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Maize puts weight back on cows

Herd Manager Nick Andrew (back) with sharemilkers Logan, Melissa, Rhianne (front left) and Emma Solly.

Maize puts weight back on cows

2008/09 Season

Owners: Philip and Rose Windle
Sharemilker: Logan and Melissa Solly
Farm location: Takaka

Carbohydrates provided by maize silage help put weight back on cows, allowing Takaka sharemilkers Logan and Melissa Solly to achieve a long lactation length and high per cow and per ha production.

The Sollys, and their two daughters Rhianne (4) and Emma (2), milk 550 cows on Philip and Rose Windle’s 161 ha (eff.) farm at Takaka in Golden Bay.

In the 2007/08 season the farm milked 500 Friesian cows, producing 400 kgMS/cow and 1,242 kgMS/ha. This year, 50 cows have been added to the herd and the target is to produce 215,000 kgMS.

Philip and Rose started using maize silage on the farm more than a decade ago and Logan and Melissa have continued the trend during their three seasons on the farm.

All the maize silage is grown on run-offs which are leased by Logan and Melissa. Last season, they grew 20 ha of Pioneer® brand 38G43 for maize silage and this year they have planted 27 ha of the same hybrid. The maize is carted home and stored in three bunkers which are cut into the side of hills on the farm.

Because of the warm summers in Golden Bay, Logan is looking for hybrids that have good drought tolerance.

"We also want a hybrid that will be ready in a short timeframe so we can plant the land in annual ryegrass and have it ready for winter grazing," says Logan.

Autumn weather and pasture supply determine how soon the maize silage is fed out after it is harvested.

"Feeding maize silage in the autumn allows us to keep the cows milking while we put weight on them," says Logan. "If we need the maize silage within a few days of harvest we use Pioneer® brand 1132 maize silage inoculant which gives a faster fermentation."

The herd is milked twice a day to the end of May when Logan starts his dry cow procedure. Most seasons, the bulk of the maize silage is fed out in the paddock during the winter.

"Normally the cows are a bit light by the end of the season and so we feed them 6-8 kgDM maize silage and 6 kgDM pasture each day to put the weight back on them," says Logan. "It works really well. Maize is an excellent feed that’s full of carbohydrate and it is great at putting condition onto cows."

The herd starts calving on 24 July and the maize silage feeding rate is slowly reduced until pasture growth rates pick up.

Artificial insemination lasts for seven weeks. Logan runs a Hereford bull for a week before putting Friesian bulls over the tail enders. This allows him to easily determine which calves were conceived by artificial insemination. Last season, the herd had an empty rate of only 6% - a pleasing result which Logan hopes to replicate each year.

"A Friesian cow that produces 400 kgMS and gets in calf year after year is a good cow," says Logan.