Back Maize, a winner at DBOY

Date: 24 July 2017

Pioneer Brand Products is proud to have been a part of the success of both the supreme winner and the runners up of the 2017 Dairy Business of the Year.

Maize is an integral part of the farm systems of both Sulzberger Farms Ltd and Okaihau Pastoral Ltd, who run low-input and high-input farm systems respectively - demonstrating that maize silage can be used successfully in any farm system.

Supreme winners Sulzberger Farms Ltd, owned by Andrew and Sibylle Sulzberger and his parents Brad and Chris Sulzberger, has grown maize on farm for around 12 years and started using Pioneer brand maize a decade ago at the recommendation of their FarmSource representative.

They milk 320 cows on an 115ha farm near Urenui, Taranaki, with pasture 85.6% of the cows’ diet as pasture, and a further 6.7% as home-produced forage.

Currently they grow 5-7ha of maize on farm, on effluent blocks in order to use the nutrients. The Sulzbergers were recommended Pioneer hybrid P9400 as it has reliable and performs well even in hot, dry seasons.

Andrew Sulzberger says they feed maize silage to fill genuine feed deficits, and finds it an excellent tool to get condition on cows.

“We use it in autumn, straight after harvest, from early March until some stage in June when cows are near their target calving body condition score,” Sulzberger said.

“We also use maize as a pasture management tool: it helps us get to extend the autumn rotation and build cover at the same time.”

Their efficiency saw the farm produce 1161 kgMS/ha in the 2015-16 season, on which the competition was judged. They had the lowest cost of production per kilogram of milksolids in the competition - $2.50/kgMS – as well as the lowest cost of forage consumed, at $173/ tDM.

Sulzberger says they entered the DBOY to get an outside perspective of their strengths and weaknesses, and to benchmark themselves against other farms around the country.

“We were first time entrants so although we knew we had a pretty cost-effective system, we didn’t know exactly where we sat until we entered the competition,” he says.

“We thought we’d give it a crack. The overall win was totally unexpected; our goal has always been to be a well-performing farm, so this is the icing on the cake.”

In contrast, runners up Okaihau Pastoral Ltd run a high-input, system 5 farm – but their use of maize is equally as successful.

Equity farm managers Joe and Jemima Foster milk 1190 crossbred cows on the 368ha Northland farm, and produced 1645 kgMS/ha in the 2015-16 season. A lot of production was contributed to the use of supplementary feed and concentrates, and pasture consumed at 61.6%.

However, their competitive advantage in the competition was a high proportion of home-grown forage (94%), helping to keep the cost of consumed feed low at $292/tDM and cementing their additional award for High Input Farm with the Best Financial Performance.

The Fosters grow 80ha of maize on dairy support land near the farm, feeding maize all year round but primarily from late summer to the end of mating, as a tool to best utilise pasture.

“Maize is a reliable crop in the Northland area, it puts condition on cows and gives a good balance to the other feeds we use, and it’s environmentally friendly,” Joe says. “We utilise the effluent solids into our fertiliser system.”

Okaihau Pastoral Ltd planted Pioneer hybrid P0640 this year due to its strong leaf disease-resistance, an issue on farm, and its drought tolerance in the drought-prone Far North.

The Dairy Business of the Year (DBOY) is an annual competition aimed to define, benchmark and showcase excellence in the dairy industry, celebrating successful businesses from all farm systems.

Entrants are judged 70% on financial performance (50% return on capital and 20% operating profit margin); 15% on environmental performance and 15% on people management.