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Question mark over future of maize production

WITH one of the wettest summers on record already having made this autumn's maize harvest one of the most challenging for years, independent business consultants are now also questioning the longer term potential of the crop in the UK because of its low dry matter and protein yield.

"In our area, many dairy farmers grossly overestimate the tonnage of dry matter in their maize silage clamp," says Adrian Caine from P&L AgriConsulting, based in Shropshire. "And this year it's particularly noticeable – some units we work with have thought they had harvested around six or seven tonnes of dry matter, when it's actually more like three or four.

"There is a fair amount of soil contamination in clamps this year. We are seeing quite a lot of bloat – which could suggest listeria and clostridia problems."

In addition, Mr Caine says that with the costs of bought-in protein continuing to escalate and straw breaking through the £100 per tonne barrier, a lot of farms would be far better off using their maize land for growing mature cereals such as wheat, barley or oats. "On a cost basis, the dry matter of maize, grass for silage and cereals are about the same – but with the alkaline preservation of cereal grains you have more control over the nutritional value of the crop, as well as the opportunity to gain more spin-off benefits," he added.

A consultation on the implementation of the EU Dairy Package was launched by the Scottish Government yesterday. The package regulations includes enabling milk producers to set up producer organisations.

The consultation is available at www.scotland.gov.uk/publications/2012/12/7799 and runs until January 21.

Lawrie and Symington Ltd sold 29 prime heifers in Lanark on Monday to a top of 248p per kg and an average of 228.2p, while 12 prime, beef-bred bullocks peaked at 240p and levelled at 212.7p. Seven prime, B&W bullocks averaged 170p.

In the rough ring, 37 beef cows averaged 128p, while 44 dairy cows levelled at 107p. Seventeen OTM cattle averaged 134p.

The firm also held its annual Christmas show and sale of prime lambs when there were 81 pens of three entered. The championship was awarded to a trio of BeltexX from Robert Hamilton, Mid Shawtonhill, Strathaven that scaled 49kg each and sold for £200 per head or 404.2p per kg. The 3050 prime lambs sold levelled at 150p (-10p on the week).

The 656 cast sheep forward were topped by a Texel ram at £106.50, while ewes sold to £104.50 for Texels and £55.50 for Blackfaces. The overall average levelled at £47.42.

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