Farmer Focus: Starch getting dearer, so upping maize acreage

The world appears to have stumbled from one disaster to another, with headlines about Covid-19 making way for those about Ukraine.

The situation is developing so fast, who knows where we will be by the time this goes to print?

This is traditionally the quietest time of year for us. The diversifications on the farm have made the summer even busier, so we took the opportunity to have a family holiday.

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About the author

Tom Stable
Tom Stable and family, Ulverston, Cumbria, milk 300 Holsteins twice a day, producing milk for Arla and ice cream for their Cumbrian Cow brand. The 215ha operation, of which half is rented, grows grass, maize, and winter wheat. Cows average 10,800 litres.
Read more articles by Tom Stable

It’s been two years since we got away properly, and the break did us all good.

The farm was cared for by our very capable team, who managed to lift milk production by more than 500 litres a day while I was enjoying the sun. Maybe I should get out of their way more often.

We’ve attributed the lift in production to finally finishing feeding last year’s first-cut silage and moving onto a mix of third and fourth cuts.

The first cut analysed exceptionally well, but it has never allowed the cows to produce like the analysis would suggest.

The pit started to slip before we had even opened it and has continued to do so all winter. We can only assume this has affected their intakes.

Every single input has jumped significantly in price but, for once, so has the milk price.

Arla has done very well in pushing through increases, but it will be a while before the dust settles enough to allow us all to work out if we are any better off.

A few local farmers are looking to buy silage, but with inputs at this level it’s a commodity people are very reluctant to part with.

I have taken the decision to increase my maize area by approximately 16ha (40 acres). The input inflation has affected maize far less than grass.

My sums suggest maize will cost about £98/ha (£40/acre) more to grow this year, but the fertiliser price increase alone will add £308/ha (£125/acre) to the cost of growing grass.

With the troubles in the east of Europe, it’s looking like a very expensive year to be buying starch, so hopefully this decision should mitigate that to some extent.