* Research also shows farming community needs greater support in recycling waste *
The majority of farmers (64%) said they were taking their waste for disposal to licensed sites in the 2006 season, showing a strong trend towards the outsourcing of waste disposal to external businesses. Among the few farmers who were able recycle on site, the majority felt that the new legislation resulted in them spending more time and more money.
Figure 1 - What methods do you use for the disposal of agricultural waste?
Mark Saurin, silage market development manager for Dow Europe, said: ‘Waste management remains high on the agenda and continues to present many challenges to those working in agriculture. There is still a great deal to be done, but hopefully farmers and contractors can work with manufacturers and government agencies to make this transition period as smooth as possible.”
Baled silage remains farmer’s first choice
Again, baling silage continued to be the firm favourite of the farming community during the 2006 season. As has been the trend in the past four seasons, nearly all respondents (98%) baled at least some of the grass they ensiled in 2006, and two thirds of these baled a substantial proportion of their ensiled grass (81-100%).
Numbers of those using the clamp system remained predictably low, in keeping with previous trends - only 35% of respondents now use any form of clamping, and the number of those clamping exclusively was negligible.
Figure 2 - Of the grass area you ensiled last year approximately what percentage did you bale/clamp?
As Dow’s Mr. Saurin explains: “The strong popularity of baling reflects its many benefits: the high quality fodder that usually surpasses that of clamp silage, the flexibility brought to handling and feeding systems, and the economic advantages of limited capital investment and low levels of losses during production and storage.”
Indeed, this year, pest damage and poor handling were most frequently blamed for spoilt bales, with just under a third of respondents attributing spoilage to poor storage practices. Only 20% blamed film or wrapper failure.
Mark Saurin advises: “Human error is frequently cited as the key factor behind bail spoilage. However, there is a lot of preventative action that can be taken to ensure that this kind of accidental damage is limited. The main thing to do is to check for damage immediately after wrapping and to ensure that bales are transported carefully with special purpose-built handlers and proper vehicles. Storing bales properly can also help to reduce a lot of unnecessary wastage - bales should be stored on a level, smooth, hard surface, in an environment that is cool and dry. Furthermore if possible, bales should be protected from birds and rodents, for example by covering with a close-mesh net.”
Rise in silage for beef cattle
Grass silage and haylage were the dominant crops that respondents were making bales for, mentioned by 85% and 69% respectively. In contrast, the next most frequently mentioned crop - wholecrop cereal - was only cited by 14%.
Interestingly, Dow’s survey recorded a marked shift in the type of livestock for which respondents were baling silage. Almost 80% of respondents said they were baling silage for beef cattle, which is almost double the number from the 2005 season. After this, the next most frequently mentioned livestock groups were suckler cows and horses – mentioned by 59% and 50% respectively.
‘It is noteworthy that a changing trend has been detected in the livestock areas on which farmers seem to be focussing. It makes sense, given the difficulties dairy farming is suffering at present, that more farmers are turning their attentions to rearing cattle for beef.”
Figure 3 - What are the main livestock enterprises for which you bale silage?
Independent haylage production proves popular
The rise of haylage continues from the 2005 season. Half of all respondents (50%) were making it for both their own use and also for that of customers - mainly the equestrian industry. In particular, haylage for equine competition yards almost doubled this year, showing sharply growing awareness amongst owners and riders of the proven benefits in terms of performance and helping respiratory problems.
Saurin comments: “It is great to hear that the message about haylage is getting through to consumers, as it brings so many benefits: its high fibre nutritional content provides a good source of energy, and it is also easy to store and handle. Furthermore, the low dust count of haylage means it is an indispensable feed, particularly when horses are in transit.”
Rising trend for mixing wrap colours
Finally, Dow’s survey discovered that fewer respondents were using black film exclusively in 2006, with the figure dropping from 50% in 2005 to 34% in 2006. Only one in ten used white film at all in either season, but the number of those using green film at all increased from 43% in 2005 to 59% in 2006.
Figure 4 - Those using different coloured films last season
“This suggests that consumers are starting to realise the benefits of using other colours of film. Although the pigments used mean green films have a small price premium, they are increasing in popularity because of their ability to blend into the landscape. They also avoid the high temperatures generated inside black bales exposed to strong sunlight. Heating leads to loss of nutritional value and potentially to spoilage in the conserved silage”.
Saurin concludes: “Overall, this survey provides a promising and interesting insight into the silage market. On behalf of Dow, I would like to thank all of those who participated – we find this type of consumer research invaluable for the development and innovation of our technology.”
For practical tips and tools to get the most out of your silage, please visit: http://www.dow.com/silage/about.htm
About the survey:
In this season’s survey responses increased phenomenally by 297%, for a total of 211 respondents. This year there was much greater input from farmers, with 54% categorising themselves as Farmer / Contractors (54%) and a quarter as agricultural contractors (25%).