Maize demand strong but planting down marginally on 2018

Goldcrop's Dave Barry with six weeks old examples of two of the cheapest cover crop options under GLAS: fodder rape and mustard

High volumes of maize are expected to be used by dairy and beef farmers this year, with over 16,000ha planted, industry sources have predicted.

Dave Barry of Goldcrop forecast a continued high usage of maize, although he expects plantings to be down on 2018.

Last year, close to 18,000ha of maize was sown, up more than 50pc on the 11,000ha planted in 2017, as a result of the late spring and fears of fodder shortages this winter.

It is expected between 16,000ha and 17,000ha will be sown this year.

While Mr Barry expects sowings to drop back from the high levels of 2018, he said the continuing lift in cow numbers meant that a significant reduction in the total maize acreage was unlikely.

He pointed out that many ­farmers had used all available fodder stocks this winter and needed to put a reserve in place again. This view is shared by Ciaran Collins of Teagasc who commented that many farmers were looking at the back wall of their silage pits this month and making plans to address the situation.

Higher stocking levels, particularly on dairy holdings, means that increasing the acreage of silage is not an option for many farmers, Mr Barry explained.

In these circumstances, maize made sense on owned or rented ground away from the milking platform, he argued.

However, Ollie Carter of Connolly’s Red Mills in Goresbridge, Kilkenny maintained that a shortage of suitable land could limit the area available for maize.

Most tillage growers who planted maize last year have gone back into cereals this spring, he said, adding that rental ground is both scarce and expensive.

Maize crops performed exceptionally well last year, yielding around 25t/ac of whole-crop, or 11-13t/ac dry matter. Maize sowings peaked in 2009 when close to 25,000ha of the crop was planted.