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Maximising lactation length

Rachel and Greg Roadley with daughter Mia on their Seafield, Mid Canterbury farm.

Maximising lactation length

2004/05 Season

Owners: Greg and Rachel Roadley
Farm location: Ashburton
Farm size: 363 hectares
Herd size: 1,250 cows

Keeping production costs as low as possible by efficiently utilising pasture and maximising lactation length and milk production per cow is central to the business philosophy of Canterbury farmers Greg and Rachel Roadley.

Overall winners of the 2005 Farm Business award in the Fonterra Westpac Dairy Excellence Awards, Greg and Rachel and daughter Mia (1) part own and manage a family farm on the coast at Seafield in Mid Canterbury.

Their 1,250 cow Friesian Jersey crossbred herd produces a healthy 425 kilograms of milksolids per cow giving a per hectare production of 1,463 kilograms of milksolids. "We prefer crossbred cows because we get good longevity, no lameness and they produce a lot of milksolids for a 470 kg cow," says Greg.

The herd is fed 350 kilograms of maize silage drymatter and 80 kilograms of pasture silage drymatter per cow each year. "We grow a lot of grass through good watering, fertility and management. Supplements are used not to increase stocking rate or to lift peak milk, but rather to keep the cows going for longer."

The Roadleys have been feeding maize silage for the past three seasons. Each year they grow 30-35 hectares of Pioneer® brand maize silage under centre pivot irrigation on a 320 hectare support block. Maize silage crops yield an average of 20 tonnes of drymatter per hectare. Because of its size, the run-off is also used to grow contract crops such as wheat, peas and potatoes. The herd is wintered on the run-off and fed a combination of pasture and winter crops.

The maize silage is fed in the paddock during the last 75 days of the lactation. "By feeding maize silage in the autumn we are deliberately creating feed substitution so that we can push a pasture feed wedge ahead of us into the winter months. Maize silage offers excellent feed quality so we can rely on it."