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Northland winners feed Maize Silage all year round

Northland winners feed Maize Silage all year round

2017/18 Season

Owners: Okaihau Pastoral Limited
Farm location: Omapere, Northland
Herd size: 1190 crossbreed cows
Pioneer® brand hybrids grown: P9911

After working on several farms in different regions, experiencing a wide range of climatic conditions, the opportunity came up in 2013 to manage the Okaihau Pastoral Limited (OPL) farm by Lake Omapere in Northland. Joe, who is originally from the area, jumped at the chance. The property, a beef farm conversion,was purchased by 22 shareholders in the MyFarm syndicate and converted to dairy. Currently, they milk 1190 crossbreed cows.

The main weather problem in the Far North is frequent summer droughts which can often result in low pasture production and decreased crop yields. To help stabilise production the farm grows 80 ha of maize silage on dairy support land near their farm.

To reduce the impact of drought, the Fosters’ Pioneer representative advised them to plant a mixture of the short maturity Pioneer® brand P9400 hybrid and the AQUAmax® hybrid P9911.

“These hybrids have been in the market for a couple of seasons now and this combination gives reliability and confidence in achieving a good yield even in adverse conditions.” Usually the Fosters harvest 20-23 tDM/ha but, as Joe notes, this season has been very dry and they may be at the lower end of that target.

After harvest, the crop is inoculated with maize specific Pioneer® brand 11C33 which gives the silage good aerobic stability reducing heat and losses at feed-out time. 

The Fosters feed maize silage all year round but primarily use it from late summer to the end of mating.

Joe says they have four key reasons for using maize: “It’s a reliable crop in Northland, it puts condition on the cows, it gives a good balance to the other feeds we use and it’s environmentally friendly.”

In 2016, OPL won the Northland region Dairy Business of the Year award. The farm peak milked 1186 cows producing 563,000 kgMS (444 kgMS/cow and 1,529 kgMS/ha). That’s an increase of more than 150,000 kgMS since they took over the farm. One of the focuses in the Dairy Business of the Year awards is how the farm system works with the environment to be environmentally sound. 

For OPL, the environment is a major focus in the farm system and they actively pursue their philosophy of leaving the land in a better state for the next generation. They have built two 500 cow covered feed pads which allow them to capture effluent and recover the nutrients it contains.  The farm also has a “weeping wall” allowing them to collect effluent solids which are transported to the maize blocks for fertiliser. 

Joe is quick to add that the covered feed pads also play a major part in animal welfare by keeping the livestock out of the heat during summer and providing shelter from the rain in the wet season. OPL has created a 30 ha buffer zone of native bush along the shoreline of Lake Omapere, likewise with the tributaries of the lake. Their farm also shares a boundary with a kiwi zone and OPL actively works with local iwi to help trap kiwi predators.