2 February 1996

Maize has no place for one Cornish enthusiast

DESPITE its numerous advantages, maize will not be grown again in the near future by grazed grass enthusiast Ben Mead.

He told the conference that after three years experience with maize, its disadvantages in his system outweighed its benefits.

Future development plans for his dairy farm, Pengreep, Cornwall, were based on the belief that grazed grass was the cheapest feed available for cows, at about £25/t dry matter. In good years and with benefit of arable aid, maize silage could be cheaper.

He had started growing maize because it promised more consistent silage quality than grass, was cheaper than grass silage, could make use of fields too far from the parlour to be grazed by cows, was an opportunity to plough in slurry. It was also drought resistant, could be followed by catch crop Italian ryegrass, and balanced high quality grazed grass very well.

But, said Mr Mead, he had to remember his long-term objective of using grazed grass to the full, keeping housing and slurry costs to a minimum, and having a simple system with as little drudgery as possible.

In that context, maize complicated life considerably, encouraged longer housing and more slurry production, and had to be supplemented with costly high protein concentrates which this year had already risen from £176/t to £199/t. He felt the risk of crop failure was higher with maize than with grass, and the cashflow for a maize crop was not so good as for grazed grass. The cost of maize silage was influenced by arable aid, which could not be relied on.

While accepting that maize silage could be cheaper and more consistent in quality than grass silage, that feature was less relevant when he planned to run a system in which only minimal amounts of silage were needed.

Extended grazing was an essential part of the system, and that needed as big a grazing area as possible. &#42

Maize silage at Pengreep

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