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."
"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."