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Maize silage - the preferred option

Russell and Leanne Clearwater (centre) with their daughter Alice (far right), son Tommy (holding Finnie the family dog) and dairy farm assistant Penny Fanshawe.

Maize silage - the preferred option

2003/04 Season

Owners: Russell and Leanne Clearwater
Farm location: Dunsandel
Farm size: 330 hectares
Herd size: 1,300 cows

For Canterbury farmers Russell and Leanne Clearwater, maize offers a supplementary feed that is consistent in supply, quality and cost, year in year out. Wintering 1,300 cows on 330 hectares near Dunsandel, Canterbury the Clearwaters are in an area where plenty of alternative supplements are grown locally.

Maize silage is fed spring and autumn. "In autumn it is easy, with very little wastage," says Russell. It enables the cows to achieve a full lactation until drying off on 1st June, keeping them in good condition and achieving pasture cover targets. Along with 320 tonnes of maize drymatter, the Clearwaters also use 200 tonne drymatter of grass silage each year. However maize beats grass silage every time for putting condition on cows and consistency.

"You pay for grass silage in spring, but it is sitting there in the stack until the autumn when you need it." Factors like weather and contractor skill also play a big part in influencing silage quality," Russell says.

Meal feeding systems have been considered, but not enough could be delivered at peak periods and still requiring grass silage as well. Cereal silage is available, but Russell says it is "expensive straw" and lacks quality controls with narrow harvest windows in summer. Maize silage is therefore their preferred supplement because of its consistency, quality and reliability.