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Maize silage the incredibile cow conditioner

Pioneer Area Manager Mark Burke (right) with Peter Russell in front of Peter's crop of 39K24

Maize silage the incredibile cow conditioner

2006/07 Season

Owners: Peter and Nancy Russell
Farm location: Ballance
Farm size: 130 hectares (eff.)
Herd size: 440 cows

Peter and Nancy Russell have completed a second season on their 130 hectare (eff.) farm located under the Tararua Wind Farm at Ballance in the Wairarapa. Last year their 370 Friesian-Jersey cross cow herd produced 101,500 kgMS (274 kgMS/cow and 781 kgMS/ha). By mid March, production for the 06/07 season was running 50% higher than the prior year with the previous farm record being broken by the end of February. Despite an unusually dry summer, final production will be around 150,000 kgMS.

The farm's spectacular increase in production can be attributed to a number of factors including more cows in milk, a comprehensive regrassing programme, a new feedpad and the supply of additional supplementary feed including a significant volume of maize silage.

This season the farm is milking 300 cows twice-a-day and 140 cows (including 40 carryover cows and all the two year old heifers) on a once-a-day regime. "This farm is limited by the size of the shed and its location, being 2.5 km away from the end of the farm," says Peter. "Milking one herd once-a-day allows us to milk more cows despite these limitations."

The farm runs across two river terraces with the bottom 50% of the farm being prone to flooding. Last season the Russells built a 402 cow feed pad which allows them to feed supplements year-round, regardless of weather conditions.

Maize silage forms an integral part of the feeding regime. This season it was fed at 4-5 kgDM/cow/day from two weeks before the start of calving until November to keep the weight on the cows. It is also fed at around 3 kgDM/cow/day during the autumn to build condition prior to drying off. "Maize silage is not just an ordinary supplement that you would use to fill a feed deficit," says Peter. "It is an incredible cow conditioner."

Peter is a strong believer in growing maize silage on-farm as it allows him to control the cost and the quality. It is also a key component of his pasture renovation programme. "When we moved onto the farm the locals said you can't grow maize silage on this side of the hill," says Peter. "Last year our 5.5 hectare Pioneer® brand 39G12 crop yielded 20 tDM/ha and some of the hybrid strips in our Pioneer® brand maize for silage trial yielded up to 22 tDM/ha." This year, 6.5 hectares of 39G12 has been planted on-farm and the crop looks fantastic despite a difficult growing season.

Other supplements fed in the 06/07 season include grass silage, molasses and palm kernel extract. "We don't buy in grass silage because the quality is too variable," says Peter. "We fed palm kernel in the summer as a protein supplement to poorer quality pasture."

"Next season we will continue to fine tune our system to increase production and profit," says Peter. "We are planning to decrease the amount of palm kernel and feed more maize silage because it is more cost-effective for us."