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Maximising production with maize

Martin Powell, Hawera, Taranaki.

Maximising production with maize

2003/04 Season

Owners: Martin and Christine Powell
Farm location: Hawera
Farm size: 88 hectares
Herd size: 300 cows

Pushing up the productivity of high cost dairy land has not only improved production, but produced a healthy bottom line for Taranaki sharemilkers Martin and Christine Powell. Maize silage is central to achieving their target of 460 kilograms of milksolids per cow this season. A long lactation from calving in early July to drying off in early June is now the norm for them.

Despite the 88 hectare property being in the productive Hawera area, drought can still strike and dry autumns prompted them to trial maize four seasons ago.

"We fed out in the paddock at first, and the cows loved it," says Martin. Maize silage in autumn extended lactation, while keeping and improving cow condition during milking.

Before bringing maize into the system the Powells were sitting on a consistent 1,000 kilograms of milksolids per hectare and needed a way to intensify the land's productivity.

"We are in an area where land prices are very high" says Martin. A bare block of land recently sold for $42,500 a hectare. "There is a need to try and get as great a return as you can from the land you have."

With advice from nutritionist Sue Macky, the Powells decided to 'go all out on maize' and built a feed pad. "The amount we were going to feed out would have resulted in too much wastage if we'd kept paddock feeding, possibly up to 20%.That could buy a lot of concrete!"

This season they will feed out 1.7 tonne per cow, growing 3-4 hectares of the early maturing Pioneer® brand Elita. The rest of the feed is bought in. A mixer wagon for feeding out has reduced wastage and time. Martin uses an automatic gate latch to let the cows onto the pad early in the morning before milking, saving time getting them into the dairy.

The Powells now have a sharemilker's EFS double that of the district average, and they intend to spend the next couple of seasons consolidating and fine tuning the system.

"I believe there could still be potential to take it to well over 2 tonnes of maize silage drymatter per cow, but we will see how it goes."