Farm Profiles View Latest Profiles

Back to farm profiles

Maize the basis for a growing business

Maize the basis for a growing business

2014/15 Season

Owners: Alan Brown
Farm location: Richmond Downs, Waikato
Pioneer® brand hybrids grown: P9400

Ten years ago Alan Brown purchased a small block of land and planted his first maize crop.

Today he is growing 117 ha for grain and silage on a mix of owned and leased land and is also running an agricultural contracting business.

"We were living in town and looking to purchase a lifestyle block, when a friend suggested we buy a larger block of land to grow maize instead" says Alan. "Everything fell into place and I've been growing the crop ever since".

Alan's first maize block was an overgrown 46 ha organic apple orchard at Richmond Downs, 10 km from Morrinsville in the Eastern Waikato. He pulled out 9,600 apple trees as well as several rows of shelterbelts. He then did a lot of development work filling in gullies and improving the contour to maximise the amount of croppable land. Three years ago he sold the block and purchased 34 ha next door.

The home block is planted in maize for silage and Alan is growing another 39 ha of silage on four lease blocks in the Eastern Waikato. In spring 2013, he took over the lease of a 44 ha block between Waihi and Whangamata on the Coromandel Peninsula and this is planted in maize for grain.

In spring 2014 he has planted Pioneer® brand P0791 for silage and P9400 for grain.

"The grain block is on light soil 280 m above sea level which catches the wind, so we wanted a short maturity hybrid with good drought tolerance, root and stalk length" says Alan. "On the silage ground we're looking for a hybrid with good drought tolerance because the summers seem to be getting drier and drier".

"We've had good support from Pioneer and they have great hybrids" says Alan. "I've got no reason to plant anything else".

Planting starts on the grain block in early October and Alan aims to have the last maize silage block planted by the end of that month.

Alan soil tests regularly and applies base fertiliser as required. Crops are planted with 150-250 kg/ha DAP and side dressed with 200-250 kg/ha urea depending on the individual block's nutrient status.

"Weeds can be a problem, especially on the lease blocks which have been previously cropped" says Alan. "We have been spraying pre and post emergence and seem to be getting on top of them".

Maize silage harvest starts in early to mid-March, while the grain comes off late April. Some of the maize silage is contracted to local dairy farmers, many of whom have become regular customers over the past decade. The balance is sold to a local contractor.

After harvest, the silage blocks are planted in annual ryegrass which is winter grazed or sold as grass silage.

The grain block is mulched and fallowed for the winter. By the time the combine is back in the shed, it is time to start maintaining gear in advance of the next season.

"A lot of our gear isn't new so there is a fair bit of repair and maintenance work to ensure everything remains reliable during the season" says Alan. "We also rebuild and sell equipment, and this has helped improve our cashflow as we get more established".

Because of the range of soil types, elevation and varied growing environments of his maize blocks, Alan averages silage yields of around 18 tDM/ha. His first grain crop yielded 10 t/ha which was a good result given the challenging growing conditions.

"In the future we want to try and improve the lease blocks so we can increase yields" says Alan, "...and we have always got our eyes open on the lookout for more lease land".