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Cow condition key to dairy farm profitability

From left Cody, Alice, Craig, Katrina, Amy, Jack, Kevin and Chris Knowles.

Cow condition key to dairy farm profitability

2009/10 Season

Owners: Kevin and Katrina Knowles
Farm location: Tariki

Maize silage is an integral part of autumn management, putting condition on cows and helping Taranaki farmers Kevin and Katrina Knowles set up their farms for the winter.

The Knowles own two properties at Tariki, midway between Inglewood and Stratford. The 165 ha (eff.) Tariki Rd home farm is managed by son Craig and his wife Alice. In the 2008/09 season, the 500 cow Friesian-Jersey cross herd produced 202,000 kgMS (1,224 kgMS/ha or 404 kgMS/ cow).

Son Chris and partner Amy milk 350 Friesian –Jersey cross cows on the Croydon Rd property. This 127 ha (eff.) developing farm produced 125,000 kgMS (984 kgMS/ha or 357 kgMS/cow) in the 2008/09 season.

The Knowles have been feeding bought-in maize silage for more than 10 years. In spring 2008, as well as contracting to purchase in maize silage, they planted their first crop on the home farm. This year they are growing crops on both farms. Paddocks that needed regrassing which were handy to the effluent ponds were identified in late winter and effluent from the first pond was pumped onto them prior to maize planting.

Five hectares of Pioneer® brand 39F58 will supplement 200 tDM of bought-in maize silage on the home farm while the Croydon Rd farm has planted a 6 ½ ha crop of Pioneer® brand 39G12.

Kevin is looking for hybrids that will “produce the maximum amount of yield in a relatively short growing season”. Last season’s crop of Pioneer® brand 39G12 yielded 23 tDM/ha.

Cows on the Tariki Rd farm start calving on 25 July and are fed maize silage on a feed pad from just prior to calving through until the pasture starts to come away in mid October. Normally maize silage is carried over from the spring until the following autumn and is used to feed the herd until the new crop is harvested.

On both farms, maize silage is a key part of the autumn management programme. It is fed at 2 - 5 kgDM/cow/day from the middle of March, enabling the Knowles to increase lactation length and extend the grazing round to 40 days in mid April and then out to 100 days by the end of May. The Knowles aim to achieve a cow condition score of 5.0 by drying off.

“If the cows are not quite at CS 5.0 by calving we pump the maize silage into them,” says Kevin. “Maize is great for putting condition on cows.”