What's going on

Nutritional results from wheat harvest 2016

7th October 2016

With harvest done and dusted for many arable farmers, what impact will this year’s crop results have in terms of its nutritional value for the poultry sector?

John Sissins, ABN commercial nutritionist, highlights initial results from 2016 crop samples. “There were indications early in the season that wheat yields, in particular, may be down this year compared to last year, mainly due to the lack of sunlight hours during key growth stages and the ripening period, and issues caused by high levels of blackgrass. And, this has been confirmed by our harvest data.”

Mr Sissins explains that this year, total wheat harvested in the UK is forecasted to be around 14.5 million tonnes, which is approximately two million tonnes down on last year. “However, there is a rule we generally observe, when yields are down, protein levels tend to increase, and we’ve already started to see this pattern.

“To date, we’ve seen a national average increase of 0.4% protein in wheat crops, compared to 2015, with the highest increases seen in the east of the country as well as the Midlands and the south west.”

He also adds that bushel weights have dropped back slightly this year. “The 2015 harvest saw bushel weights above the anticipated average level. But, this year these have dropped back to a more typical level of approximately 75kg/hl.

“As a direct consequence of this drop, we’re expecting a decline in wheat starch content, but so far, our lab results have showed a variable picture across the country.

“Starch is an important contributor of energy to poultry diets, and so the accurate calculation of the energy content of wheat is vital, when formulating diets,” explains Mr Sissins.

“The negative impact of mycotoxins is another factor the poultry industry has to be aware of.  

“So far this year, we’re seeing that levels of the mycotoxin vomitoxin (also known as DON), are marginally up compared to last year, however these are well within EU guidelines for mycotoxins. Additionally, levels of the mycotoxin zearalenone remain very low, similar to what has been seen over the past couple of years.

“Although, reassuringly, these mycotoxin levels remain very low, this is something to continue to monitor, in line with other sources such as the AHDB Cereals and Oilseeds crop monitoring programme,” he adds.

“The nutritional analysis of raw materials is constantly changing, and how we manage this change is vital.

“We’re not dealing with components for Rolls Royce engines here, where each is produced to within tight tolerances, but with inputs and nutritional outputs of crops that are variable.

“Hence the importance of continued sampling, detailed analytical testing, monitoring, and understanding the appropriate changes in the nutrient composition of our raw materials, to ensure the formulation of consistent diets to support predictable on-farm performance,” says Mr Sissins.