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High yield maize ideal for small farm

High yield maize ideal for small farm

2015/16 Season

Owners: Andrew & Robyn McLeod
Farm location: Papamoa, Bay of Plenty
Farm size: 127 ha
Herd size: 400 Friesian cows
Pioneer® brand hybrids grown: P1636

Water skiing and dairy farming might seem an odd combination but not for Andrew McLeod whose 127ha farm is situated just a few kilometres south of beautiful Papamoa beach.

Andrew lives there with his wife Robyn and their two children Ella (12) and Connor (10). They milk 400 Friesian cows to produce an annual average of 157,000 kgMS. Despite his busy schedule on the farm and on the water, Andrew also takes time out for family activities such as mountain biking and coaching his children’s hockey team.

The pasture is predominantly kikuyu which dies back in autumn and is replaced by ryegrass. If the warm weather continues into autumn (as it has this year), the kikuyu keeps growing enough to smother the ryegrass which can lead to a shortfall of available pasture. When this happens Andrew has to have a ready source of supplementary feed on hand.

His farm is relatively small for the region so to maximise milk production, he has to focus on maximising the yield of pasture and any crops he plants, for this reason he started to grow and feed maize silage 15 years ago. Local Pioneer representative Robin Billett has worked with Andrew to help him select Pioneer® brand P1636, a long maturity which can provide very high yields of high grain content silage.

Andrew’s farm is slightly elevated and has reliable summer rainfall which is held well by the clay and peat soils. This season he planted 3.5 ha of maize on October 10. The crop was harvested on March 5 and ensiled in a tube to minimise wastage. This small area generated about 100 tDM which is enough to cover pasture shortages, keep his herd in good condition for calving and extend the lactation period. Another benefit Andrew has observed from planting maize is the excellent new pastures he establishes after a maize crop.

Andrew participates in the Federated Farmers’ Open Day initiative every March to let visitors from urban areas come and have a look at the workings of a modern dairy farm. On these days up to 1,500 people come from Te Puke, Papamoa, Tauranga and Mt Maunganui, along with a fair number of overseas visitors, to watch the process from bringing in the herd through to tanker collection. “One time we had more than 80 people in the milking shed.” He also uses the open days to demonstrate the care he takes with effluent to mininimise leaching. “It’s nice to show everyone the efforts we take to protect the environment.”

Although Andrew is always looking for ways to increase milk production, in the current economic climate he is adopting a “steady as she goes” approach and is focusing on reducing costs. This season he has managed to reduce his farm working expenses by more than $1.00/kgMS (down to $3.12/kgMS) and readily acknowledges maize silage has helped him to achieve this.