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Maize silage delivers better cow condition and improved empty rates

Gary Knight (centre), son Oliver (right) and farm manager Robert Manson (left).

Maize silage delivers better cow condition and improved empty rates

2003/04 Season

Owners: Gary and Wendy Knight
Farm location: Rangiotu
Farm size: 150 hectares
Herd size: 480 cows

Empty cows were costing Manawatu dairy farmer and ex-All Black Gary Knight lost sleep, profitability and replacements. Poorer cow condition pre-calving meant lost production over spring and poor conception rates at mating. It was a persistent problem. With an empty rate of over 10% Gary needed to look at better supplements.

Yet Gary's problem is one not uncommon in many Kiwi dairy herds where often a 10% empty rate is considered acceptable.

Using maize silage in spring enabled Gary to reduce his herd's empty rate by 60% to a far more acceptable 4%. Success here encouraged him to build more maize into their diet, particularly for improving condition score over winter. With its high metabolisable energy (ME), Gary only needs to feed 160 kilograms drymatter a head of maize silage to achieve one extra condition score over winter.

"If I use pasture silage I will need to use 290 kilograms of drymatter and that is almost impossible to do," he says.

With maize an integral part of his herd's diet they calve in better condition and produce well after calving.

The returns are not only in improved profit, says Gary.

"It means I can sleep easier at night!"