Secondary tillering and the uneven ripening of cereal crops this summer is presenting challenges to growers as harvest approaches. However, these issues can be overcome by switching from dry harvest to crimping, according to arable farmers who have experience of preserving their grain by this process.

Arable and livestock producer, Paul Metcalfe, says he will make far more out of his spring barley crop by harvesting early and crimping than if he cut it dry.

Farming 1,100 acres at Gillingwood Hall near Scotch Corner in North Yorkshire, he says: “We normally only grow winter cereals but this season’s wet autumn and winter meant we couldn’t get on to the land in time and had to drill around 170 acres in spring.”

As a long-term user of the crimping process he says he will harvest all of his spring barley at 25-30% moisture and preserve it by crimping. This means it will be passed through a roller and have the preservative, CrimpSafe 300 applied at the same time. The treated barley will then be compacted, sheeted and stored in a clamp, in a similar manner to silage.

He says: “Each year we have crimped more and more of our winter cereals as we like the product so much.

“However, this year it’s the perfect solution for the unevenly ripened spring cereals where it will make far more out of the crop than if ever we cut it dry.”

He says the spring sown barley suffered in the exceptionally dry spring and started to head very early.

“With the recent rain this was followed by a wave of secondary growth, which means there’s a massive variation in maturity and moisture within the crop,” he says.

“Some of the awns are fully out while some of the grain is just appearing in the head,” he says. “If we put this type of crop in the grain drier we would have to cremate it to get it all dry!

“Crimping will also bring harvest forward by two to three weeks to around the middle of August,” he says. “This will extend our window for autumn cultivations and help bring our rotations back on track.”

Michael Carpenter, northern area manager for feed preservation specialists, Kelvin Cave Ltd, says crimping is suitable for winter cereals as well as spring-sown crops.

He says: “The growth of winter cereals was also checked during the dry spring and many crops headed early. These should be watched from an earlier date if they are going to be crimped, so they can be harvested in optimum condition.”

When used as a livestock feed he says crimping has further nutritional benefits. “Paul will use his crimped barley to feed his Angus and Wagyu cattle which – like all dairy, beef and sheep – perform well on high moisture, crimped cereals. Crimp is excellent from a nutritional perspective as it is safer for the rumen, can be fed at higher rates of inclusion and is more digestible than dry rolled grain.

“However, for growers without any livestock, it’s a surprisingly easy product to trade on a farm-to-farm basis,” he says.

Recent trials by ADAS have also demonstrated that crimping has benefits in black-grass control.

“The trials demonstrated that preserving cereals by crimping with CrimpSafe 300 kills 100% of the black-grass seeds ensiled with the crop,” says Mr Carpenter. “Furthermore, the earlier harvest associated with crimping removes more black-grass seed from the field – something that’s probably more useful in winter cereals where the problem can be worse, than those sown in spring.”

Mr Metcalfe concurs and says: “Crimping definitely helps get more out of the crop – it just makes the most of what we are growing. We’ve been using the process for so many years it’s now an important and integral part of our system.”

For more information about the crimping process, please contact Kelvin Cave Ltd on 01458 252281 or Michael Carpenter on 07817 977701.

What is crimping

Crimping involves the rolling of cereals, maize grain or pulses and the application of a proven preservative such as Crimpsafe 300 or Crimpsafe Hi-Dry. This ensures a controlled fermentation and maximum nutrient retention once stored in an airtight clamp (or plastic tube). CrimpSafe preservatives allow cereals and maize grain to be crimped and ensiled at moisture contents from 16%-45%, although the best nutritional benefits come from grain harvested above 25% moisture. Crimp must remain sealed for at least three weeks and can then be fed to livestock or used in anaerobic digestion throughout the year.

Why crimp grain?

  • Maximises nutrient value, digestibility and dry matter/ha
  • Enables earlier harvest at peak nutritional value
  • The process is simple – crimp, ensile, feed
  • No drying or specialist storage is required
  • Reduces grain loss in the field
  • Harvest is less weather-dependent
  • Turns home-grown moist grains into quality, digestible and palatable concentrate feed
  • Improves animal performance over dry-rolled cereals
  • Improves black-grass control over cereals harvested dry
  • Can produce high biogas yields in anaerobic digestion
  • Can be traded from farm to farm
  • Backed by over 40 years successful use in Finland and northern Europe

For further information please contact the Kelvin Cave Ltd head office on 01458 252281 or visit