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Maize delivers good income with reduced workload

Stephen and Betty Voss with their children James and Sarah.

Maize delivers good income with reduced workload

2008/09 Season

Owners: Stephen Voss
Farm location: Manawatu

Maize is an integral part of the farming operation for Manawatu-based Mirawai Farms. This 170 ha mixed enterprise located at Kopane in the Manawatu is a family farm co-owned by brothers Stephen and Roger Voss, their wives Betty and Linda and parents Basil and Fay. Stephen and Roger have been on the farm all their lives and, while land has been added over the years, the original block was purchased by their grandfather in 1913.

Roger and Linda oversee the livestock operation which comprises of around 700 composite-cross breeding ewes and a beef finishing operation which uses 35 nurse cows to rear calves.

Stephen’s passion is cropping. He planted the first maize for grain crop on the farm 32 years ago and started growing maize for silage 10 years ago because he found it was more reliable and gave better returns than wheat.

“Over the years we have found maize does well on our soils. It is a fascinating crop to grow and the workload fits in well with the other things that we need to do on the farm,” says Stephen. “Once we have sidedressed the crop in early December, the work is finished until harvest time. It gives me time to do the other things I want to do including farm maintenance, building and engineering type work.”

Stephen contracts all his crops prior to planting so he knows up-front the price per tonne he will receive.

He cultivates, plants, sidedresses and sprays all the maize himself but employs local contractors to harvest both silage and grain. This season Stephen has planted 62 ha of maize using Pioneer® brand 37Y12, 38P05 and 38B85 for grain and 38H20 and 39F58 for silage.

“We are looking for early to mid maturity hybrids that will give reliable yields over many seasons,” says Stephen. “Good root strength helps to ensure the crops stand in the Manawatu wind.”

Planting starts in mid to late October depending on the weather. Hybrids are planted at 94,000 seeds/ha using a John Deere finger planter. This season, Stephen Poncho®* treated all of the seed including hybrids planted in ground previously in maize.

“Once a plant is gone, it’s gone,” says Stephen. “Keeping more plants growing helps us achieve better yields.”

A starter fertiliser of 300 kg/ha of 12:10:10 is drilled at planting and the crops are sidedressed with 300 kg/ha urea and inter-row cultivated 4-5 weeks after planting.

Over time, maize yields on the property have slowly increased. Today they average grain yields of around 12 t/ha with the 2007 harvest producing a record average yield of 13.6 t/ha.

Stephen believes the lift in yields can be attributed to “more productive hybrids, better soil fertility and attention to detail, including better soil preparation and weed and pest control.

“Maize has worked really well for us over the years,” he says. “It provides us with a good return and fits in well with the other farm enterprises.”

*Registered trademark of Bayer CropScience.