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The Ferkins Family

The Ferkins Family

2015/16 Season

Owners: Ferkins Family
Farm location: Poverty Bay
Pioneer® brand hybrids grown: P1253, P0891, P0725 and P0021

His parents, who owned a small business in Gisborne, purchased 30 ha of land at Matawhero in the mid-1960’s and began growing barley and maize for grain. David started agricultural contracting around this time and he was joined by sons Tony, Nick and John in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. 

Today the family are growing maize grain, squash and sweetcorn and are fattening cattle on a number of owned and leased blocks. They run a contracting business, a grain drying operation and a vineyard.

They have grown maize seed crops for Pioneer’s Gisborne seed production operation since 1996.

Tony, who oversees the family’s operation, is quick to point out that the business is a “team” effort. Nick manages livestock and field work while John, who is a mechanic, is in charge of machinery and the grain drier. David who is
“semi-retired” still plays an active role whenever and wherever he is needed.

The family have been growing Pioneer® brand maize hybrids for grain for over three decades. Older favourites which come to mind include hybrids such as 3362, 34K77 and 38P05. In the 2015-16 season they have planted a mix
of P1253, P0891, P0725 and P0021.

“We are generally looking for longer maturity hybrids with good standability and ear flex” says Tony. “Pioneer offer a range of high yielding hybrids and we get good support from the guys on the ground”.

The majority of the maize crops are planted on heavy soils which have been cropped for many seasons.

“Our cultivation regime depends on ground conditions, but we generally plough or disc rip and power harrow” says David. “The heavy soils need more work to prepare them for planting and we are careful to avoid compaction”.

Paddocks are soil tested every second year and the results are used to determine an appropriate fertiliser programme. Typically a base dressing of superphosphate is applied, crops are planted with around 250 kg/ha of 20:10 and
side-dressed with 300 - 400 kg/ha urea.

Planting usually starts in mid-September although the last two seasons have been 2 - 3 weeks later due to wet soil conditions.

“If we get 50 mm of rain we can’t get back onto the paddocks for 7 - 10 days” says Tony.

“We plant at 85,000 to 95,000 seeds per hectare depending on the hybrid and the paddock” says Tony.

Tony believes a good weed control programme is a critical part of maize growing. All paddocks are sprayed with acetachlor prior to planting and a post-emergent herbicide is applied to every paddock.

“If you go into a maize crop at harvest time you know which paddocks didn’t get a post-emergence herbicide application” says Tony. “Even the paddocks which looked like they were clean have a lot more weeds”.

Grain harvest starts in early March and the aim is to have the entire crop in by mid-June. Short maturity maize crops typically yield around 11.0 - 11.5 t/ha dry while the best longer maturity crops will produce up to 17 t/ha dry.

The Ferkins dry 90% of the crop themselves in a CNG-fuelled Shivvers drier which was installed in the early 1970’s.

“We started with the drier and a single silo and have gradually added storage space” says Tony.

“We can currently store 1,800 tonnes of dry grain and are in the process of building another silo”.

While the bulk of the grain is sold to the main grain merchants, a small proportion is sold whole or kibbled to dairy farmers.

The Ferkins’ maize yields are increasing despite the fact that many of their paddocks have been cropped for many seasons.

“Our experience is that the newer hybrids deliver a much higher level of performance when the conditions are right” says Tony. “Nowadays it doesn’t seem to be many seasons before your favourite hybrid has upgraded to something even better”.