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Maize Silage increasingly valuable to Waikato farmers

Maize Silage increasingly valuable to Waikato farmers

2018/19 Season

Owners: Jenny Buckley and Dave van den Beuken
Sharemilker: 50/50 Sharemilker
Farm location: Cambridge
Farm size: 170 ha
Herd size: 550
Pioneer® brand hybrids grown: P9400, P0891, P9911

It’s hard to ignore the success Cambridge farming couple Jenny Buckley and Dave van den Beuken have had with Pioneer® brand maize silage.

Although the catalyst for introducing maize silage to their previously all-grass system was a devastating situation – the 2008 drought, which caused the herd to dry off two months early – the couple has happily continued to incorporate maize silage as a low-cost, low-labour feed to ensure their cows are always fully fed.

“We had never experienced, nor were we prepared, for a drought of that magnitude,” Dave said.

“Since then we have experienced a series of dry summers, but always having maize silage on hand means we know we can feed our cows every day.”

The couple 50/50 sharemilk 550 cows on a splitcalving system on Trish and Paul Jones’ 170 ha Cambridge farm, employing three fulltime staff.

In the 2009 season they bought in 100 tDM of maize silage, but the following year started growing it on farm. They purchased a neighbouring 20 ha property, of which 8 ha was used to grow maize.

Today, they grow 10 ha of maize on a neighbouring lease block and 14 ha on the dairy farm. Their target yield is 20 tDM/ha, feeding approximately 1 tDM/cow.

“In 2014 we harvested 290 tDM of maize from 14 ha of maize grown on farm,” Dave said.

“This yield allows us to feed maize silage to all our cows from February to October, and 3-4 kgDM maize to our dry cows, which we keep on farm over the dry period.”

Over the years, they have made a few adjustments to their system, including the way they feed out.

“The wastage we experienced when feeding in the paddock was a concern; we weren’t happy losing 10-20% of what we were growing.” Dave said.

After extensive research, the farm team devised a plan to lift milk production and get the best value from the feed by investing in necessary farm infrastructure.

A robust effluent system was completed in March 2013, followed by a feed pad in April 2014. Feed bunkers were constructed in 2016.

“The whole farming system changed; the concrete bunkers mean no maize touches the dirt, it goes straight on the feedpad,” Dave said.

“The effluent is contained on the feedpad too, and the solids are spread back onto the maize paddocks.”

Dave said when the Jones’ invested in the infrastructure, they were all looking to increase the return on investment made by growing the maize crop on farm.

“Growing maize is value for money; dependent on yield we can grow maize for 19-20 c/kgDM,” he said.

“It’s a cheap feed, and value for money. With the introduction of the Fat Evaluation Index (FEI) it will prove to be even more valuable.”

Previously they have planted Pioneer® brand P9400 and P0891 maize hybrids but have moved to P9911 this year for its Optimum AQUAmax® advantages, and one overall harvest date.

“We use Pioneer® maize because it is a trusted brand with proven hybrids,” Jenny said.

“We’ve known our Pioneer Area Manager Brent Bishop for ten years and we value his opinion and trust his advice. He closely monitors the crop, giving valuable advice to maximise yields.”

Great cropping support from our contractor, coupled with the farm team’s hard work, has meant maize silage is and will remain an integral part of the farm’s system.

“We consistently achieve 300 days in milk, along with very good condition on the cows year-round,” Dave said.

“In the 2014-15 season, with the addition of PKE, we lifted milk production to 240,000 kg/MS, while significantly reducing the farm’s working expenses.

“Maize silage is a very useful tool to maintain body condition and maximise feed intake.”