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John Shepherd

Gloucestershire mixed farmer with dog kennels business

From dairy to dogs

"I gave up dairy farming in 2004. I had 60 dairy cows and had to make the decision to get big or get out. I decided to farm beef and corn, which I still do, but the real success came in 2006 when I diversified by building dog kennels, and this new business really took off.

"It got really busy in the kennels during the summer, and this was hard to manage during harvest time. I wanted to keep farming the land myself, but I needed a viable crop that wasn't labour intensive, and saw an advert in the paper about a miscanthus meeting. I went to the meeting and met Mike Cooper, the southern region manager for Terravesta. Mike had been involved with the crop for a number of years, and explained that once planted and established it requires no inputs, minimum labour, and it can go on yielding for over 20 years."

Miscanthus diversification

"We planted 16 hectares in 2007 and then a further eight hectares in 2008, on medium loam land. Its good quality land, but it has a river running through it, meaning six hectares of low lying land is at risk of flooding. This doesn't make a jot of difference to the miscanthus, whereas it would ruin a corn crop completely."

Minimal labour time and cost

"The miscanthus crop needs little or no inputs once planted, although it requires good seedbed preparation. I took a lot of time preparing a deep fine bed, and this meant it established well.

"The 2015 harvest yielded 14 tonnes per hectare, and the bales had an average moisture content of 12%. Bales need to be below 16% to get the best payback. We cut the crop in April and once it's been through a forage harvester, it dries quickly. We leave it to dry for at least five days and then bale it and store it in the barns until it's collected. We contract out the minimal labour, and I can cut and bale it all within a week."

Working with Terravesta

"I supply Terravesta, who pellet the bales for power generation. I don't know what the future is for the farm, but I can say that growing the crop suits us down to the ground. With cereal and milk prices constantly low, and the weather getting more unpredictable, miscanthus is a good option for us. Its hardy stuff, there's a market for it, and the price is reliable."

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Farm Facts

Location

Gloucestershire

Farm Type

Mixed farm and dog kennels

Farm Size

55 ha

Miscanthus Planted Areas

32ha

Year Planted

2007

Why Miscanthus?

10 Reasons to grow the ‘wonder crop’

1. Best ever price

Miscanthus prices have hit an all-time high, and Terravesta is now offering growers £74/tonne for 2015 contracts. What's more, through its new Barn Bonus scheme, growers whose Miscanthus bales have been stored in a barn and meet the required moisture specification of 16% or less will also be rewarded with up to £2/tonne extra. Don't miss out on the Miscanthus opportunity - sign up now!

2. Guaranteed returns

Boasting low overheads, stable pricing, guaranteed returns and reliable net margins for 20 years or more, Miscanthus offers a degree of financial certainty that almost no other crop can.

3. Reduced planting costs

Terravesta's new on-farm planting techniques and processes have brought down establishment costs significantly. Get in touch today to discuss your options.

4. Minimal maintenance

Once established, Miscanthus is a 'hands-off' crop requiring remarkably low input. It doesn't need fertiliser, chemicals or annual soil cultivation, so you can focus your attentions elsewhere - for enhanced overall production and improved profitability. For everything you need to know about growing Miscanthus, download our Essential Growers' Guide here

5. Maximise marginal land

All farms have less productive areas, but the nature of Miscanthus means it can be grown in poorer quality soil - turning your marginal land into profitable land!

6. Virtually weatherproof

As a moisture demander, Miscanthus flourishes in wet conditions as well as dry. What's more, the leaf mulch it produces suppresses weed growth, acting as a natural weapon against blackgrass

7. Annual growth

Miscanthus is a perennial crop with an annual growing cycle, delivering yearly profits at low inputs. It's also harvested in spring, so it doesn't conflict with other crops

8. Reliable biomass resource

With demand for UK biomass far outstripping its production, the opportunities for Miscanthus as an energy crop are endless. In contrast to the decades newly planted forestry can take to deliver results, Miscanthus produces commercial yields within just three years

9. Grow your own fuel

Any grower with a termed Terravesta contract can buy back Miscanthus pellets as heat on a separate energy supply contract - at a significantly discounted rate - through our Grower Fuel Loop (GFL) scheme. This means making a profit on selling bales, as well as considerable savings on fuel (particularly attractive for on-farm heat requirements)

10. Government backing

As well as pledging to treble investment in clean power generation, the government is actively supporting sustainable heating through schemes like the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI). Demand for biomass is set to increase dramatically as a result, bringing with it an opportunity for Miscanthus growers to reap the rewards now and well into the future

A helping hand

If you have a question about any aspect of Miscanthus growing, get in touch today, or click here to read the Essential Growers' Guide - our ultimate handbook to all things Miscanthus.

Grower Information

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