Farm Profiles

Back to farm profiles

Award winning farm relies on maize

Award winning farm relies on maize

2021/22 Season

Owners: Richard and Nadine McCullough
Farm location: Karapiro, Waikato
Farm size: 305 ha
Herd size: 630
Pioneer® brand hybrids grown: P9911 and P0362

The McCulloughs, along with daughter Ellah (6) peak milk 630 autumn-calving cows on 305 effective hectares at Karapiro. In the 2018-19 season, they produced 1,140 kgMS/ha (443 kgMS/cow).

The farm won Best Waikato Farm Performance with a return on assets of 6.2 per cent. Tight control of costs contributed to their low cost of production of $4.46/kgMS. They also achieved an excellent operating profit margin of 44 per cent.

Maize silage plays an important role in the farm system increasing home-grown feed and controlling supplementary feed costs. Each season the couple plant around 34 ha of maize on farm.

Pioneer® brand products Area Manager Grant Douglas assists the couple with hybrid recommendations and crop management advice throughout the season.

“It’s all about planting the right hybrid in the right paddock, making sure we manage it well and harvesting it at the right time” says Richard. “Having an expert cast an eye over it ensures we are getting the best return on the money we invest”.

In the 2020/21 season they planted the main crop with Pioneer® brand P9911 and also tried a small area of P0362.

“We look for high yielding, drought tolerant hybrids which will be harvested early enough that we can get the paddocks back into pasture for the autumn-calving cows” says Richard. “Since we are using maize silage for milking cow feed, we also want hybrids that produce good starch and energy levels”.

“We’ve tried a range of other crops including chicory, kale and swedes in the past, but maize is the best fit with our autumn-calving system” says Richard. “We are taking paddocks out of production when we really don’t need them”.

Richard, who had never cropped prior to coming onto the farm in 2009, also likes the reliability of maize.

“If we plant maize, we are pretty much guaranteed to get a decent silage crop. Even in dry years when the grass doesn’t grow, we still get a good yield and quality from our maize” says Richard. “There is a lot of security in knowing maize will deliver.”

The McCulloughs aim to always have a stack of maize silage on the farm, and they start feeding it to the dry cows from mid-February onwards.

Cows are AI mated to A2 Friesians for 3 weeks then short-gestation Hereford AI for a week. After this the Hereford bulls are used for 6 weeks. Young stock are mated to Highland bulls.

“All youngstock are raised on farm and the use of Hereford and Highland genetics gives us a saleable calf from every cow”

Calving starts in March and cows are fed up to 6 kgDM of maize silage mixed with palm kernel, molasses and canola as needed to complement the grass over the winter months.

All the maize is fed on a feedpad through a mixer wagon which is loaded the night before. The McCulloughs apply Pioneer® brand 11C33 inoculant to their maize silage at harvest.

“11C33 helps keep the silage cool until the cows can eat it” says Richard.

As well as taking out the national title, the McCullough’s also won the DBOY Lowest Environmental Impact category with an environmental score of 12 out of 15. This was achieved due to their combination of low nitrogen leaching (26 kgN/ha/year), spreading effluent over 54 per cent of the farm, feedpad use and having 100 per cent of waterways fenced and half of riparian areas planted.

As part of their environmental focus maize silage crops are grown utilising effluent as the main nutrient source. This season 8 ha of maize silage has been planted using strip till, a crop establishment practice where only the narrow strip where the maize seed is planted is cultivated. The couple are also in the process of building a composting barn. Milkers will spend 50% of their time inside during the winter months with only one walk to pasture each day.

“By reducing the time and distance the cows spend walking we hope to get more production from the same amount of feed, offer a higher standard of welfare to the cows and also decrease our environmental footprint” says Richard. “We think it will make things better for our cows, us and our staff, and the environment”.