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Maize farmers do the right thing

Maize farmers do the right thing

2021/22 Season

Owners: Jeff & Kelly Gould
Farm location: Geraldine, Canterbury
Herd size: 1130 split calving
Pioneer® brand hybrids grown: P8500 and P7524

Dairy farmers Jeff and Kelly Gould are equity partners with Wyvern and Beth Jones. The property, originally a cropping block owned by the Jones, was converted to dairying 12 years ago. It now runs a 1,130-cow split calving herd with around 40% of the cows calving Jan to April and the remainder in the spring. Last season the farm produced 614,000 kgMS which equates to an impressive 2,047 kgMS/ha and 543 kgMS/cow.

Around 90% of the farm is irrigated by centre pivots which guarantee good pasture growth for much of the year. An exceptionally wet spring in 2012 highlighted the farm’s biggest financial and environmental risk – horribly pugged pastures – and led to the decision to build a 600-cow cubicle barn.

“Some people don’t understand the benefits of dairy farming in barns” says Jeff. “If they are well managed it’s better for the cows and the environment”.

Initially the cows were supplemented with a mix of relatively expensive protein concentrates, alkagrain and  alkalage, but in recent times the Gould’s have moved to a simpler, safer supplementary feeding regime which utilises around 800 tDM of Pioneer® brand maize silage which is both bought in from Wyvern and Beth and grown on the dairy farm.

“Growing maize on the milking platform is a great way of dealing with high potassium effluent” says Jeff. “Over the past three years we have achieved an average yield of 19.5 tDM/ha and this includes some lower-yielding crops which were grown on dryland”.

“Our maize silage costs us 13.5-14.0 c/ kgDM which is really competitive given that we are paying 27-28 c/kgDM for winter grazing”.

This season the dairy farm has 24 ha of Pioneer® brand P8500 in the ground and the Jones’ crop is P7524.

Local Pioneer Area Manager Daryl Moore recommends which hybrid to plant and helps keep an eye on the crops throughout the growing season.

“Daryl and the team that support Pioneer maize have done a great job of looking after us” says Jeff. “We wouldn’t plant anything else”.

The farm’s focus on doing the right thing means that environmentallyfriendly maize cropping practices are utilised. Paddocks are soil tested each season, effluent is tested to determine nutrient content which allows it to be applied at an appropriate rate and the maize crop is always direct drilled.

“We track the effluent application like we track fertiliser” says Jeff. “We can tick all the boxes environmentally and it is good to know we are growing great crops and looking after the land”.

Maize silage is fed year-round in the barn to the highest producing cows. For much of the year the cows receive around 3 kgDM and have access to pasture but in the winter, when cows never leave the barn, feeding rates can lift as high as 8kg maize silage per cow per day.

“A typical winter total mixed ration would comprise of a mix that includes maize silage, grass silage, barley silage, potatoes, palm kernel and soybean meal” says Jeff. “We aim for a crude protein content of 16% in the diet”.

“Maize is an incredible plant and maize silage is a really efficient feed” says Jeff.

The farm utilises North American Holstein genetics and the breeding focus has been to produce a 550kg cow that can consistently produce 100% of her body weight in milk solids.

The right cows coupled with the right system allows the farm to produce consistent milk yields and profit but for Jeff, the focus of farming is about more than just making money.

“We aim to farm in a way that is both sustainable and profitable” says Jeff. “Our system has to work for the people, the cows and the environment. We want to do the right thing”.