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2020/21 Season

Owners: Richard and Kirby Van Der Heyden
Farm location: Tirau, Waikato
Farm size: 100 ha
Herd size: 300
Pioneer® brand hybrids grown: P9400 and P0640

Richard and Kirby Van Der Heyden, who farm 380 cows on 100 ha at Tirau, moved to a System 5 to build resilience into their farm business and better withstand the region’s dry summers.

The couple has lived and worked on the Tirau farm for 12 years, progressing from contract milkers to sharemilkers and now farm owners. Over that time, they have developed their pasture-based system to a System 5, high input system with maize silage as a key component.

“I had grown maize on another farm when I worked for my father, and it was always a high-yielding and lowcost feed,” Richard says. “We didn’t grow maize when we started on this farm but planted our first crop during the 2008 drought.”

“Maize is a crop that is summer safe and the hybrids we grow - P9400 and P0640 – perform well in the dry summers that Tirau can experience.”

Over time they have planted more and more maize, with the current area of 20 ha on the dairy platform and 16 ha on the runoff.

The total cropping area yields approximately 20-22 tDM/ha. Together with an additional 100 tDM of bought-in maize silage, the maize is fed out on a feedpad throughout the year.

“My main goals are to fully feed the herd and maximise their production potential,” Richard says. “Maize silage extends lactation and improves body condition score, and we’ve also seen a tighter calving spread.”

The couple has further increased the long-term resilience of their farm system by moving to split calving, to increase $/kgMS through winter milking without having to raise cow numbers.

“We started split calving four years ago – calving 150 in autumn and 250 in spring – which has improved our bottom line by increasing winter milk income,” Richard says.

Richard and Kirby have been working with Pioneer Area Manager Logan Scott for some time, with Logan supporting them with hybrid selection, planting advice and increasing the maize area on farm.

“If I have any concerns at all about our maize crop, I ring Logan and he’ll come by the next time he’s over my way,” Richard says. “Logan offers advice on hybrid and paddock selection and checks the crop during the growing season.”

The couple is not only working towards a more resilient farm system, but also helping build more resilient farming communities.

With Richard’s support, Kirby helps run Shining Light on the Dark – South Waikato, an organisation that provides support and raises awareness to both the precursors and the finality of suicide.

For the past two years they have held the Shining Light Relay in Putaruru, a six-hour Exercise for Awareness team event that raises awareness of the cause.

“The organisation’s vision is to help teach our communities, and mainly our younger generations, to learn, acknowledge and find coping mechanisms that can help aid living with mental illness and depression, leading towards a future free of suicide,” Kirby says. “We want to encourage people to talk about this taboo topic.”

Richard says they have no immediate plans to increase the area of maize grown on farm, with 36 ha providing plenty of supplementary feed.

“In our first season we did 88,000 kgMS in a drought, and last season the herd produced 248,000 kgMS,” Richard says.

“We are very happy with where we are now.”