Farm Profiles

Back to farm profiles

Low cost, high reward

Low cost, high reward

2019/20 Season

Owners: Tom & Kathy Pow
Farm location: Ruakaka, Northland
Herd size: 320 - 330
Pioneer® brand hybrids grown: P0891

As founders of Herd Homes animal shelters, the Pows’ ethos of making your farm work for you doesn’t stop at effluent management. It also includes creating a business that is low-cost with high reward, of which maize silage is an integral part.

The couple milk 320-330 cows on a 96 ha milking platform, producing 142,000 kgMS.

Split calving with winter milking means they are in a prime position to supply milk to their dairy company at a time of year when much of the national herd is dry.

“By feeding cows maize silage to produce milk to meet the premium payment structure of our dairy company, we can receive 50-60c per kgMS above other farmers,” Tom says.

“We could put more feed in now, but we are coming to the end of our main season and there’s no premium now.”

“The maize silage gives us a consistent high return whilst being a key aspect of a low-cost farm system.”

Tom has farmed for over 50 years, and the couple has owned their current farm for 30 years. For the past decade, they have steadily increased their use of maize silage.

“For the first three years we used maize silage off and on. We never grew enough to feed it strategically, but rather used it as a top up or “energy drink” for the cows,” Tom says.

Today, they grow 15 ha of maize off-farm, with an additional 14 ha on the home block – an increase of 4 ha since last year. Total maize yield was 638,000 kgDM.

Maize is also part of their pasture renewal programme, reducing weeds and improving pasture quality.

“Maize is quite a versatile product, and is easy to use,” Tom says.

“It makes up a large part of what I refer to as the “pantry” system that we are moving towards. It used to be that we ate what was on our plate (pasture), but now it’s more of a “pantry” system, using maize and other crops to bolster up the pasture on the farm.”

“Staff also seem to like using it.”

Pioneer Area Manager Corey Thorn has been working with the Pows for several seasons, helping them make the most of their maize crop.

“The Pioneer team and Corey are very easy to work with,” Tom says. “Like many farmers, we are busy, so it is great to have that expert help in the background.”

Tom says the main aim is to keep cost of production as low as possible, to ride the sometimes-turbulent highs and lows of the industry.

“Our cost of production is around the $3 kgMS mark so even if the payout is extremely low, we can still make a profit,” he says.

“Although you can’t maintain that figure each year, as infrastructure and machinery costs crop up, it is still something to strive towards.”

Tom is interested in new avenues of thinking that explore effluent reduction and believes the future of New Zealand farming will share some common ground with the European style of farming.

“Muck is money, muck is grass; it’s all about valuing effluent and utilising your farm in a low-cost manner,” he says.