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Simple diet delivers high per-cow production

Simple diet delivers high per-cow production

2013/14 Season

Owners: Alastair Geary
Farm location: Manutahi, Taranaki
Farm size: 180 ha
Pioneer® brand hybrids grown: P9400

Alastair, who has been running the family farm since 2009, has always strived to take it further. His key obstacle has been low summer pasture growth rates as a result of low rainfall on sandy soils. The first step was to move towards a split spring-autumn calving system by purchasing autumn-calving holdover cows and milking them through. Next, 60 ha of sand country was put under centre pivot irrigation to provide good grass for the mid-lactation spring cows, as well as quality feed for the autumn cows to calve on. In the 2012-2013 season, maize silage was added to the system and a 700-cow feed pad with adjacent concrete silage bunkers were built.

“When we first started using maize silage we grew and purchased a total of 15 ha” says Alastair. “Over time we have tended to grow more, and use more”.

Alastair believes the key benefits of maize silage are its high yield potential and ability to drought-proof the farm by producing good yields even in dry seasons. He estimates last year’s crop produced more than 25 tDM/ha.

“We tend to grow the maize in the paddocks furthest from the shed” says Alastair. “We cart the effluent from the feed pad to the cropping paddocks and this allows us to grow high yields of low cost maize silage without the need for additional fertiliser”.

"We chose to put in a feed pad and utilise low cost maize silage rather than installing an in-shed feeding system and feeding more expensive grain-based concentrates”.

Alastair has purchased an adjoining 105 ha farm and is planning to milk an 800 cow herd comprising of 350 autumn and 450 spring calvers in the 2014- 15 season. Target production will be 450,000 kgMS. He takes over the new farm on the 1st of June but is already stocking up. To meet the increased feed demand he will grow approximately 50 ha of maize silage on farm.

In the 2013-14 season he planted 28.5 ha and is also purchasing in 15 ha of Pioneer® brand P9400, selected for its high yields and relatively short growing season. The maize silage is inoculated with Pioneer® brand 11C33 and ensiled in bunkers located adjacent to the feed pad.

“We don’t take short cuts at silage harvest time” says Alastair. “The combination of concrete bunkers, good compaction and Pioneer® 11C33 inoculant gives us high quality maize silage with virtually no wastage”.

A telehandler is used to load the maize silage into a mixer waggon where it is combined with palm kernel, molasses and any necessary minerals. Automatic gate timers let the cows out of the paddock and they make their own way to the feed pad prior to milking.

“It is quicker to feed out supplement on a feed pad than in the paddock and we save a lot of time because we don’t have to follow the cows to the shed”

“Alastair believes the key benefits of maize silage are its high yield potential and its ability to produce good yields even in dry seasons.”

This season the herd is on track to produce 570 kgMS/cow. Ultimately Alastair would like to crack 600 kgMS/cow without adding expensive concentrates to his feeding regime.

“The price of bought-in supplements increases when the payout is high or when everyone is short of feed” says Alastair. ”By growing more maize silage ourselves we can control our feed costs and we always have a supply of high quality supplement on hand”.