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Maize secures feed supply

Maize secures feed supply

2013/14 Season

Owners: Nigel and Christine Morrison
Farm location: Marlborough
Farm size: 84 ha
Herd size: 215
Pioneer® brand hybrids grown: 38V12

Nigel and wife Christine milk 215, mainly Friesian cows on 84 ha, located on Queen Charlotte Drive between Picton and Havelock. Their dryland property, which was purchased by Nigel’s father in 1950, was changed to a once-a-day system six seasons ago.

“Once-a-day is the perfect fit, because once the cows are milked in the morning the rest of the day is free for agricultural contracting work” says Nigel.

“In our best season on twice-a-day we produced 83,000 kgMS and in the 2013-14 season we will produce 79,000 kgMS (367 kgMS/cow and 940 kgMS/ha) with the same number of cows in a once-a-day system”.

“Cows peak at 27-30 litres per day and their udders are holding up well” says Nigel. “Milking once-a-day has made a big difference to cow health – there are a lot of pluses”.

The contracting business which started with Nigel working for a few local farmers has grown and now the couple employ four staff for much of the year. Daughter Karen came home to the farm a couple of seasons ago and she helps with the cows as well as the contracting when needed.

“Farms in the Marlborough Sounds are very spread out and we do a lot of kilometres between contracting jobs “says Nigel.

“It is interesting because it takes us onto a lot of farms and we can see what is working for them”.

The inspiration for Nigel and Christine’s first maize crop, planted more than 20 years ago, was their neighbour.

“The neighbour started using maize silage and we saw what they were doing and thought why can’t we do that?” says Nigel. “Feeding maize silage has allowed us to increase cow condition, fill feed deficits and lift production”.

The Morrison’s have always planted Pioneer® brand maize for silage and in the 2013-14 season they have 6 ha of Pioneer® brand 38V12 in the ground. They are keen participants in the Pioneer® brand products hybrid evaluation programme and enjoy seeing new hybrids come through the research pipeline.

“The support we get from Pioneer is hard to beat, they are always there if you want something and the information they provide is backed by science” says Nigel. Maize crops produce an average yield of 17–21 tDM/ha depending on the season and Nigel believes the secret to maximising the yield is sticking to the recommended crop management plan.

“Over the last 20 years I’ve tried every shortcut that is possible and none of them work”.

Maize silage is harvested in April, inoculated with Pioneer® brand 11C33 and stored in a concrete-floored silage pit. It is fed in the paddock as required using a side delivery feed-out wagon.

“Feeding maize silage has allowed us to increase cow condition, fill feed deficits and lift production”.

“While we would like a feed pad down the track, the wastage in the paddock isn’t high as long as ground conditions are reasonably dry”.

Cows start calving on 20 July and are fed maize silage as required until the grass “gets going” in mid-September. Forage crops including rape and a plantain-chicory mix cover early summer feed deficits, while a 50:50 mix of maize silage and pasture silage fills the gap once the forage crops are finished.

The herd is fed maize silage through the autumn and Nigel aims to have the cows in calving condition prior to drying off at the end of May.

“We aim to have 12 months’ supply of maize silage ahead of us at all times” says Nigel. “It’s a good insurance policy in case we get really dry, the grass doesn’t grow and the fodder crops don’t do so well”.