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Taranaki farm generates high production + profit

Taranaki farm generates high production + profit

2013/14 Season

Owners: Steve and Maria Poole
Farm location: Hawera
Pioneer® brand hybrids grown: 38V12

The Poole’s and their five children Isaac (17), Louis (16), Madeleine (13), Emily (12) and William (8) milk 820 cows on 210 ha at Kapuni. In the 2012-13 season, their predominantly Friesian herd produced 385,000 kgMS (469 kgMS/cow and 1,833 kgMS/ha) and generated an EFS of $4,834/ ha. This is more than double the 2012-13 Taranaki Dairybase farm average of $1,922/ha.

The Poole’s started using maize silage more than a decade ago and they have slowly increased the amount they feed, allowing them to run a high stocking rate whilst still feeding the herd well.

“For me the biggest farming stress was not being able to feed the cows properly” says Steve. “Maize silage allows us to control our feed supply and stabilise production”.

“Supplementary feed is always expensive and hard to source when you need it the most. Last season showed us the value of always having maize silage on-hand. We had the worst drought in 50 years, but we were able to produce the same amount of milk as the previous season with only slightly higher costs”.

“We kept the cows and pasture in good condition so they bounced back quickly after the drought and we are on track to produce 410,000 kgMS (500 kgMS/cow and 1,952/ha) in the 2013-14 season”.

The farm’s maize silage supply is grown on the milking platform and run-off. This season they have planted 30 ha of Pioneer® brand 38V12.

“We plant Pioneer because it is a trusted brand supported by plenty of research and great field back-up” says Steve. “We look for a high yielding hybrid with plenty of grain. It has to be able to stand up in the wind and we want it off early enough to get pasture established before the winter”.

The maize silage crop is inoculated with Pioneer® brand 1174 and stored in concrete bunkers near the feed pad.

The 150-cow autumn herd starts calving on 20 March while the spring herd calves from 20 July onwards. They are milked through a 60-bale DeLaval rotary shed. Effluent from the dairy shed and the feed pad is irrigated over more than 80% of the farm. Paddocks are soil tested on a regular basis and those which are high in potassium are planted in maize.

“ Maize allows us to control our feed supply and stabilise production.“

“Maize soaks up the excess potassium and this reduces the risk of milk fever”.

Steve’s key focus is to maximise the amount of pasture harvested. He monitors pasture cover levels on a regular basis and alters supplement intake as required. Most seasons cows are fed maize silage from February to November either on its own or combined with other supplements including palm kernel, Proliq and dried distiller’s grain.

“Maize silage forms a reliable base for the supplementary feeding programme” says Steve. “It is safe to feed and we use the mixer wagon to blend it with other products, including high energy concentrates”.

Many dairy farms are finding it increasingly difficult to meet stricter animal welfare and nitrogen leaching targets. Steve believes his system is sustainable on both counts.

“We apply very little fertiliser with most of the nutrient coming onto the farm in the form of supplementary feed. Effluent is collected and spread evenly over a large area of the farm. The feed pad allows us to stand the cows off pasture preventing pugging and overgrazing and having maize silage on-hand means we can feed them properly year-round “.

“ We plant Pioneer because it is a trusted brand supported by plenty of research and great field back-up”.

The production the farm generates has allowed the Poole’s to employ a team of competent staff who can run it while Steve has time out to pursue other interests.

“Our focuses for the next few years are to help foster other young people into farming and to spend more time with our kids doing the things we enjoy”.