Maize-under-film trials show significant economic returns
Establishing maize under degradable film has the potential to deliver an earlier harvest significantly higher yields and, in the case of most marginal maize growing areas, make the crop more economically viable and consistent.
These are the conclusions of a series of trials investigating the performance of a range of varieties grown using the latest Samco technologies conducted by ProCam and its seed business, Field Options.
“We’ve seen that the Samco system of drilling maize under degradable film offers better and more consistent results for all maize growers, and can make the crop an option for those who struggle to grow a viable crop of maize in the open,” said ProCam’s Barry Mills, “but this is only possible by growing the right varieties, applying the right agronomy and adhering to the overall system.
“It’s a mistake to assume that any maize variety will work when grown under film. For the system to deliver best returns, it is vital to select a variety that can cope with the increased temperature under the film, as well as one with high enough yield potential to benefit from the extra heat units provided.”
Collaborative research by the company has been on-going for 15 years, and this work has been stepped up over the past two years with trials around the country comparing 20 different varieties grown under film and with some of the same hybrids also grown in the open, including key competitor hybrids. The primary aim was to identify which method of production gives the best financial return to farmers.
Summarising the results from marginal growing areas, Mr Mills reports a freshweight yield advantage of over 5t/ha, crops consistently achieving over 30 per cent dry matter, crops typically three weeks earlier to harvest, and producing significantly higher starch and energy levels.
“Advances in technology have, in recent years, resulted in a better balance between the degradability and strength of film, as well as improvements of the engineering in the drill,” adds Mr Mills. “This has led to more consistent results, which comfortably out-weigh the additional investment. Additional yield of higher nutritional value is relatively easy to quantify. Other benefits such as an earlier entry for following crops are less easy to put figures on but are no less valuable.
“Our aim across ProCam and Field Options business is to fine-tune the system for UK growers, in both favourable and less favourable areas, so that we can help them achieve the best possible outcomes.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that maize under film has the potential to deliver excellent returns on investment for all maize growers. For some, that will be to achieve significantly higher yields of dry matter and energy with the same harvest timing as standard varieties grown in the open. For others, it will mean achieving two to three weeks earlier harvest without sacrificing yield, which can allow for an earlier entry into a following crop and reduce risk of soil damage and erosion.”
2-in-1 mixer and straw bedder becoming popular
Lucas G is renowned for the design and manufacture of high-performance bedding and feeding machinery to suit the requirements of modern livestock farmers, says the company.
The Spirmix Jet range combines a single or twin vertical auger mixer with a straw blower turbine mounted at the front, providing the benefits of both systems in one versatile machine. It is available in a number of configurations ranging from 12–26m³ capacity and with a 270-degree swivelling chute for accurate straw bedding which can also be used to feed a mixed ration into a trough or areas on a farm otherwise inaccessible by a traditional diet feeder. The Jet has an additional rotor between the mixing augers and the straw blower to ensure even flow of material and quick and efficient emptying. Feed can also be distributed on the flow via a trap door.
The 2-in-1 mixer and straw bedder is becoming more popular on UK farms in recent years and it is easy to see why, continues the company. Farmers get the benefit of a diet feeder and straw bedder all in one machine. It makes sense from a financial aspect as well; a new 16m³ Spirmix Jet costs less than an equivalent sized mixer and a 3m³ trailed straw bedder. Another advantage is that the Jet can remain on one tractor and perform the feeding and bedding duties without having to swap tractor or machine, which can be an additional problem when under pressure, concludes Lucas G.
New twin rotor rake for 2019
Joining the Pottinger Top rotary rake range for the 2019 season is the all new 762C Classic twin rotor model.
This centre delivery trailed model offers all of the features of the existing TOP rakes. The rugged central chassis, rear steering axle along with mudguards and lights are included as standard. The fully adjustable working width of 6.75-7.50m allows adaptation to every type of crop condition, says Pottinger. This adjustment can be achieved either mechanically using turnbuckles or alternatively hydraulic adjustment can be specified allowing in-cab operation. Its Top Tech Plus rotors feature 11 tine arms per rotor and are fully serviceable thanks to their modular design. The large diameter cam track (42cm diameter) offers smooth and quiet operation, only needing greasing every 50 hours. Supporting each rotor as standard is a three-wheel rotor chassis to which the optional Multitast leading jockey wheel system can be added. This unique leading jockey wheel system works in conjunction with the +/- 8 degrees of oscillation to allow ground contours to be followed accurately and ensuring that forage contamination is minimised.
The Top 762C Classic range starts from £20,295.
The Grass 300 from Bullock Tillage has been designed as a multi-purpose harrow to deal with the challenges of improving grassland condition and production.
At the front there is a full width hydraulically adjustable levelling board mounted on flexible tine units which is capable of levelling mole hills and organic manures. Next comes three rows of adjustable tines.
The first two rows are heavy duty cranked 12mm tines and are ideal for pulling out weeds and matting, allowing aeration of the soil to improve grass growth. The third row are straight 8mm tines designed to level the surface and aid the mixing of seed when over-seeding or re-seeding.
At the rear there is a full width hydraulically adjustable prismatic packer which ensures a level surface with good seed to soil contact when over-seeding. The Grass 300 can handle all the operations required in one single pass and has even greater flexibility when used in combination with an SP 200 air seeder. The SP 200 air seeder is a 12-volt 200l applicator for distributing most small seeds. The SP 200 comes with two control boxes, one in cab and one on the applicator, plus three rotors, low level sensor, eight outlets, 25m of pipe, eight spreader plates, 6m of brackets to fit the spreader plates in 1m lengths and either GPS or land wheel drive.
The Grass 300 starts at £7,200 and the SP 200 at £3,300 plus delivery and VAT.
The performance challenge
Profitability in livestock production is influenced by many factors. Many are outside a farm’s control – prevailing weather conditions, the political situation, output prices and legislative influences, says Abbey Machinery.
However, the company points out that many influences are within a farmer’s control – livestock performance (yield, live weight/carcass gain), labour efficiency, output quality for example.
From a feeding perspective stock tend to utilise 15–20 per cent of what they eat. The remainder comes out as waste, says the company.
Feed efficiency is how well the cow or beef animal converts what they eat into milk or live weight gain. Factors that influence this include the constituents of the diet, the presentation of the diet, animal health and husbandry factors. Abbey Machinery’s diet feeders, with their unique design (low auger profile and engineered shape) allow for optimum mixing, without over processing and all at minimal power demands. This has the effect of enhancing performance while also raising labour efficiency. In addition, the wide feed-out door on its range of 19 different diet feeders reduces feed out time, points out the business.
As the animal passes out 80–85 per cent of what it eats, this needs to be stored and spread in an efficient and labour saving manner. Abbey Machinery has a 6-step slurry management system to enhance slurry value. An animal typically produces 1.5t of slurry per month and this can save up to £10 of purchased fertiliser if applied correctly.
Abbey Machinery’s application technologies including band spreader, vertical trailing shoe and disc injector help improve the fertiliser efficiency of slurry; reduce its environmental impact and reduce odour while spreading.
As the time is now coming to apply slurry to silage ground, it is paramount it is applied based on field requirements and silage yield potential, concludes the company.
Navigating maize varieties
Growers of maize for biogas are faced with a wide choice of varieties for planting this season. KWS has launched a breeding programme for biogas-specific maize varieties for Northern Europe. The company’s John Burgess says that choosing an energy maize specific hybrid is the best way to ensure that production targets are met. Among the top priorities for most farms is to maximise methane production per hectare and to achieve yield and dry matter targets. Biogas growers will also be looking to produce a dry matter range of 27-31per cent, to promote optimum fermentation, as well as to maintain a retention figure of 50-100 days.
“KWS energy varieties have been selected for their ability to produce very high yields at a low production cost per tonne,” says John. “They have a range of maturity dates between FAO 220-260, in order to deliver a consistent feed supply throughout the harvest season.
“Other selection criteria for our energy-specific varieties are cold tolerance, vigour and standing ability. Varieties which meet our exacting breeding standards offer earliness of maturity, without the yield penalties which have historically been associated with varieties in this class. They also have excellent standing ability.
“A minority of farms may not be located in an area suitable for energy specific varieties and in these situations, we can advise on selecting a forage variety that will make a suitable substitute,” he adds.
Among the latest new varieties which KWS recommends for this season are Amaverde and Amaroc. Amaverde makes a good choice for growers who are looking to pull harvest forward, although it is also ideal for later-planting situations. With an FAO of 220, Amaverde is a high volume, semi-stay-green-type, with a yield potential of 55-60t/ha. Meanwhile, Amaroc matches the yield potential of Amaverde on favourable sites, also offering rapid early vigour and the opportunity to spread harvest and drilling windows on lighter land.
Grass-fed cheddar launched at Dairy-Tech
West Country cheese-maker Lye Cross Farm, based at Redhill near Bristol, launched its first 100 per cent grass-fed cheddar cheese at Dairy-Tech 2019 in early February. This has been created from milk produced by dairy cows that have never eaten any grains or cereals throughout their entire lifetime.
Genuine 100 per cent grass-fed dairy products have a healthier fat content, a more balanced omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acid profile, and additional vitamins and minerals, than milk from cows fed grains. This makes it a healthier cheese for people to eat, says the Pasture-Fed Livestock Association.
The organic milk from commercial producers Mat and Jessica Boley farming in Somerset and Jonny and Rachael Rider farming in Wiltshire, who are members of the Pasture-Fed Livestock Association (PFLA), is certified Pasture for Life. This means it has been independently audited as being from cows that have been 100 per cent grass-fed. Lye Cross Farm is also a certified Pasture for Life creamery.
New generation of silage trailers
One of Joskin’s most popular silage trailers has been updated.
Improvements to the Silo Space include a self-supporting structure replacing the previous double chassis. This makes the machine lighter while also increasing its body height by 200mm which offers a wider transport capacity.
The front wall of the trailer has been completely redesigned with a 22-deg slope (compared with 10-deg in the previous model) which increases the trailer’s capacity. The new joint system also means that the wall can now operate the unloading by pushing the contents. This function fits the new moving floor of the body, which is now operated by power take off that has been split in two pieces on its whole length to be able to provide 25 per cent faster unloading speed.
Meanwhile Joskin’s engineers have added hydraulic suspension as standard to make the machine more steady. The Silo Space 2 will be available to purchase this Spring.
Range expanded with bale handling kit
Gloucestershire manufacturer Albutt has updated its range.
The Albutt F470 Bale Grab is a heavy duty bale handler aimed at high intensity users. The side squeeze operation provides a simple tool for moving both square and round silage bales. Lateral movement of the clamp can be adjusted to allow for the largest possible range while keeping the frame width at a minimum. A heavy duty spill frame means a second square bale can be stacked. Bolt-on brackets mean that the bale handler can simply have the brackets swapped if the machine type is changed. If the machine has two hydraulic services to the attachment, both width adjustment and the clamp movement operations can be handled from the cab. If the machine only has one hydraulic service, the two three-way valves on the F470 can be manually operated to switch between width adjustment or clamp movement services.
The B812PPHX is a wider version of Albutt’s high capacity buckrake with Hardox tines. The new model is 12 feet wide and is designed to be used with high horse power tractors and wheeled loaders. The design features 14 Hardox high tensile steel tines, with a length of 1.65m.
New features for all 2016 Albutt buckrakes with Hardox tines include 5 top link hole positions and an increased hydraulic ram diameter which is now 75mm providing greater push off force. The hydraulic ram pivot pins have also been increased in diameter to 35mm and the tine holder top surface has been angled to prevent silage build up. A sub-frame for mounting on wheeled loader quick hitches is now available as an option.
Meanwhile the company’s range of shear buckets is designed to save time for the livestock farmer. This attachment allows the cutting of silage and handing of feed materials, eliminating the need to swap between bucket and shear grab. The shear bucket is designed to be used with telescopic handlers with a lift capacity from 3t. Larger and smaller capacity models will follow later in 2019.
Flexible and efficient feed storage system
Well proven in the UK for over 30 years, the AgBag System has numerous storage applications including grass, maize, wholecrop and grain (moist and dry).
It can be used for all other moist and alternative feeds says manufacturer AB Systems. The AgBags are available in sizes up to 200m in length and up to 4.5m in diameter. The most common size for moist grain is 1.5m diameter bags. The bags are made of strong plastic and are totally airtight says the company whose team of trained contractors offers a fast, efficient service at a fixed price.
The robust AgBag machines can fill the storage bags at up to 10t/minute. As the forage is bagged, it is conditioned to ensure minimum waste during a complete fermentation in cool, air-tight conditions. Dry matter losses are only 2% compared with 20% in many clamps.
The AgBag System has all the preservation benefits associated with extremely high-quality tower silage, but with less complications says AB. As the bags are laid down rather than upright, access is easier and it is possible to direct feed to stock easily. First-cut silage can be selectively bagged rather than buried with poorer second and third cuts, it says.
Year round grassland management
The grassland management system from Güttler Greenmaster has been in production for more than 14 years.
With features such as the ‘Quattro’ ripper board system, the Greenmaster is a completely modular solution which allows the possibility of adding an additional front Harroflex unit and/or Wox AerMaster Aerator to the 3m model, and is available from 1.8m for the compact tractor market up to 12m for the large scale farmer.
The Greenmaster allows the livestock and grass production farmer year round management for swards of all qualities and grades, with no discrimination to plough based systems, burnt off ground and overseeding within a growing crop.
Offering a range of seeder units allows this adaptable machine to be used to sow grains, small seed crops, and stubble turnips as well as meadow mix seed varieties.
With a standard hopper size of 410 litres, it’s a suitable capacity to carry around 100kg of grass seeds yet able to handle lower seed rates of clover and brassicas at around 1kg/acre. On request a smaller 200-litre hopper can be fitted, or the larger 660-litre hopper for the greater demands required for example when sowing grains.
Mission to boost milk from forage
Increasing milk produced from forage, and boosting business profitability as a result, is achievable on most UK dairy farms by setting realistic targets and focusing on improvements in key areas of grass silage making.
This was the headline message from an industry forage briefing, where speakers from Germinal and Volac reported on the results of a major new survey that shows an overwhelming desire by dairy farmers to improve production from forage, yet herd costings continue to show stagnation in this critical benchmark.
In a joint initiative to help dairy farmers, the companies launched their ‘Five for 500’ action plan – a focus on five key areas that can help deliver an extra 500 litres from forage.
“Our survey of over 200 dairy farmers showed they are virtually unanimous in their quest for higher milk from forage, with 98 per cent saying that performance in this area is either extremely important or very important to the future of their businesses,” said Germinal’s Helen Mathieu. “That makes absolute sense, because we know forage is the cheapest source of feed and herds with higher performance in this area are always highest ranked for profitability.
“The frustrating part, as shown in our survey, is that less than half of dairy farmers actually know what their milk from forage figure is, and fewer still have set themselves a target, despite declaring their desire to improve.”
Taking the survey results on board, Volac and Germinal are recommending a strategy of setting achievable targets and staying focused in their quest to improve.
“There’s been little movement in overall milk from forage, certainly over the past 10 years, so we’re recommending a fresh approach that we hope will help a good proportion of dairy farmers make real progress,” said Volac’s Peter Smith.
“For a good majority, grass silage is the mainstay of the forage ration, so we’re recommending a focus on specific areas within the grass silage production process, each of which has potential to deliver a significant uplift in milk from forage.
“We saw in our survey that around two-thirds of dairy farmers are not setting themselves a milk from forage improvement target. But for the one-third that are, the vast majority are aiming for up to an additional 500 litres. To achieve that target, cows will require an extra 8 megajoules per day coming from silage. So our recommended plan focuses on 5 areas within the grass silage making process where simple actions can make that extra energy available – and therefore deliver that additional 500 litres.”
Point number one is to plan a forage budget, highlighted Helen Mathieu. “Simple planning, based on the number of animals to be fed, target intakes and expected production per hectare will ensure the farm has enough silage of the right quality,” she said. “Planning of this nature, with contingency built in, could easily mean an additional 1kgDM/head of quality silage intake.
“Secondly, it’s vital to assess the raw material in the field, which means having a clear understanding of the potential performance of each of the fields ear-marked for silage making. Having this knowledge will allow the best decision making, and if that means a ley of higher quality ends up in the pit destined for the milking cow ration – as opposed to a poorer quality ley being ensiled – then that could raise the ME in silage by enough to make that significant difference.
“Thirdly, we’d always recommend renovating or replacing leys routinely, to maintain productivity and quality. There’s no question that the higher ME/ha possible from keeping the proportion of sown species in the leys high will easily translate into higher milk from forage.”
For point four, Peter Smith said the focus is on reducing in-field losses – most notably by ensuring grass is cut for silage before it comes into ear and by achieving efficient wilting.
“Each day after ear emergence, grass becomes less and less digestible, so its energy content for the cow declines. Similarly, the longer that grass is wilted, the greater the loss in its digestibility. The aim should be to wilt it as quickly as possible to 30 per cent dry matter, but not much beyond that,” he said.
“Finally, point five is to reduce ensiling losses. Using a quality additive has been proven to not only better preserve silage quantity but also quality – with analysis of 26 trials showing that for untreated silage with a digestibility of 65 D units, treating with Ecosyl gave an increase of four D units to the animal, which at a dry matter intake of 12kg/day, is the equivalent of an extra 8 megajoules of energy.
“We’re also urging farmers to calculate properly how much weight is needed for effective clamp consolidation. It’s easy to under-estimate this, but grass at 30 per cent dry matter coming into the clamp even at a normal 100t/hr requires 25t of machinery rolling it,” he added.
Scarifying harrow for the ‘heaviest of work’
The Kockerling Grasmaster is a scarifying harrow that is built for the professional user and contractors.
Use of the vertical double tine intensifies the effect on the ground, says the manufacturer. The 8mm thick tine is strong enough to withstand the heaviest of work while the curved tine spring top allows the vertical leg to move in every direction levelling and tearing out dead grass. The 60 tines per tine field produce a tine spacing of 2.5cm.
Each tine field follows the ground contours independently. This ensures that the whole field is worked equally even at high speeds. A hydraulic cylinder on the wheel/parallelogram can adjust the working depth and the aggressiveness of the tines. Aggressive settings are ideal for aerating pastures. Less aggressive settings are particularly suitable for reseeding.
When working in grassland with molehills or dried dung pats the height adjustable cross boards level the molehills and break up the dung pats leaving a much better finish. The cross boards are not fixed over the whole width of the machine but are divided up into sections. This allows optimum adaption to the ground contours.
A mounted seeder is an option. The fan is powered by a PTO shaft which ensures a constant strong flow of air creating even distribution of seeds. The seed is delivered down eight tubes in to the tine fields where the vibration of the tines spreads the seed over the whole working width.
The Grasmaster is available in 3 and 6m working widths.