Figures from Teagasc show that break-even yields of 25.2t/ac for beet and 16.5t/ac for maize grown in the open are needed in 2023. Above these yields, these crops can be quite profitable.
Maize reaching 20t/ac, for example, can have a gross margin of €353/ac, while it is estimated that beet at 30t/ac could have a gross margin of €240/ac.
The figures can be seen in Table 1 and were based on figures and estimates available ahead of publishing in January 2023.
It should be noted that the maize figures are based on maize grown in the open, without the new alternative to maize plastic.
Transport costs are not factored into the figures for maize.
It is no surprise that costs have increased dramatically to produce both crops.
Looking at beet, material costs were at €600/ac in 2022 and increased to €699/ac in 2023.
Hire of machinery increased from €292/ac to €324/ac, while miscellaneous costs went from €203/ac to €237/ac.
Total variable costs for beet were €1,095/ac in 2022 and increased to €1,260/ac in 2023. That’s an increase of 15%.
Maize grown in open
Looking at maize grown in the open, material costs have increased from €481/ac in 2022 to €565/ac in 2023. Hire of machinery went from €292/ac to €324/ac and miscellaneous costs went from €17/ac to €20/ac.
Total variable costs went from €790/ac in 2022 to €909/ac in 2023.
That’s an increase of 15% as well.
When deciding what forage crops to plant it is important to consider a number of options.
First of all, you should think about what time you have and what work is needed to grow these crops. Is there a farmer you could work with who would grow forage for your farm? That farmer may have the machinery and the skills of growing crops like maize, beet or whole crop, for example.
Cost per 1,000 UFL
Grazed grass is the cheapest forage that can be grown when looking at dry matter utilisation and UFL values (the energy used). However, over the past number of years, beet has come a close second on UFL utilised.
In 2022, where there was no land rental costs, Goldcrop placed the cost of grazed grass at €107/t of dry matter (DM) and €107 per 1,000 UFL utilised.
Fodder beet, when washed and chopped, was put at a cost of €181/t of DM and €157/t per 1,000 UFL utilised.
When beet is grazed, it moved to €154/t of dry matter utilised and €140/1,000 UFL utilised.
The standard plastic used on maize crops here in Ireland, which is oxo-degradable plastic, was banned on 3 July 2021 as part of a ban on single-use plastic by the EU.
Farmers could use up stocks of the product and merchants were allowed to sell product that was in stock, but it is expected that from this season on, the bulk of maize will either be planted with the new compostable film or in the open.
The new film does not last as long. Trials seen by the Irish Farmers Journal show it degrades in about six weeks, which should be long enough to get it off the ground. In previous years, approximately 90% of all maize grown in Ireland was grown under plastic.