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Maize and irrigation make every summer a good summer

Maize and irrigation make every summer a good summer

2015/16 Season

Owners: Jared and Francine Whittfield
Farm location: Moutoa, Horowhenua
Farm size: 250 ha
Herd size: 1000 Friesian cows
Pioneer® brand hybrids grown: P9911, P8000

When Jared Whittfield says he lives on the family farm - he really means it. He lives there with his wife Francine and their five children ranging from 13 years down to 18 months. The 250 ha farm is situated in Moutoa (midway between Shannon and Foxton) where he milks just over 1000 Friesian cows producing around 500,000 kg MS annually.

Between farming and family commitments, he somehow manages find time to indulge in his favourite pastime of hunting.

Most farms in the region usually run around three cows per ha but Jared attributes his figure of more than four cows to an intensive style of farming that relies on high-yielding maize silage as the lynchpin. “It allows me to harvest more grass in the growing season and extend the lactation while hitting our body condition scores for calving.”

The main problem facing the farm used to be variable summers. He estimates there was about a 50/50 chance of having a dry season which would lead to poor pasture growth and low crop yields. It became obvious these variations in feed supply were unsustainable so Jared decided to make a capital investment in a pivot irrigation system, “I’ve noticed a huge difference in my pasture quality and maize yield. Now every summer is a good summer.”

Each year Jared plants 60-70 ha of maize for silage and consults with his local Pioneer representative Matt Dalley on which hybrids to use. Matt says: “We chose two this season - P9911 because it gives the ultimate yield for this region and P8000 for the other crop because it has a high yield and short maturity. It was important for Jared to get these paddocks back into grass rotation before winter.”

He and Matt also get together to plan Pioneer IMPACT trials which are replicated on both the irrigated and non-irrigated regions of the farm. After harvest they discuss the results and use them to help select which hybrids will give the best yield the following year.

Over the past five years Jared has averaged 28 tDM/ha across all his maize crops. IMPACT trial results showed P9911 produced up to 34.2 tDM/ha on the irrigated paddocks and 31.7 tDM/ha on the dry-land paddocks. Jared won’t use any other seed – “it’s 100% Pioneer... my days of experimenting are over.”

Jared is very philosophical about his approach to the future. When asked if he is currently focusing on reducing his farming costs, he says: “It’s not that simple. Reducing costs is good but you have to keep your eye on the numerator of the equation. There’s no point in having lower costs if you’re dividing them into a lower milk production”. He sees maize silage as a critical part of his farming system into the foreseeable future.

Jared’s willingness to look for improvements is what Matt really admires. He describes Jared as “that 1% guy. He’s always looking for a way to squeeze an extra percent out of his farming system and, if he wants to know about something new, he’s never afraid to just pick up the phone and ask.”