In terms of the cost per unit of feed value, beet is the cheapest conserved crop to grow, according to Goldcrop’s Dave Barry. Maize grown without plastic follows and first-cut silage is in third place.
The main message coming from Barry, who spoke at the company’s Maize & Beet Trials 2017 open day, was that maize and beet crops complement each other.
Maize is a high-yielding alternative to grass silage; beet is a high-energy alternative to concentrates, the Goldcrop Grass and Forage Crops Manager added.
Grass silage will always be the biggest feed because, on a lot of farms, it fits perfectly with normal management practices.
“If you have a comfortable stocking rate, you can make your silage off the block that you’re on. You shouldn’t be growing maize in that scenario.
“You should be taking first-cut and maybe second-cut silage to satisfy your requirements. Maize and beet really fit where stocking rates are high and people are pushing production forward,” he said.
Cutting grass silage off land away from the main farm pushes up machinery costs. This comes as there are two or three separate harvest days; just one day of harvesting is required for beet or maize.
In addition, when growing away from the farm, transport can be made more efficient by carrying high dry matter and high-energy crops. On rented land in particular, it’s important to keep costs down.
The Goldcrop representative also gave a breakdown of the cost per 1,000UFL (unit of feed for lactation) utilised of forage crops in Ireland. Using this energy value allows farmers to measure the actual feed value of the crop.
As an example, there are 1,000UFL in 1t of barley at 14% moisture and this is the measurement used to compare the different forage crops.
Grazed grass, when managed well, costs €58/1,000UFL on owned land; where this land is rented, at a cost of €200/ac, the cost rises to €108/1,000UFL.
Maize silage grown with plastic works out at a cost of €138/1,000UFL on owned land and €181/1,000UFL on rented land.
On owned land, maize without plastic costs €131/1,000UFL; first-cut silage works out at €132/1,000UFL; and wholecrop wheat costs €145/1,000UFL.
Second-cut silage actually worked out as the dearest option at €157/1,000UFL on owned land and €217/1,000UFL on rented ground.
It should be noted that the crop yields used in these costs were based on the average of a number of years. Inputs, such as reseeding and lime, were also averaged to give an annual cost.