10 May 1996

CONTRACTORS SEE A SQUARE SHAPE FUTURE

Glamorgan, S Wales, isnt the obvious place to expect to see big square bales in action. But two Bridgend farmer-contractors are finding a ready supply of customers for their baling and wrapping service, says Robert Davies found out

GLAMORGAN brothers Richard and Peter Anthony are convinced that many farmers will follow their lead and switch to making silage in big square bales.

Their confidence is based on experience using the system at Cwm Risca, the 263ha (650-acre) less favoured area farm they own near Bridgend, and the reaction of customers to their contract baling service. So sure are they that they have invested almost £100,000 in two New Holland D1010s.

Their successful use of big square bales was acknowledged over the winter when they won the Federation of Welsh Grassland Societies first all-Wales big bale silage competition. The winning material had an ME of 11.5 mega joules/kg of dry matter, 16.5% crude protein and very low ammonia nitrogen.

The Anthony family bought the unit at auction six years ago, though it was previously managed by Richard. Originally clamp silage was made for sheep and beef cattle, but big round bales were first made a decade ago, as a way of mopping up small areas of mowable grass during the season, and for third-cut.

Unusually for the area, and with land running from the 105m contour to around 225m (350 to 850ft), 52.6ha of cereals are grown. Richard Anthony was never happy about storing and utilising straw in round bales, so seven years ago he bought a £35,000 D1000 square baler specifically for straw.

He was encouraged by the prospect of making denser, easier to stack bales, and the promise of contracting work from a farmer who leased beef bulls to the farm. Because the machine was available, 1000 of the first 13,000 bales made were grass silage. No wrapper was available at the time for the 0.6m x 0.9 square bales, so protecting stacks involved fiddly double sheeting.

However, the incidence of mould was reduced because the bales were denser, transport, stacking and feeding was much simpler. Less silage ended up under animals feet, and stock performed better than on clamp silage. Mr Anthony attributes this to a 15% increase in dry matter as a result of halving field and storage losses. This gain more than offsets the cost of wrapping.

"Because we do not have to cut a large area to fill a clamp, we have far greater closing-off and grazing flexibility, and can wait until the weather is right to cut," he says. "Our silaging season can start in mid-May and continue with cuts every five weeks, or whenever grass of the right quality and length is available, right though to October."

The brothers have even made excellent silage for contract customers in November when it was necessary to wait for frost to clear from swaths.

Following early success, they bought two £49,000 D1010s two years ago. These machines have the advantage that they make bales that are even squarer – 81.2cm x 91.44 cm (32in x 36in) – than the old machines. Bales measuring up to 2.7m (9ft) long are made, and customers can choose the dimensions they want.

Each year one machine is shipped to Oxfordshire for about four weeks to bale about 526ha (1300 acres) of straw bought in the field. Last year 188 articulated lorry loads of straw were baled and transported back to south Wales. Some of the straw is used at home, some goes to the farm which first used the partners square bale service, and the rest is sold.

At Cwm Risca all silage is now made as big square bales. The additive Ecobale is applied and the system has now been adopted by most of the customers using the contracting service. This operates over a 20-mile radius, and involves mainly beef and sheep farmers, though a growing number of dairy farmers are taking second and third cuts as big bales.

"As clamps wear out, or need expensive maintenance to comply with anti-pollution regulations, more dairy farmers will try big square bales, and quickly realise the advantages," says Peter Anthony, who is assuming day-to-day management of the contracting business.

This is due to expand to include the full range of cultivations, spraying and muck spreading. &#42

Above:Richard and Peter Anthony won the Federation of Welsh Grassland Societies first all-Wales big bale silage competition. Above right and right: Richard Anthony says as clamps wear out or need expensive maintenance, more dairy farmers will try big square bales.

Richard and Peter Anthony with father David. All silage on their own farm is now made in bales.

Compared to clamp silage, big square bales are denser, so theres less chance of mould, say the brothers. They are easier to transport, too.