Maize Harvest and Feed Markets Update
The recent hot weather has really accelerated maize development. Some farms are already harvesting earlier planted maize with dry matters increasing significantly in the last two weeks. However, maize crops are variable across the South-West which highlights the challenges of the growing year with a very dry start to the season, followed by prolonged wet periods. A number of plants were heat-stressed at emergence, and this has affected entire crops in some cases.
There was a great deal of concern about forage stocks earlier this summer following prolonged dry spells in May and June. July and August brought some much-needed rain which encouraged grass growth and has improved forage stocks. However, quality is extremely variable. Making maize harvest extremely important this year.
When assessing maize crops, the quickest and easiest test to gauge the dry mature and maturity of the crop is the “milk-line” test. This test involves collecting a number of random cobs through the field and assessing kernels to see where the milk-line meets the starch. This test helps to give an indicator of crop maturity and dry matter content. The diagram below explains how this milk line moves down through the crop as it becomes more mature:
Image Credit: https://www.researchgate.net
When harvesting maize, target dry matters should be between 31-35%, to achieve this, the milk line needs to be 1/3rd or ½ way down the kernel. Sometimes it can be difficult to see the milk line, so take a kernel halfway down the cob and see if milk comes out when squeezed. If watery or milky then wait, if creamy then harvest within a week. With some plants dying, it might be worth cutting when the grains are only just creamy, or the entire crop could be too dry, and mould could become a problem on the face.
Similar to last year, we have seen a real variety of maize crops on farm. Lots of plants have double and even triple cobs in some cases which can be attributed to heat stress. Before harvesting, it will be important to compare a large number of cobs to obtain a representative sample. It is also possible that crops could reach the desired dry matter without reaching the desired height or density.
It is important to remember to base harvesting decisions on the dry matter and grain stage of the cob. Allowing the kernels to over-mature will result in a reduction in starch digestibility and increases the likelihood of unprocessed kernels to reach the clamp.
It is therefore advisable to check your maize crops early and thoroughly, as harvesting could well be earlier than expected!
Following a turbulent few seasons in the feed markets, prices have largely stabilised and reduced in some cases. The Ukraine/Russia war is still very much a factor in markets; however, we are also seeing other factors at play.
The energies market is best described as two-tiered, with a lot of offsetting factors. The Russia/Ukraine war is still influencing markets, however, Ukrainian grain is still reaching the market and is being exported via rail/road with increased exports through the Danube ports. It is still unknown whether these export routes will be able to cope with demand.
Lower quality grain from the EU harvest will add a premium to milling markets. There are also reports of a tightening wheat supply in Australia and Canada. Nevertheless, VERY competitive Russian exports combined with a large maize supply forecast to reach the market, has kept a ceiling on energy markets.
Protein markets have been largely driven by weather and crop stock reports. Global rapeseed markets are well supplied coming into the winter. However, poor weather conditions in the US particularly have reduced the quality of soybean crops, resulting in stronger prices which have kept markets elevated.
The good news is that longer term, large soybean crops from South America are expected, which will likely reduce the headline prices. So, covering proteins for next spring/summer is not advisable at the moment.
For any help in assessing crops or discussing forage or feed requirements for the winter, then please don’t hesitate to get in touch!
Office 01454 614624