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Read all the latest news from the agronomy services industry.

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Read all the latest news from the agronomy services industry.


Latest News

Pearce Seeds in the News

Pearce Seeds in the News

Published: Monday, April 13, 2015
Category: Pearce Seeds News

Devon agronomist Chris Tucker has recently been in the Western Morning News with two of his customers who have found a novel way to utilize maize and beef from their farming enterprises.

The article below by Phil Eades appeared in the Western Morning News on 25 March 2015

The full article can be viewed at http://www.westernmorningnews.co.uk/WESTCOUNTRY-FARMER-Working-provide-excellent-diet/story-26230324-detail/story.html

Two South Hams farmers have developed an innovative arrangement based around maize silage which is bringing benefits to both businesses.

Under the arrangement David Lethbridge, from near Totnes, grows maize for silage for local beef producer David Merrin. As an extension to the arrangement Mr Lethbridge now finishes beef animals on a ‘bed and breakfast’ contract for Mr Merrin. Both parties are very pleased with the benefits they are getting.

David Merrin finishes around 3,000 dairy cross steers every year. Cattle are sold on contract to ABP Sainsburys and the target is 600kg liveweight or 300kg deadweight at 20 to 22 months old.

“At a 300kg carcase dairy steers will grade provided they are well fed and ours mainly grade at O-, 3 or 4L,” David Merrin explains.

Animals typically spend 200-250 days at grass before moving onto a high starch diet comprising of maize silage, grass silage, wholecrop, rolled barley and maize distillers. For the final 70 days they are fed a more intensive diet including rolled barley, maize distillers, ground maize, straw and molasses. The diet is 46% starch but David Merrin says including ground maize reduces the acidosis risk.

“There is no doubt cattle do well on maize silage,” he continues. “The starch drives performance and it is a consistent feed, but we need a quality crop. As we grow grass silage and graze at the home farm we look to produce maize on local arable farms and find this approach works well, especially as it can help with muck disposal.”

David Lethbridge is one of the farmers growing maize and finds it an ideal complement to the cropping on his 200ha arable unit, growing a range of combinable crops.

“The intensive cropping was starting to cause problems,” he explains. “We were seeing an increase in weed problems and yields were declining partly because no FYM was being applied. The farm is lightish soil so we needed to put something back. Growing maize on contract fits the bill perfectly.”

He explains that maize provides an excellent break crop, allowing a chance to get on top of weeds and means fields can benefit from a decent application of organic manure. In 2014 he grew 14.5 hectares with payment based on a set price per tonne with all trailers weighed over a weighbridge.

Choice of variety is crucial as it has to meet the requirements of both parties as Chris Tucker from Pearce Seeds Ltd explains. “We have to achieve a balance. From an arable farmer’s perspective, the crucial factors are maturity date and how a variety fits into the system while they will also be interested in the physical yield when contacts are based on a price per tonne harvested,” he comments. “From the beef producer’s viewpoint, the quality of the forage is also extremely important.”

In this case the key was to select an early maturing variety combining yield and quality as the crop needed to be off quickly as it was followed by winter wheat. The variety that best fitted the bill was the LG variety Glory.

“Glory ticked all the boxes and performed extremely well,” Mr Tucker continues. “It was drilled in the last week of April following spring barley. A spray programme was developed to target the known problems which were mainly broad-leaved weeds with chickweed and nightshade being particular prevalent. The aim was to keep the crop clean and allow the maize to get away quickly.”

The crop was harvested in the last week of September allowing the quick turnaround into winter wheat. It was harvested leaving a 20cm stubble to optimise yield and quality. The plan is to grow around 12-20 hectares of Glory this year.

In the last year the extent of the arrangement has been extended with David Lethbridge constructing a finishing unit on the farm and agreeing a 10 year ‘bed and breakfast’ contract with payment on a £/head/week basis. Animals are moved to the badger proof, TB lockdown unit for the final 70 day feeding period.

The mixed diet is brought to the unit every other day and David Lethbridge is responsible for feeding and bedding. “Like growing maize as a break crop, the finishing unit fits really well with our system,” he explains. “It gives us a way to use straw produced on the farm and means we are producing FYM on site rather than having to cart it in which means improving soil quality is now quicker and easier.”

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Pearce Seeds LLP
Rosedown Farm
Marston Road
Sherborne
Dorset
DT9 4SX


Tel: 01935 811 400
Fax: 01935 816 800

Email: info@pearceseeds.co.uk