This month, our ‘Over the hedgerow’ contributor is Rob Moore from Benbrook Farm, Rugeley, Staffordshire.
Rob, in partnership with father Andrew, run a farming and contracting business in Staffordshire. In recent years, the contracting operations have focused on providing specialised services to livestock farmers centred around making best use of home grown or locally sourced feeds.
- 445 acres split over 2 farms, 150 acres of maize, 40 acres of spring barley, 135 acres of temporary grass leys, 80 acres of permanent pasture, 40 acres of potato land rented out, turnips/cover crops are grown where possible prior to potatoes and maize.
- 100 head of beef cattle all fed on home grown feeds.
- Crops are grown for home consumption and also supplied dairy farmers throughout winter months.
- 2500 acres of straw is brought in the swath and delivered off the field or stored for delivery through winter
Another wet day here in Staffordshire, not that it’s been any different since the middle of September following what was described as a tricky corn/straw harvest. As for the maize harvest it’s still not finished yet!
In mid-November we took the decision to swap our corn mill for a higher-output Korte 1000 because we could see an opportunity in the market that something was going to have to be done with all this maize that hadn’t been got with the forager.
Contracting is the main part of our business and we are having to move with the times as livestock farming practices in the area are constantly changing with no 2 years being the same. Having successfully chopped all the maize we had lined up, apart from a few wet patches in a few fields, we were then approached by a couple of farmers where we go straw milling (In 2018 we purchased a Teagle c12 and now process 2800 tonnes of straw per year) asking if we could crimp their maize if they were able to get it combined.
This encouraged us to team-up with another local contractor, Lee Gilbert, who purchased a maize header for his combine, to provide a complete harvesting and processing service for grain maize. We have then worked together, and with Michael Carpenter from Kelvin Cave, to do the job to our best ability. We have recommended and supplied CrimpSafe 300 and involved Michael for the technical support and knowledge so that we could pass it on to the farmer. In some cases we’ve been getting the farmers to talk direct to ‘the man in the know.’
Because of the cabbage-stem flea beetle problem maize is becoming a crop that more and more people are wanting to grow and have in their rotation instead of rape, but it’s getting frowned upon when farmers are leaving stubbles bare over winter and cause water run-off and nitrate leaching. This is something being looked at heavily around us by a local water company, South Staffs Water (SSW). We are working with Nina Yiannoukos-Benton from SSW and fitting an inter-row precision grass drilling kit to our Vaderstad Tempo 8 maize drill to help with the challenges the industry and SSW are facing.
With very little winter corn having been drilled and a limited choice of varieties, or high seed cost making the ‘easy option’ of spring barley less attractive, as well as extra maize we will undoubtedly see more peas and beans grown. In order to harvest these crops as early as possible we intend to be fully equipped to offer whole-cropping, crimping or Propcorn NC treatments to our customers.
On the home farm the last few years has seen change. We had 130 pedigree/pure bred Simmental suckler cows and kept all followers through to strong stores. However, the return from keeping a cow for a year for 1 calf wasn’t stacking up so we have now restructured what we do. We are now buying in weaned calves, trying to stick to native breeds such as Angus x and Hereford x with named sires, and taking them through to strong stores or finishing them depending on where the market is at the time and where we see profit.
Weaned calves come on to the farm and we get them on a diet of first cut haylage and a mix of milled straw (10mm-15mm chop length), barley, beans, soya and molasses. This creates a palatable ration which gets the rumen working from an early age. They then go onto home grown forage as they get older whilst being grazed in summer on permanent pasture that is in an environmental scheme because it isn’t fit to be ploughed up.
We have also prided ourselves in offering a very good forage-harvesting service for our customers and were one of the first contractors in the area to invest in a SilaPactor. This has proved to be a good investment, with most famers seeing a great benefit in using it. We currently chop a total of around 3200 acres of grass, whole crop and maize.
Something we are looking to do in the future is to fit additive applicators on the two balers we bale most of the silage with. We have had some of our customers asking us about this.
We know that Michael and Andy Lee from Kelvin Cave Ltd will look after our customers in the same way we do and, hopefully, by working with them we can grow our new crimping service as well as improve the results our customers get from their forages.
We don’t just want to turn up and do a job, we want to provide the best possible service for our customers. We know that margins are tight and feel that making the best use of what you can grow yourselves, and not have to rely as heavily on processed or imported feeds, has helped us with the beef enterprise at home and will help them too.