During the past decade New Zealand dairy farms have intensified with farmers milking more cows per hectare and producing more milk per cow. Feed demand per hectare has increased at a greater rate than pasture supply and as a consequence, there has been a move away from all- grass towards farm systems that strategically use supplementary feeds.
While many farmers have recognised the benefits of feeding home-grown or purchased in forages such as maize silage, there has been a large increase in the use of concentrates fed mainly through in-shed feeding systems. In-shed feeding systems are convenient allowing farmers to easily feed concentrates during milking by simply pushing a button or pulling a cord. While feeding forages normally requires some forward planning, concentrates can usually be purchased as required. There are a range of concentrates available on the New Zealand market including grains, dairy meal, molasses and palm kernel extract. Maize grain is increasing in popularity with dairy farmers. It has a number of key advantages over other grains and concentrates.
Key advantages of maize grain over other grains and concentrates:
- It is the highest quality commonly-used concentrate with higher energy levels than other grains, molasses, palm kernel extract and the majority of dairy meals.
- It is more slowly digested in the rumen than other grains, decreasing the risk of acidosis.
- It has a high starch content which drives milk protein percentage. Since milk protein is worth substantially more than milk fat, this increases milksolids returns.
- It’s low nitrogen content means it can be used to reduce urinary nitrogen levels, decreasing nitrogen leaching.
- Maize grain is locally grown which means its price and supply is not subject to the exchange rate or overseas demand.