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Maize silage offers great insurance

Maize silage offers great insurance

2015/16 Season

Owners: Dave & Sue Forsythe
Farm location: Te Awamutu
Farm size: 185 ha
Herd size: 700 Friesian x Jersey cows
Pioneer® brand hybrids grown: P1636

Maize silage is an integral part of a successful dairy farm system for David and Sue Forsythe. The couple, who milk a split-calving Friesian x Jersey herd on 185 hectares (eff) south of Te Awamutu, have been feeding maize silage for 22 years and are convinced of the crops benefits both as a quality supplement and as an important part of their pasture renewal programme.

Each year around 11 ha of maize silage is grown on farm as part of the farm’s regrassing programme. Low producing paddocks are planted in maize followed by an annual ryegrass crop. The same paddocks are cropped in maize a second time and then planted into a permanent pasture mix which includes plantain, the following autumn.

“Using effluent allows us to grow two consecutive crops of maize silage in a paddock without the need for any artificial fertiliser” says David. “The maize reduces surplus soil nutrients and we get a crop yielding around 25 tDM/ha for just 12 – 13 c/kgDM”.

David is looking for a hybrid that delivers a high drymatter yield with a good grain content. In the 2015-16 growing season he planted Pioneer® brand P1636.

“Pioneer provide us with proven hybrids and we get great support from the local Pioneer representative”.

The couple also buy in around 700 tDM of maize silage each year. All the maize silage is inoculated with Pioneer® brand inoculant at harvest time.

“We start feeding out the maize silage a week after it is harvested and usually continue until the grass starts to take off in early October”.

Dry cows are fed up to 8 kg of maize silage per day. They spend their days in a Herd Home eating and are put onto pasture at night when they are full.

“Maize is great for putting weight on cows especially in the autumn and it helps keep the dry cows very settled and content” says David. “When they go out to the paddocks they just lie down so they do very little pasture damage and most of the calves are born outside”.

Milkers are fed 2 - 6 kgDM of maize silage combined with a range of by-products including biscuit meal, corn steep liquor and kiwifruit.

In the 2014-15 season the couple peak milked 880 cows and produced 456,000 kgMS (2,465 kgMS/ha and 480 kgMS/cow).  In the 2015-16 season they peak milked 850 cows and are on track to produce around 380,000 kgMS despite a prolonged summer drought.

Ultimately David plans to reduce the herd to 650-700 cows and change to a 100% autumn calving system which will be less complex to manage than the current split calving system.

Maize silage will continue to play an important part in the farms supplementary feeding regime.

“Having a big stack of maize silage on hand year-round is great insurance because we can adjust the feeding rates up and down depending on how much pasture we have on hand” says David. “It’s a great feed”.