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Maize silage keeping production stable during 100 year drought

Noldy and Bev Rust with daughters (from left to right) Jamie, Carmen and Hayley and foster son Hayze.

Maize silage keeping production stable during 100 year drought

2007/08 Season

Owners: Noldy and Bev Rust
Farm location: Te Pahu
Farm size: 52 ha (eff.)
Herd size: 200 cows

Waikato farmer Noldy Rust featured in the Pioneer® Brand Forage Products Catalogue and "more milk" campaign in 2007.

Noldy and his wife Bev, along with daughters Jamie (17), Hayley (15), Carmen (12) and foster son Hayze (4) farm 200 Friesian and Friesian-cross cows on 52 ha (eff.) at Te Pahu in the western Waikato.

The Rusts started using maize silage for the first time in March 2006 and have now completed two seasons with maize silage as part of their farming system.

"Before we used maize silage we had reached a production plateau of 1,100 – 1,200 kgMS/ha," says Noldy. "Maize silage has allowed us to increase production and profit and we are rapt with the results."

In the 2005/06 season, the Rusts fed 50 tDM of maize silage in the autumn for the first time and the farm produced 61,000 kgMS (1,173 kgMS/ha). In the 2006/07 season, maize silage input increased to 175 tDM, production lifted to just over 76,000 kgMS (1,462 kgMS/ha).

"In the 2006/07 season, we stopped feeding maize silage when we dried off the cows and we fed them baleage over the winter. This season, we decided to keep the baleage for the summer. We fed maize silage right through the winter months and into early lactation – we never stopped."

"As a result, we had the best-ever condition at drying off, the best-ever condition at calving, the best-ever calving spread and the best-ever submission rates," says Noldy. "About 75% of the herd calved in the first three weeks and 97% in the first six weeks. We had no inductions, used no CIDRs, calving was finished in nine weeks and our submission rate for the next mating was 92%". The herd has just been pregnancy scanned and the empty rate is 8%."Achieving good production is one benefit of maize silage; however, better reproductive performance adds to the profit."

Because the cows calved quickly and were in good condition, the Rusts got off to the "dream start" that they were looking for. By the end of September, the farm was 4,000 kgMS ahead of last year.

Maize silage was fed at 2-6 kgDM/cow until two weeks after the end of artificial insemination. Noldy had planned to save the remainder of his maize silage for the autumn but spring was late and grass growth was variable. The maize silage stack was opened two weeks later on 24 November and Noldy fed maize silage until it ran out on 21 December.

The herd was fed all-grass until 10 January when the start of the driest summer in 100 years forced Noldy to start feeding baleage. Currently, cows are being fed 4 kgDM baleage, 4 kgDM palm kernel extract and whatever grass they can find.

"As at the end of February, we were 1,200 kgMS ahead of last year and it looks as though we will come close to last year's production, despite the fact that this has been a rough season," says Noldy. "I know that if I was on an all-grass system this year, I would be in big trouble."

Noldy has ordered around 185 tDM of Pioneer® brand 34B23 maize silage and he can't wait for it to arrive. "As soon as the maize silage bunker was empty I felt vulnerable," he says. "Maize silage gives me so much more confidence to push this grass-based system to the limits it delivers great peace of mind."