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Award winning farm feeds maize

Award winning farm feeds maize

2010/11 Season

Owners: Anthony, Clare & Peter Giesbers
Farm location: Northland
Farm size: 115 ha

The right balance of profitability and sustainability helped Kaikohe farmers Anthony, Clare and Peter Giesbers win the Northland regional title in the 2012 Dairy Business of the Year Awards.

In the 2010-11 season, they milked 298 cows on 115 ha producing 372 kgMS/cow and 966 kgMS/ha. The farm’s operating profit was $3,533/ha, or $1,360 per cow, giving a return on capital of 10.8% - substantially more than the Northland average of 7.4%. The farm had a labour efficiency of 207 cows/full time equivalent (FTE) in 2010-11 and a cost of production of $4.15/kgMS, versus the Northland average of $4.79.

The GF Farm equity partnership, owned by Anthony, Clare and son Peter, purchased the original 120 ha farm in 2004.

It was producing around 60,000 kgMS. In the past eight years, they have added 10 ha to the milking platform and increased production to 140,000 kgMS. The farm’s development and intensification was “stepped up a notch” with the construction of two Herd Homes in 2009.

“The clay soils hold water and the farm is also prone to flooding”, says Peter. “The Herd Homes give us a place to put the cows that’s not wet and we can feed them supplements efficiently. We are not wrecking the pastures and so in the long run we can grow and utilise more grass.”

“It costs us around 17c/kgDM to grow maize silage which is about half as much as it costs us to buy in palm kernel.”

Maize silage, palm kernel and grass silage form the bulk of the ration that is fed in the Herd Homes. The maize silage is grown on farm as part of an on-going pasture renewal programme which aims to improve relatively low-yielding and poor quality pastures.

“It costs us around 17c/kgDM to grow maize silage which is about half as much as it costs us to buy in palm kernel”, says Peter. “Using the solid effluent from the Herd Homes on the maize crops helps reduce our costs and combining maize with a regrassing programme gives us the added advantage of new, higher-yielding pastures.”

This season the Giesbers have planted 24 ha of maize. The main crop is Pioneer® brand 33M54 with a smaller area of 37Y12 which has been early harvested to provide feed for the autumn.

When the Giesbers started growing maize silage in 2009, their local farm supply merchant told them “not to take any short-cuts.”

“We always follow the recommended maize management plan and we plant Pioneer® brand maize hybrids because they yield well and the technical back-up is great”, says Peter.

This season the farm is moving its calving date from spring to March 1. Peter believes autumn calving will help take production to the next level as well as being easier to manage.

“We will be calving when the farm is drier and will have higher energy autumn and winter pastures to feed to the milking herd.”

Maize silage feeding will start just prior to calving with the bulk being fed to milkers over the winter. Feeding rates will be eased back in spring and then increased again in November and December to help put condition onto the cows at the end of their lactation.

“We feed a maize silage, palm kernel and pasture silagebased diet with a limited amount of fresh pasture to the springers”, says Peter. “This decreases the amount of potassium and protein in their diet and we have seen less milk fever and udder oedema as a result.”

So what is the key component of this farm’s success?

“We are constantly fine-tuning our system to ensure we improve our efficiency and profitability while still remaining environmentally sustainable”, says Peter. “We think we can get even more out of this farm in the future.”