As a farmer and long established straw merchants in East Anglia, I feel it’s time large heavily subsidised grain farmers started co-operating more with the sale of straw at harvest to be baled for its many uses.
Feed and bedding are the obvious uses, but now in East Anglia the four straw power stations take nearly one million tonnes a year and this is creating further massive knock-on expense to the thousands of livestock farms, which incidentally receive little or no subsidy payments from the national pot from the EU.
We bale large acreages of straw annually largely for livestock farms nationally, combined with the bad weather at harvest this year and the increasing difficulties in buying large amounts behind the combines, as with most merchants are down in stocks by 40 per cent.
This translates into very high prices delivered onto livestock farms, which increasingly cannot be justified when meat and milk prices are struggling, and may create animal welfare problems in some livestock farms in the wet west and northern areas of Britain.
Straw is an essential commodity, a by-product and is required in increasingly larger quantities, locally for uses: feed, bedding, mushroom compost, carrot bed covering for frost protection and increasingly for fuel in energy plants and power stations.
The large modern balers and handling machinery allow procurement to blend perfectly at harvest today so it’s a quick efficient operation. As usually only just over half the cereal straw in any field is baled and removed, there is always the stubble/chaff remains that re-enters the soil with cultivation with much less risk of slug attacks to the following crop.
Removal of excess straw by baling will result in less slug activity on heavier damper soils and less toxic chemicals entering the ground water and wildlife food chain when controlling slug problems.
Farmers need to work together and facilitate each other to prosper nationally.