” A most educational and information packed day was the consensus from all those who attended the Maize Crop open day at Barryscourt Farm ”
The Southern Fuel & Farm Supplies Ltd & Barrett Agri Maize / Plastic Trials open day at the company’s farm in Barryscourt, Carrigtwohill was a most informative day for all those that attended.
The future of the Forage Maize Crop is certainly more secure having seen the excellent work undertaken by Mark Hosford and the team at Southern Fuels & Barrett Agri. The timing of the company’s Maize & Bio Plastics open day this year was very well timed and certainly after the announcement in late May that the standard Oxo Degradable Maize plastic was banned within the EU from July 2021 was a shock to all concerned.
Maize growers, particularly dairy farmers that have expanded rapidly and significantly in past few years have the most to lose without Plastic Cover for their Maize crops!
Maurice Smiddy & Sam Shine admitted that they and all involved with the Maize Crop were really taken aback with the suddenness of that announcement, with no lead in time and little notice. We were not just concerned for ourselves, but more especially for our many customers who were and are very much dependent on their Maize crops to feed there cows and other farm livestock.
Our analysis of the situation in Cork, West Waterford and in Carlow and the general South East region was very much one of, how can our customers manage without Maize. We know that at least 65% to 75% of our Maize growers cannot grow Forage Maize successfully without the benefits plastic cover.
➡️ We looked at all the other possible Forage Crop options and the cost of producing same.
➡️ We looked at the crop rotation issue with almost all other crop options.
➡️ We looked at the Slurry issue which is a real concern for Dairy farmers without maize and of course we looked at cost per tonne of DM, cost / unit of energy balanced for protein.
We found there was little to nothing that high Maize dependent Dairy farmers could do to replace the Maize under plastic option, without seriously impacting on their business.
The consistency of the feed value of Maize Silage over several years is well proven. It’s ability to fit into the usual feeding systems on most dairy / livestock farms without the need for any yard changes or for additional feed out equipment is a major factor in its popularity against other options like beet / whole crops etc.
Sam Shine of Samco gave an out line of the new Bio Degradable plastics which are totally degradable and which performed equally well against the standard Oxo degradable product shown side by side with it in the trials.
Mark Hosford explained to all, when the Maize in all the trial plots is harvested, each plot will be harvested individually and a sample taken and tested.
The results from this process will be available to growers once the test results come back from the Lab.
Mark was confident that the new plastic will perform equally well in the trials against the older standard oxo product from Samco.
Andy Stainthorpe from Pioneer, (major international Maize Seed Breeders) discussed the real breakthrough in their breeding programmes, where over the last 5 to 10 years they have been working hard to develop much higher yielding “Dent” type varieties. This to replace the standard “Flint” type varieties which we are using under plastic for the last 20 years.
He explained very carefully how “Dent” types in the past, while bringing very high quality starch to the party, had a serious yield penalty which meant they could not be justified for use under plastic because the yield limits meant that the cost of the plastic could not be recovered when using these types of varieties.
The breakthrough came in the last 3 years when the first of the very high yielding “Dent” type varieties came through the Pioneer Plant Breeding Programs with much higher yields.
The big difference is in the digestibility of the starch, and at Southern Fuel & Farm Supplies / Barrett Agri – our customers that have taken these “Dent” type varieties are already seeing the benefits in the jar.
Mark Hosford also showed the difference between the Maize trials grown in the open against the trials grown under plastic. Again the results when returned from the lab will give a clear picture of the best in each category, and the yield differences between maize in the open and maize under plastic.
Brian Reidy of Premier Farm Nutrition gave an excellent presentation at the Maize Open day, where he explained the nutritional impact & benefits of Maize in the diet. He went further and engaged with many of those attending. He looked at the most efficient cow and was certainly at odds with the those in advisory promoting the lower yield cow where Brian showed how that category of cows were not as efficient from several different view points, production efficiency, labour on farm efficiency, nitrogen use efficiency and feed conversation efficiency.
Certainly “Food for Thought” for all dairy farmers in an era where there is likely to be restrictions on cow numbers or road blocks to further dairy expansion !
Mark and the team at Southern Fuels also took the opportunity when doing the trials to sow a grass & clover mix in between the Maize rows, so as to evaluate the benefits of this in terms of, having a cover crop in place after the harvest. A cover crop that along with preventing soil erosion over the winter, where soil nutrients could be washed away in heavy rain conditions, and also where the nitrogen fixing capability of the clover in the mix would bring benefits to the following crop. This work was undertaken in an attempt to get ahead of the new CAP reforms, which will impose greater restrictions on leaving land without a green cover over the winter months, and certainly from the results in the trials, this is an option to be considered going forward.
A sincere thanks to all those that attended on the day and for your questions and excellent participation.
Maurice & Cormac Smiddy.