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Maize offers Mark flexibility and diversity

Maize offers Mark flexibility and diversity

2015/16 Season

Owners: Mark Bernhard
Farm location: Puketatua, Bay of Plenty
Farm size: 125 ha
Herd size: 380
Pioneer® brand hybrids grown: P9911, P0725

Mark Bernard is the kind of farmer who likes certainty in his life. When he engages in his favourite hobby of fishing he sets off from his farm near Puketatua and goes straight to the mussel farms off the coast of the Bay of Plenty. There he does what he calls “gathering in the snapper”, pretty much always coming home with a good feed. It is this same desire for a top result that drives him to use farming systems with proven outcomes.

Mark describes himself as “a bit of a back seat boy”, meaning he prefers to sit back and carefully listen to those around him rather than be the show-off up at the front of the class. In tough economic times like these, quietly considering the advice of others seems like a smart move.

During the past five years Mark has purchased his 125 ha family farm where he lives with his wife Carol, his son Connor who is at secondary school and his stepson Hamish who works on the farm. His other son Michael has just left home to do his first year at university.  Mark runs about 380 dairy cows of which a third are Friesians, another third are Friesian crosses and the rest a mix of Jerseys with a few Ayrshires thrown in for good measure. This “real mixed bag of liquorice all-sorts”, as he describes them, usually produces around 150,000 kgMS annually.

With the recent purchase of the farm, Mark’s top priorities are reducing debt and farm working expenses. He uses maize silage to help with this. His family has been growing it on that farm since 1980. Mark currently grows 25 ha of Pioneer P9911 on a run-off in Lichfield that he leases from his mother and another 5.8 ha of P0725 at home.  

In the past, Mark has sold some of this to defray farm costs. This year however, he decided to use it to eliminate the 100 tonnes of other feed he usually buys to see him through the summer, when it gets so dry that “in February my cows wander from paddock to paddock just sightseeing.”

Although he also uses maize silage to extend the milking season, the biggest benefit is keeping the cows in good condition for the mating season, “Last year we only had a 9% empty rate.”

Mark readily acknowledges the assistance he is given by his Pioneer representative, Wendy Dewar who helps him select which hybrids to use in the two different regions and also helps with budgeting and feeding tips.

In addition, Mark is one of the many farmers nationwide who participates in the Pioneer field trials. As he describes it: “They plant about six different hybrids on my property and I get to see if any of these outperform the hybrids I am using that year. It’s like I get a little glimpse into the future and see which of the new hybrids I might be using a few years down the track.”

Mark estimates 99% of his problems are economics and says having maize silage on-hand has given him the flexibility to manoeuvre within some fairly tough constraints. He also appreciates the ongoing efforts the team at Pioneer puts into maintaining the future of dairy farming.