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Maize silage provides secure feed supply

Farm managers Rawson wright (Pine Hill, left) and Gordon Lindsay (Harbour Edge, middle) with Operations Manager Scott Freeman (right), Tapora.

Maize silage provides secure feed supply

2004/05 Season

Owners: Glen and Joanne Inger
Farm location: Tapora
Farm size: 568 hectares
Herd size: 1,430 cows

Dairy farming at Tapora on the edge of the Kaipara Harbour has delivered its share of challenges for Northland farmer Scott Freeman. Scott is Operations Manager of "Pine Hill" and "Harbour Edge" farms owned by Glen and Joanne Inger. The farms are located at Tapora, 30 kilometres west of Wellsford.

The farm receives a total of just 1,250 mm of rainfall annually. "A drought occurs when the farm has 10 days without rain," says Scott, "and frequently we receive no rainfall for three months over the summer. This combined with sandy soils means that pasture growth rates are extremely variable."

In an attempt to maximise productivity, the 270 hectare Pine Hill farm was converted to split calving five seasons ago. The 298 hectare Harbour Edge farm was purchased two years ago. This year a total of 1,430 cows are being milked on the two farms with 700 spring calvers, 650 autumn calvers and 80 carryover cows. Maize silage has become an integral part of the successful system on both farms.

"We use maize silage to ensure that feed is available for the autumn calving herd. We also use it to increase total feed produced on the farm enabling us to maintain a higher stocking rate. Maize silage ensures we maintain cow condition score as well as pasture cover levels for the spring calving herd."

In previous seasons the maize silage fed was bought in as well as being grown on-farm. This year Scott is growing all the maize silage he needs on-farm. "We average crop yields of around 22 tonnes of drymatter per hectare and our cost of feed (including wastage and pasture foregone) is 14 cents per kilogram of drymatter."

While the farm does have a feed pad, the majority of the maize silage is fed out on the sand hills during the winter months.

The farm's results speak for themselves. In the 2004/05 season the two farms averaged 801 kilograms of milksolids per hectare (318 kgMS per cow) and produced an economic farm surplus of around $1,600 per hectare which is more than double the district average.

"While the 2004-05 maize growing season had its challenges due to a lack of pasture growth from a severe moisture deficit and insect populations, we were still able to achieve increased milksolids production on both farms over the previous season. This was largely due to the remarkable ability of the maize plant to produce even under immense drought and insect pressure as well as the technical and practical support that we received from Pioneer® brand products," says Scott.