how growers can optimise quality and ultimately achieve the best price possible.
When growing high yielding varieties, often other agronomic features such as disease resistance are sometimes overlooked. The fungicides at our disposal today are capable of producing extremely good results, but it is important to apply as much thought to the fungicide programme and timings as to the choice of product, to achieve optimum yield potential.
Over recent years, the emphasis has moved away from reactive fungicide applications to treat visible disease in the crop, and more towards a strategy where prevention is better than cure. To achieve this, the fungicides must be applied at the correct time and early in the development of the disease, or even before infection occurs, with timing infl uenced by growth stage, weather and the variety’s disease resistance.