By Helen Elliot

A chance conversation between Perthshire farmer, John Bryce, of Strathbraan, near Dunkeld, and Harbro’s Cameron Kidd, has resulted in the first export of Maxammon grain treatment, to South-west Romania.

John’s son, Graham Bryce, managing director of the fledgling Bryce Beef Company, based in Romania, works in partnership with the Swiss owned Karpaten Meat company, from Sibiu, in Transylvania, to produce certified Angus beef for Western Europe.

“We feed a grass-based, cereal feed mix to our Angus steers. However, barley is harvested off our combines at 12% and maize at 8% which means milling grain creates a shattering, rather than rolling effect,” he said.

“During a recent visit to our farms, my father mentioned his conversation to Harbro in their Perth store, about the product Maxammon and events followed on from there.”

During mid-November the first shipment of Maxammon – to treat 100 tonnes of maize and 100 tonnes of winter barley – travelled 2000 overland miles to reach it’s destination in Eastern Europe.

Harbro's international sales director, Neil Kidd, said he was delighted that his son’s initial discussion about Maxammon had led directly to their first customer in Romania. “We usually deal with distributors in international markets not individual farmers, which gives Harbro country coverage in foreign markets,” he commented.

The beef operation, located near the Romanian village of Balasan, in the Dolj region, nestles in the broad lower elbow of the Danube and is bordered west across the river by Serbia, and Bulgaria.

John Smith, Harbro's export sales manager and independent beef nutritionist Gerry Giggins, of Nutritionlink, flew to Craiova, the nearest city an hour east of the Bryce beef operation, to ensure the grain was treated and processed correctly.

“What we discovered out there was a real eye opener in terms of scale and agriculture potential and the Bryce beef unit – although in the early stages of operation – we could see immediately was a professional and modern operation,” commented John Smith.

He added: “We noted the dryness of the grain and mixed 5kg of Maxammon, 15kg of feed grade urea and 70 litres of water, per tonne of cereal, in a 10-tonne feed mixer, which Graham then stored in long silo bags, to enable the mix to cure for a minimum of 14 days."

The chemical process hydrolyses the urea into ammonia and the outcome is a nutritionally enhanced cereal, which is alkaline (pH 9).

The process is beneficial for farmers feeding high levels of home-produced grain as it significantly reduces the incidences of rumen acidosis.

The other benefit is a lift in protein, with the finished feed around 30% higher in protein meaning that farmers have to buy in less expensive proteins.

Graham Bryce pointed out that shipping a product like Maxammon across mainland Europe and into Eastern Europe was not a cheap process and he had to be fairly certain it was going to be beneficial process from the outset.

He said: “Before we undertook this we noted that the product had undergone extensive independent academic evaluations, including the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, where special electronic boluses were placed into the rumen of cattle and the pH of the rumen fluid measured every 15 minutes. This consistently showed that cattle fed on Maxammon diets never dipped into sub-acute or rumen acidosis, unlike cattle fed a standard diet of untreated grain.

“This and other information gave us the confidence to proceed, and this week our Angus steers were introduced to their first batch of the treated feed, which we will be monitoring closely and analysing the information via our Gallagher weighing and data (EID).”