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Maize saves time, secures feed supply

Maize saves time, secures feed supply

2013/14 Season

Owners: Carl and Glennis Flintoff
Farm location: Tomarata, Wellsford
Farm size: 65 ha
Herd size: 180
Pioneer® brand hybrids grown: 33M54

“All I ever wanted to do was buy my own piece of dirt” says Carl. “Now I’d like to build a system where we can reliably produce up to 600 kgMS/cow each season”.

In the 2011-12 season the couple’s 180 Friesian Jersey cross cows produced 90,000 kgMS. Production fell to 79,000 kgMS during the “big dry” of 2012-13 but they are on track to produce 90,000 kgMS (500 kgMS/cow or 1384 kgMS/ha) in the 2013-14 season.

Flooding is a key challenge for the farm which is located at the intersection of three creeks, and up to 50% of the land area can go under water in a single flooding event. It was the need to feed the cows properly when the farm was under water that led the couple to maize silage over a decade ago.

“The water comes up quickly and we have to get the cows off the paddocks quickly” says Carl, who admits that one of his worst moments occurred a few years ago when he woke up to find the whole herd gone.

“We retrieved small groups of cows from higher ground and neighbouring properties, it was pretty nerve-wracking”.

“The cows love it, it’s cheap to grow and we’re in control of our own feed supply.”

The couple grew 2 ha of maize silage on farm for the first time in 2002. Last year they grew 8 ha at home and this season they have planted 11 ha of Pioneer® brand 33M54 on a nearby lease block.

“We knew nothing about growing maize silage when we first started but we followed the crop management information from Pioneer and got good results” says Carl. “You really can’t go wrong as long as you don’t take any short-cuts”.

On-farm maize crops are usually grown on effluent paddocks and the Flintoffs believe this offers a significant environmental advantage.

“Maize can drag up nutrients and let you have another go at using them” says Carl. “What other crop can do that?”

While this year’s crop on lease ground was established using conventional cultivation, the Flintoff’s have been trialling no-till maize silage at home for the past four seasons.

“The moisture retention on the no-till maize ground is good and the soil structure remains intact which is great for re-establishing new pasture, however the need for a fallow period delays planting which can decrease maize yield”.

Maize silage is fed year-round although there is often a two week gap in March when the previous seasons maize silage is finished and the new crop is not quite ready for harvest.

Consultant Scott Tapp has been involved with the farm for the past three years. Pasture cover levels are measured across the farm every fortnight and this information is used to determine maize silage feeding rates.

“Scott taught us the importance of measuring everything” says Carl. “We know what the pasture cover level is and how much pasture the cows are leaving behind and so it is easy to work out how much maize silage we should poke into them”.

The maize silage feeding rate is usually 1.5 – 3 kgDM/cow/day, but Carl and Glennis increase this to 5 kgDM/cow when required.

“We knew nothing about growing maize silage when we first started but we followed the crop management information from Pioneer and got good results”

“Maize silage is a great feed. The cows love it. It’s cheap to grow and we’re in control of our own feed supply. It allows us to feed our cows well all season and our pastures are not overgrazed or pugged”.

An auger bucket is used to take the maize silage from the stack to the nearby feed pad. It takes around 20 minutes to fill the bins for the herd and minerals and palm kernel extract are added as required. Batt® latches let the cows out of the paddock and they make their own way to the feedpad prior to milking.

“I hate sitting behind the cows and following them up the race, so it’s a great system for me”.