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Robust maize and amazing views make up for steep terrain

Robust maize and amazing views make up for steep terrain

2015/16 Season

Owners: Luke Edwards
Farm location: Maihiihi, Waikato
Farm size: 220 ha
Herd size: 630 Freisian cows
Pioneer® brand hybrids grown: P9400, P8805

About 20 km inland from Otorohanga is the tiny settlement of Maihiihi which is home to Luke Edwards and his family. Luke is a 20% partner in his family's farm which he manages along with two full time staff. It consists of 220 ha of dairy, another 20 ha of pine, 12 ha for maize and some native bush.

Luke lives there with his wife Alice and their two children, Zara (2½) and Nico (4 months). Spending time with his young family and friends is important to him which means he has to manage the farm in a way that allows him to do this (along with occasional hunting and fishing trips thrown in for good measure).

Luke milks 630 Friesian cross cows and last year produced 252,000 kg of milksolids on a property that has its own set of challenges. The contour of the farm means a lot of long walks to the milking shed over steep hills and, to control pasture, he uses 16 day rounds during spring and summer. In addition, if the winter is wet, he has to ‘stand-off’ the cows from the steeper parts of the terrain.

However, he reckons all of these inconveniences are more than offset by the fantastic views. “You can go up to our maize growing field and look back and see the whole farm in an amazing panorama, it’s pretty awesome,” says Luke.

To extend the milking season and ensure the cows maintain good condition right through to calving, Luke plants 20 ha of Pioneer® brand maize every year for silage (14 ha of P9400 and 6 ha of P8805). The 12 ha designated block for growing maize is very high above sea level which means it is exposed to the elements.

Luke sought the advice of his local Pioneer representative, Noldy Rust, when planting this area and says: “We targeted a maize hybrid that has a cob that sits low on the plant to keep it from blowing over in strong winds”. He usually aims for 19 tDM/ha on this block and the rest, which is grown on the dairy platform, yields 22 tDM/ha. He also uses Pioneer® brand 11C33 inoculant at harvesting which keeps the stack cooler and, says Luke, improves the quality of the feed. “Last year we had the stack tested and the ME was 11.0 MJ/kgDM, that’s the highest it’s ever been.”

This is the third season Luke has managed the farm and using maize silage has seen production go from 170,000 kgMS in his first year to 252,000 kgMS last year. He’s on target to achieve the same production again this year.

Like all dairy farmers in these low payout times, Luke is keeping a careful eye on the costs per kg of milksolids. They are currently sitting at $3.50 and he would like to get them lower. At the same time, he is aiming to increase production to more than 280,000 kgMS and plans to plant more maize silage in the future to achieve this goal.

As Luke puts it: “At 19 c/kgDM, maize silage has got to be the cheapest supplement in the long term.”