Grits grower expands into feed corn market

Junabee farmer Andrew Free grows PAC 727IT corn for gritting and has added new PAC 440 for feed. Image courtesy of Pacific Seeds
Junabee farmer Andrew Free grows PAC 727IT corn for gritting and has added new PAC 440 for feed. Image courtesy of Pacific Seeds

Long-time gritting corn grower Andrew Free is considering feed corn as another viable income stream for his Junabee farm due to the improved varieties on offer and the changes in the feed market.

Mr Free, who also grows sorghum, cotton, mungbeans and wheat at Poplar Woods with son Ben, has been growing grit corn for many years, supplying the nearby mill, Defiance Maize Products.

However, after running a corn trial on-farm last season and watching the demand for feed grow across the country from the dairy and livestock industries, he is now looking at both markets.

“We normally grow grit corn, but whatever drives our profit margin – that’s what we look it,” he said.

“In the last few years grit corn has been in the range of $300 – $350/tonne, and in 2018 feed prices are $100 above that, which is an incentive to try feed varieties.

“While feed varieties don’t usually attract a premium, they can quite often achieve 10-15 per cent more yield due to generally higher starch content, so you have to do your sums.

“The way the feed market turned out in 2018, our intention this season is to plant more feed corn.”

Mr Free grew 75 hectares of corn last season, which was split over two planting times and included both commercial crops and several trial crops.

The early plant began in November 2017 over 45ha and the later plant began in January 2018 over 30ha. Varieties included PAC 727IT, PAC 440, P1888, Amadeus and Amadeus IT.

He said their grit variety of choice is PAC 727IT. Unfortunately, it and the rest of the early corn was decimated by the dry and heat.

“We’re pretty big fans of PAC 727IT as far as grit corn goes. I’d have to say it’s my favourite variety. In our experience, it has been matching feed varieties for yield, where other grit corns lag way behind. It has excellent stress tolerance and retains it grain size and quality. Yield is the most important factor, followed by grain quality, and it delivers for both.

“All of the early crop was wrecked in the heatwave in January 2018. It was cut for silage a month later when we were looking at potential disaster. Luckily, the later planted corn made it to grain.”

Included in the later planted corn was new grain/silage hybrid PAC 440, which was the standout for the season.

“We harvested the PAC 440 in July 2018, three weeks before the rest of the field because it was a quick variety (108CRM).

“The PAC 440 was exceptional, yielding 5.2t/ha, where the next best variety yielded 4t/ha.

“If a feed variety like PAC440 comes along and can yield higher, that tends to put the feed market in a positive light for us.”

Mr Free said this season’s crop will consist mostly of PAC 727IT and PAC 440 to capitalise on both the grit and feed markets.

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