The wet spell has meant that some wheat varieties have now sprouted in the ear so if harvested and dried the bushel weights will be poor and sale value low.
If this grain is harvested damp so you can be cutting when otherwise the combine may be parked up the damp grain can be treated with urea to both preserve it and avoid and crimping or rolling costs. The urea breaks down almost immediately on adding to wet grain to release ammonia gas. This means the grain needs mixing with urea within 24 hours of combining and sheeting down like a silage clamp. The ammonia gas spreads through the heap and is a top rate antimicrobial and also breaks down the seed coat to make the whole grains digestible after a about a month in the heap. The resulting chocolate brown coloured grains can then be fed whole to any stock. Feed it in the same way as you would caustic wheat.
Full details are as follows:
Start combining the grain as soon as you think your combine will handle it. Target moisture content is 30% but this is very hard work on the combine and you will have to wait several days before the straw is dry enough to bale. You can combine at 18- 20% moisture. If drier than that then either add water (20-50 litres per tonne) or store it as dry wheat. If the grain is too dry when mixed with the urea the treatment process will not sufficiently soften the grains and some will pass through the stock. This can easily be overcome by wetting the grain 24 hours prior to feeding or in some cases just moving a heap 7 days ahead of feeding allows sufficient reaction to start again so all grains soften up.
The wet grain should be mixed with approximately 25 kg urea / tonne. Thorough mixing is not necessary as the urea breaks down to release ammonia gas which will permeate through a heap even if not thoroughly mixed. Whilst most people have roughly mixed the wheat and urea through a mixer wagon, mixing with a grain bucket on a concrete floor would be equally acceptable.
The urea will start to be released as ammonia within 24 hours. The enzyme in the grain that breaks down the urea is destroyed by acid so don’t allow the grain to start fermenting which means treating the grain on the day it is combined. Once sealed the heap must not be disturbed for at least 4 weeks and ideally 6 weeks as the treatment will take this period of time to complete.
Rolling the heap is not necessary as the gas will permeate between the grains and expel any air but driving over it while filling the clamp is not a problem.
The treated grain does not need to be stored in a proper clamp, a mushroom on a pad of concrete is perfectly adequate – remember the gas will permeate and therefore even shoulders get thoroughly treated. Protect the sheet against bird damage to keep the ammonia in and to keep rain water out.
After the 4 week treatment period is complete the heap can be un-sealed and left open throughout the winter.
Ammonia treated grain will still smell strongly of ammonia throughout the winter and it is best stored outside so that staff do not need to enter a confined space breathing ammonia gas when feeding the heap out.
Ammonia makes treated grain unacceptable to both birds and rats and the strong ammonia smell makes it impossible for rats to burrow into the heap and cause damage but avoid earth banked clamps, that’s too tempting for the rats.
The finished product will have a protein content of 15 to 18% in the dry matter.
If you have any queries, please do not hesitate to contact us.