Tillage focus: New pellet mill for 180,000t of Irish grain
The new pelleting mill at Quinns of Baltinglass is a sign of the confidence that the merchant has in Irish agriculture. The expansion of the mill is driven by the growth of the dairy sector and the need for a fully traceable food chain.
Quinns buys approximately 180,000t of cereal grains from Irish farmers each year and all cereals used in the mill are Irish.
AgriLand took a tour of the new mill on a snowy evening last week and spoke to David Shortall, agri sales manager, about the expansion.
“It’s a brand new pelleting plant adjoining to what was our coarse ration plant here in Baltinglass. The expansion in the dairy industry was certainly part of the reason for the new mill, but also to supply our beef and sheep farmers with the option of pellets.
“As we are based in Co. Wicklow, we work with a lot of sheep farmers in the area. The new pelleting plant is a commitment to the entire livestock sector and also the future of the tillage sector in Ireland.
“We always had coarse rations and we had a third-party supplier of pellets for a number of years. We are now completely in control of everything that goes into our mixes and the quality and specifications that we’re producing.
“We are using only the best-quality protein, energy and fibre sources and Irish-grown cereals are the base of all our rations and pellets.”
There is a big focus on using Irish produce and the company uses cereals and beans grown by its own customers. On this, Shorthall said: “We’re using the same straights in our coarse ration plant as we are in our pelleting plant.
“We are using as much Irish barley as possible and we have Irish oats and Irish wheat in our mixes as well.
On average, all of our feed mixes would include 40% Irish-grown ingredients and this could go as high as 60% in some cases.
“Wheat is being used as a binder, whereas a lot of mills would use palm kernel and other binders. We’re using 5-6% wheat to help bind the pellets.
“Quinns is one of the largest buyers of Irish grain in the country at somewhere over 180,000t every year. It’s all locally produced barley from across Leinster that’s going into our rations and pellets,” he said.
Quinns’ rations and feed mixes are simple and consist of seven-to-eight ingredients. Only the essentials – such as maize and soya bean – are bought in for high energy and high protein dairy rations.
“Soya bean meal; soya hulls; maize; maize and wheat distillers; beet pulp; and maize gluten – that’s really it.
“We’re keeping our rations and nuts as simple as possible by using high levels of Irish cereals and keeping the ingredients to seven or eight across the board.
“With the coarse rations, propionic acid treated barley is used. Dried barley is used in the pellets.”
Ingredients vary with the desired ration. Cereals and beans are used as a protein source as much as possible. But – where high protein is needed – soya bean is used to achieve this.
Shortall also stated that there is a demand from farmers for maize rations, which are high in energy. Given this, maize has to be imported.
“Depending on the protein content of the ration, we’re using upwards of 30% barley in some mixes. In some of our sheep mixes, we’re using over 50% Irish produce between barley and oats.
“We use beans grown in Ireland. The biggest limiting factor in a dairy diet is that you can only go to a certain level with beans – especially if you’re trying to get to a very high protein diet. Soya bean is key to get up to a 24-28% balancer.”
Quinns uses as much locally-sourced protein as possible and Shortall believes farmers are seeing the benefits in their rotations.
“The amount of beans that we’ve handled and worked with has increased over the years. We’re trying to use as much beans as we possibly can in both the coarse rations and in the pellets. The acreage has gone up by default to a certain extent through the three crop rule and the protein payment.
“The growers that we work with would probably say that beans were one of the best paying crops in the year and that’s without looking at the long-term benefits of growing beans in the rotation.”
Irish tillage sector
The Quinns representative emphasised the importance of the Irish tillage sector and the ability to have traceable feed ingredients.
“The Irish tillage sector is the basis of our feed rations and, being one of the largest buyers of Irish-produced cereals, pulses and oilseed rape in the country, we feel very strongly that the tillage sector remains and remains strong.
The proof of the pudding is in the eating and we’re putting as much Irish cereals and beans in our rations and nuts as possible.
“The world market is going to continue to be dictated by places like Ukraine and Russia. However, I think we have to look at what we’re doing in terms of the crops that we’re growing and what we’re doing as tillage farmers to try and be more sustainable.
“I don’t think there’s a quick fix solution to the tillage sector. Looking forward, I think we need to change our mindset a little rather than just focusing on one crop.
“We need to focus on a rotation and have break crops in there to try and maximise overall yield from cereal crops.
“Quinns would have been involved in oilseed rape for a number of years when other companies weren’t. We’re firm believers in having rotations.
“We want to purchase Irish-grown beans and oilseed rape and we have the agronomists on the road to help grow the crop and the nutritionist to help with the diet.”
Shortall has noticed an increase in meal being supplied to merchants that Quinns deal with in the west of Ireland, but not a major increase.
We deal with some merchants in the west of Ireland and we are seeing an increase in demand from that part of the country.
“Meal sales are up a bit. It’s a combination of things. There is more dairy cows and more winter milk. We will probably see the fodder crisis when we get into the month of March.
“Although the fodder crisis hasn’t affected farmers just yet in this part of the country; now is the time to plan to stretch your silage into the spring,” he said.