Ever paid spot market prices for palm kernel or other concentrates? Had an empty silo and waited for a feed delivery? Or run short of maize silage when you really needed more? Would you like to move towards a farming system that relies less on imported feeds? If you’ve answered yes to any of these questions, maybe you should consider planting an extra paddock, or contracting a few more tonnes of maize silage this season.
Maize silage is the preferred supplement for many leading farmers and there are many reasons why.
Pioneer® brand maize seed is grown right here on Gisborne farms - it’s processed and distributed by a Kiwi family business. Every Pioneer maize silage crop is supported by local merchants and cultivated, planted, sprayed, and harvested by local contractors.
NZ-grown maize silage not only provides Kiwi feed for Kiwi cows, it also makes an estimated contribution of $487 million to the NZ economy each year1.
1. BERL, 2019. Arable Production 2018. Economic Impact Assessment
The price of imported supplements like palm kernel have always been volatile. In the past season they have risen above historic averages due to higher point-of- origin costs and skyrocketing freight charges. Locally produced feeds like maize silage are becoming increasingly attractive. Most dairy farmers can grow maize silage on-farm for 16-20 c/kgDM (click here to calculate). Bought-in maize silage is often more cost-effective than other supplementary feed alternatives.
An increasing number of dairy processors are offering financial rewards to farmers who have best practice systems which meet the expectations of customers, communities, and regulators.
Maize silage (either home-grown or bought-in) is classed as “farm grown feed” under Fonterra’s Co-operative Difference programme. Unlike palm kernel, it is also an acceptable supplement for farmers who are in Synlait’s Lead With Pride™ programme.
The key to maximising pasture yield is to keep the pasture sward in its most active growth phase by avoiding under or overgrazing. If pasture is in danger of overgrazing, stored maize silage can be fed out at any time to allow pasture recovery.
Good feed budgeting is a fundamental of successful dairy farming. But even farmers who monitor pasture cover levels and run an up-to-date feed budget can run short of feed.
A key reason is that feed budgets use average pasture growth rates and around 50% of the time actual pasture growth rate will be below average!
Growing a bit of extra maize (or buying it in), means you will have a stack on hand to feed when you need it. And the good thing about maize silage is that provided it is well compacted and sealed, it will hold its quality for several seasons. So if you don’t need it, you don’t have to feed it.
While keeping control of costs is an important part of a profitable dairy farm system, keeping production up is also important because it dilutes fixed costs (e.g. labour and debt servicing). Maize silage can be used to increase milk production throughout the season by filling feed deficits and extending lactation.
Meeting cow condition score targets of 5.5 for first and second calvers or 5.0 for mature cows is a fundamental driver of production and profit.
Cows that are in better condition at calving produce more milk and cycle faster, meaning improved reproductive performance and a tighter calving spread. The energy in maize silage is used 20% more efficiently than the energy in autumn pasture for gaining condition.
Milk produced from maize silage is consistently high in quality unlike milk produced from PKE, which can have a negative impact on Fonterra’s Fat Evaluation Index (FEI) and milk returns.
The proven environmental benefits of maize silage make it the crop for the future. Recent published research showed the nitrogen leaching loss from maize silage followed by annual ryegrass in a cut-and-carry system, was less than 10 kg/ha/ year2. This is good news for dairy farmers wanting to decrease nutrient losses.
Dairy-shed effluent paddocks lose more nitrogen to groundwater than most other paddocks on your farm. Maize is the perfect solution. Because a maize silage crop grows a large amount of drymatter, it also requires a large amount of nutrients, especially nitrogen and potassium. Let your maize crop mine excess soil nutrients and reduce the risk of increasing soil potassium or nitrogen leaching.
For most of the year the protein content of pasture is higher than cow requirements. Surplus dietary protein is excreted in the urine and is a major source of nitrogen in our waterways. Feeding maize decreases the amount of nitrogen in cow urine by more than 70%.
The maize plant produces more drymatter from every drop of water it receives. Its extensive rooting system allows it to capture water at depths up to three times greater than perennial ryegrass².
2. Tsimba et al. 2021. Quantification and mitigation of nitrogen leaching in a maize silage cropping system. Proceedings of the NZ Grassland Association. Volume 83:163-170.
To contact your local Pioneer Area Manager about growing some extra maize this season click here.