Weather damaged grain for livestock

AG ADVICE - December 2021

Brett Littler - Senior Land Services Officer, Livestock

Unfortunately, this year has seen a wet end for the cropping sector with many crops ready to harvest. This wet finish with the grain developed and almost ready to harvest has led to some of the crop to develop shoots and roots in some cases and in others the delay in harvest has meant weather damaged grain.

Weather damaged/shot and sprung grain is not new, and the questions I'm hearing now are the same as I have had in the past - What are the issues? What has it done to the feed quality? Etc

Looking at my notes I can see that some of this grain had varying degrees of soundness analysed. Many samples had roots and shoots 1-2 cm long, with one sample of Kennedy wheat having shoots up to 2-3cm long (Note less than 5% of the Kennedy seed was sound). In the early 2000s we sent samples away to labs looking at different moulds and for possible livestock health issues and other samples were sent for feed analysis. So, what did we learn and what is the advice now?

Firstly, if you are looking at buying or storing this grain then you must look at the moisture content. Ensure that it is not over 12-12.5%. While some of these samples may look okay, experience has taught us that is more likely to grow mould during storage and insect damage is also more likely.

The feed test results showed that the grain was more than adequate for use as stock feed, with high protein, digestibility and energy levels. I would once again recommend that producers get a feed test, and this should be done regardless of whether it is weather damaged or not. Generally, we find that shot and sprung grains will have more fines, and with the weathering effect we find the grain is readily digestible by ruminants, so feeding still needs to be done with care.

Weather damaged/shot and sprung grains are more likely to have mould growth during harvest and continuing onto storage. Various types of mould produce toxins called mycotoxins which can and do have some health implications for livestock being fed this feed. Over the years we have had a lot of experience with feeding feeds effected with mycotoxins/mould. It is something that can be done with caution and is something to be aware of. Typically, we see the effect on livestock but more regarding appetite suppression than health matters.

Some rules to follow with feeds effected with mould is you can limit the amount of mouldy grain to 20-25% of the total diet. Introduce the feed gradually and be on the lookout for any issues with the stock. Don’t go feeding mouldy feed to your $50,000 stud bull or ram. Overall, my experience has shown the risk is low but there is a risk so be aware.

This shot and sprung/weather damaged grain is not good for the croppers, but it is something livestock producers can and have used in the past successively, with minimal issues. Do your sums as some of this grain may give you the option to value add to some livestock in the future or something to look at putting away in a grain pit for when we will be looking for options to feed our stock in a drought.

Producers should have all grain intended for use as stock feed tested for nutritive value (this should be done regardless of whether the grain is weather damaged or not).

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