Farm Profiles View Latest Profiles

Back to farm profiles

Maize silage - the key to achieving more days in milk

Farm owner Richard Brewer (left) and sharemilker Chris Harvie.

Maize silage - the key to achieving more days in milk

2007/08 Season

Owners: Richard, Jenni and William Brewer
Farm location: Hawera
Farm size: 200 ha
Herd size: 220 cows

Richard Brewer believes that the key to a good maize crop is optimum fertiliser, a good seedbed, timely planting together with the right maize hybrid.

Richard, his wife Jenni and brother William farm two, 200 ha properties south of Hawera. The Manutahi property, which is located 5 km from the coast, has a milking platform as well as a sheep and beef operation. "Makowhai" which is near Hawera runs Angus-Hereford cattle, Romney ewes and contract grows around 7 ha of Pioneer® brand maize silage each year.

"There is a huge demand for contract grown maize silage," says Richard. "It has made a huge difference to get new pastures in on both farms – that's a benefit of the maize silage system that farmers don't usually think about."

Richard first planted maize silage in 1995 and has gradually increased the area on his farm from 4 ha up to 13 ha. Maize silage is grown for two consecutive years in each paddock with an annual crop of ryegrass grown between the maize crops. After the second maize crop is harvested permanent pasture is established. "By planting maize silage and swapping land between the milking platform and the sheep and beef area we have been able to re-grass our whole milking platform."

"Cultivating allows us to level the paddocks and apply capital dressings of fertiliser and lime. We also have two opportunities at getting rid of problem weeds like couch and yarrow."

The Brewer's maize silage crops yield 20-21 tDM/ha depending on the season. Paddocks are soil tested over the winter to determine crop fertiliser requirements and the Brewers prepare the seedbed themselves incorporating base fertiliser and pre-plant urea. This season, they planted Pioneer® brand 39F58 at 110,000 kernels per ha. All the maize silage is inoculated with Pioneer® brand 1132 maize silage inoculant.

"We are looking for a hybrid that delivers high yields of high grain silage," says Richard. "39F58 produces good sized cobs that are filled right to the tip."

Sharemilkers Chris and Tina Harvie milk 220 Friesian cows on the 67 ha milking platform. Maize silage is fed to dry cows from the end of June through calving and to the end of mating. Feeding rates can be as high as 6-7 kgDM maize silage per cow per day when grass is short in August and September.

A 4.5 ha turnip crop supplements pasture over the early summer months and 40 tDM of maize silage carried over from the spring feeds the herd until the new season crop arrives. Maize silage is fed in the autumn to increase cow condition and pasture cover levels.

"Using the auger bucket to take maize silage from the bunker to adjacent feed troughs is the secret to a labour efficient system as no time is lost travelling to the troughs," says Richard. Minerals are dusted on maize silage in the bins. This year, the herd was also fed 0.5 kg per cow per day of molasses, which was poured over the maize silage.

In the 2006/07 season, the herd was milked through until 10 June. Total production from the start of calving to drying off was 93,000 kgMS (1,388 kgMS/ha and 423 kgMS/cow).

"Using maize silage to achieve a long lactation length has been one of the keys to increasing production on this farm," says Richard. "We have developed a simple system that allows us to feed maize without much machinery or time input."