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MAIZE SILAGE ESSENTIAL FOR FILLING SUMMER FEED GAPS

MAIZE SILAGE ESSENTIAL FOR FILLING SUMMER FEED GAPS

2020/21 Season

Owners: Craig and Kim Lynsky
Farm location: Opunake, Taranaki
Farm size: 129 ha
Herd size: 500
Pioneer® brand hybrids grown: P7524, P8500 and P9911

The couple, who own a third generation, 129 ha family farm with Craig’s parents Michael and Marianne, have “dabbled” in maize for the past 12 years but have seen real changes since they started working with Pioneer Area Manager Kim Sharpe in 2014.

“We now grow 15 ha of maize on the milking platform and plant out the 19 ha runoff entirely in maize as well,” Craig says. “We also buy in 100 tDM to reduce risk.”

“The farm has a good, aggressive regrassing programme, and weekly pasture scoring, but when the ryegrass is almost ‘conking out’ the maize is still growing at a phenomenal rate. Between grass and maize, we have good, consistent growth rates yearround per hectare.”

With Pioneer hybrids P7524, P8500 and P9911 grown on farm, the Lynskeys are achieving an average yield of 19 tDM/ha. “Anything on top of that is a bonus.” Craig says.

The 500-strong herd is on track to achieve 280,000 kgMS this season, due to the extended lactation that can be achieved with maize silage. “We can achieve more days in milk despite the summer dry,” Craig says.“We milk until the end of May or the start of June; we’re targeting a 300-day lactation.”

“Maize silage has also improved our animal health and cow condition scores.”

The Lynskeys have split-calved for the past five years, calving 370 cows in spring and 100 in the autumn, with 50 carryovers. Autumn calving begins on March 15 (five weeks mating), and spring calving kicks off on August 1 (five weeks mating).

“We aim to get 75% cows in calf within the five-week mating period; the other 25% will be carried over and will end up doing an 18-month lactation,” Craig says.

Autumn calving-cows are mated to Hereford beef bulls, which enables diversity in income streams. It also simplifies the system by moderating the number of calves reared on farm; autumn calves are sold as fourday-olds or at 100 kg, dependent on the market.

Craig says the primary reason for split-calving is to follow the grass. “It can get quite dry on farm, so drying off 100 cows can take the pressure off. As we grow more grass in the winter than the summer, split calving means there is more pasture available for the herd in the peak pasture growth periods of autumn and spring.”

And when the grass is struggling, the Lynskeys are producing maize silage at a low cost while maintaining the highest yield possible. “Having maize silage on hand takes away the risks associated with summer drought,” Craig says.

“We can maintain a consistent cost throughout the year ($3.94/kgMS farm working expenses), because we aren’t so vulnerable to the weather. Also, we have found that as we produced more milk, our actual cost of production per kgMS fell due to the fact that we were able to spread some of our fixed costs across more milksolids.”

The Lynskeys have invested in a concrete feedpad and pits in recent years, allowing them to virtually eliminate supplementary feed wastage. They feed palm kernel and maize silage via mixer wagon onto the feed pad, and dried distiller’s grain (DDG) through in-shed feeders.

“Having a feedpad also captures effluent, which is applied to next season’s maize ground, reducing the amount of fertiliser required and making the whole process cheaper,” Craig says.

“It’s a big circle - ryegrass, maize and effluent.”

As former agricultural contractors, the Lynskeys do their own regrassing, cultivation and spraying, and by doing that can identify their own maize paddocks a year in advance.

“Doing these tasks ourselves makes maize an even cheaper feed for us,” Craig says. “It has been a big learning curve all the way and we are now achieving higher yields at a lower cost.”

Using Pioneer maize has also provided the Lynskeys with opportunities to meet and learn from like-minded farmers; they have visited a number of top-operating farmers growing and feeding maize in the Manawatu and the Waikato, and started their own Pioneer discussion group.

“Between working with Kim and attending those groups, it keeps farming pretty exciting,” Craig says. “It has been great to meet other like-minded farmers and provide a forum to bounce ideas off each other with the goal of constantly improving our on-farm results while caring for our stock.”