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2020/21 Season

Owners: Nathan and Catherine Simpson
Farm location: Karamea, West Coast
Farm size: 210 ha
Herd size: 470
Pioneer® brand hybrids grown: P8500

“To harvest grass silage in the equivalent quantity and quality of maize silage, I would have to harvest 120 ha of grass compared to just 18 ha of maize,” Nathan says.

“Maize is a silage crop that out-performs grass hands down.”

Nathan milks 470 cows on a 210 ha milking platform at Karamea, the northern-most dairy farm to supply Westland Milk Products.

He is in his third season growing maize, and the decision to start growing the crop was not one he made lightly.

“The Pioneer team first approached us through our merchant representative five years ago, when we were thinking about growing maize,” Nathan says.

“We thought about it for 18 months before we went ahead with it. We wanted to secure winter feed, and we knew that if we didn’t do it, we wouldn’t have the baleage to get through.”

Nathan currently grows 18 ha of maize on farm - Pioneer hybrid P8500, inoculated with 11C33 inoculant - and is hoping to increase that area to 20 ha next season.

Situated right on the West Coast, the 380 ha farm is prone to summer dry, and grows more grass in the winter than it does in the summer.

“Of the 18 ha of maize, we use 10 ha for autumn, winter and spring, and we use the other 8 ha over the summer months to fill the feed shortage,” Nathan says.

“Without supplementary feed, the summer dry can cripple us.”

Incorporating maize silage into their feed regime means the cows finish the season in good condition, and continue to put on weight during the winter, which contributes to an annual production of 197,000 kgMS.

“With maize silage we don’t lose as much milk production over the summer,” Nathan says.

“Maize silage is also really easy on the gear to feed out and is no stress.”

Last season, Nathan’s maize yielded 20 tDM/ha.

The Pioneer team sees Nathan as showcasing the success of maize on the northern part of the West Coast, working with him step-by-step throughout the set-up process, and in-crop monitoring.

Nathan appreciates the Pioneer team’s support and advice, and despite the farm’s isolated location, a team member visits the farm three or four times a year.

“Otherwise if I need something, I just give them a call,” Nathan says.

“We’re in regular contact with the Pioneer team, our contractors and our merchant representative. Our goal is to always surround ourselves with the right kind of people to help us succeed.”

For Nathan, the ‘calculated risk’ of growing maize is one that has paid off in spades.

“We like to try new things quite regularly; if you don’t, you won’t get ahead.”