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Maize helps improve pasture on conversion farm

Maize helps improve pasture on conversion farm

2013/14 Season

Owners: Chris and Sarah Clapcott
Farm location: Piopio
Herd size: 960
Pioneer® brand hybrids grown: 38H20

The couple milk 960 Friesian Jersey cross cows on a 340 ha, family-owned milking platform at Piopio. They have been on the farm since the 2010-11 season when it was purchased shortly after its conversion from sheep and beef to dairy.

In the 2011-12 season the Clapcott’s produced 306,000 kgMS. Production fell to 270,000 in the drought-affected 2012-13 season, but in 2013-14 they are on target to produce 300,000 kgMS (313 kgMS/cow and 882 kgMS/ha).

Maize plays an important role on the farm, providing large amounts of high quality feed and assisting in the conversion of low yielding pastures to highly productive dairy paddocks.

“Maize is an ideal fit for a developing farm” says Chris. “It provides us with a lot of feed and we see a huge yield and quality benefit from planting new, higher yielding pasture cultivars”.

Chris has used maize silage since returning to New Zealand from the United Kingdom more than 20 years ago. He has planted a crop every year since they moved to the Piopio farm and the maize area has increased over time.

“ Maize is an ideal fit for a developing farm.”

“Fonterra has a huge amount of money tied up in stainless steel and we’ve invested a lot in land and cows” says Chris. “By feeding more maize silage and milking into the shoulders of the season we can maximise the return on that infrastructure, as well as the price we get for our milk”.

In spring 2013 the couple planted 40 ha of Pioneer® brand 38H20 chosen for its high yield potential, good staygreen and relatively short growing season. Maize crops produce an average yield of 20 tDM/ha with some paddocks yielding more in a favourable growing season.

Chris believes the secret to growing consistently good crops is attention to detail. Every paddock is soil tested and fertiliser application rates are based on the results. He checks crops on a regular basis between planting and row cover and has a good weed control programme in place.

“It costs just as much to grow a good crop as a poor crop” says Chris. “It doesn’t pay to cut corners”.

All of the maize silage is inoculated with Pioneer® brand 11C33 and is fed on a 1000-cow feed pad.

“11C33 allows us to fill the feed bins in the afternoon and automatic gate latches let the cows onto the pad in the morning” says Chris. “It’s a great system because nobody has to get up really early to bring the cows in”.

Cows and heifers are fed maize silage for three weeks prior to calving (28 July) through to the end of mating. The Clapcott’s do five weeks of artificial insemination and are tending to use more Friesian sires over their crossbred cows.

Chris aims to have enough maize silage left in the stack to fill any feed deficits which occur after the summer crops are finished. However increased supplement requirements during the 2012-13 drought means there is no maize silage in the bunker at present. The new crop will be fed at up to 5 kgDM/cow from a few days after harvest in mid-March through till the early part of June.

Maize silage is a great autumn feed because it allows us to extend lactation, put weight on the cows and build up pasture cover”.

“Maize silage is a great autumn feed because it allows us to extend lactation, put weight on the cows and build up pasture cover”.

It’s easy to see Chris relishes the challenge of developing the farm and driving production and profit. What will he do when the development is over and he has hit his 400 kgMS/cow production target?

“Our aim is to continue to develop and grow our farming business” he says.