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Bumper maize crops never fail to impress

Bumper maize crops never fail to impress

2018/19 Season

Owners: Todd and Christina Williamson
Farm location: Pahiatua
Farm size: 130 ha
Herd size: 250

While watching grass grow is an arguably dull pastime, Pahiatua dairy farming couple Todd and Christina Williamson say watching their maize grow is something quite different.

“This year has been an amazing year to grow maize, especially considering how dry it’s been,” Todd says. “We have a bumper crop, and we have loved watching it grow – it’s impressive.”

In their fourth season on the 130 ha (106 ha effective) farm in the Tararua region, the couple has now dropped all bought-in maize in favour of growing it on farm.

When we bought the farm it had an existing feedpad, so it seemed a natural f it to use maize silage,” Todd says.

“On a previous farm in Taranaki we grew maize to try and put weight on cows in autumn before winter arrived, so it was great to go back to it."

“The farm also has a 4 ha block across the main road from the home farm, and I didn’t want the cows to cross the road, so it was the perfect place to plant maize.”

Milking 250 cows, the Williamsons planted 4 ha in maize in the 2014 season, buying in an additional 100 tonnes of drymatter (tDM).

This year they have increased that area to 11 ha, and their bought-in maize has been reduced to nil.

“We have full control over the quality of the maize, as we can choose exactly when we want it harvested,” Todd says.

“We found that the maize we bought-in was too dry; I like to harvest it when it’s most palatable to the cows.”

Last season the farm produced 110,000 kgMS; the herd moves from twice a day to 16-hour milking partway through the season, for both cow health and family lifestyle reasons.

This season, due to dry weather, the farm has moved to OAD (once a day milking).

While they have previously grown Pioneer® brand P7524, this season they have used P8000 and 39V43, and use Pioneer® brand 11C33 inoculant on their maize.

With a river running through their property, the Williamsons are committed to reducing their environmental impact – something maize can contribute to.

“Using the feedpad means we not only have a high utilisation of feed, but it also reduces the cows’ nitrogen output,” Todd says.

“With the cows off the paddock, we can collect that effluent and spread it when the time is right.”

Todd says maize’s inexpensive price tag doesn’t reflect its quality.

“It’s a cheap feed, but high quality,” he says. “It’s great at building condition on cows and the herd spends more days in milk as the cows calve early.”

“I roughly worked out that maize costs us 21-22 c/kg/DM to grow; it’s cheaper than anything you can buy in.”

Convenience is also a major benefit for the Williamsons.

“The plant itself is high yielding and very reliable. It’s very convenient for us to grow and feed,” Todd says. “I know we’ve always got feed on hand.”

Pioneer Area Manager Jo Booth says the Williamsons represent what a good farming family should be and stand for.

“They want the best for their business, property and their family – and they love what they do,” Jo says.

“They are innovative, willing to try new things, environmentally-focused and good farmers.”