Matt and Laura Gow with their daughters Kate (right) and Abby.
|Owners:||Matt and Laura Gow|
Maize silage is the supplement of choice for Bay of Plenty farmers Matt and Laura Gow. The Gows and daughters Kate (5) and Abby (4) milk 970 cows on 280 ha (eff.) near Edgecumbe. Last year, the farm produced 363,300 kgMS (1,298 kgMS/ha and 374 kgMS/cow) which was a great result given the very dry year.
The farm, which is owned by a family trust, has been in Matt’s family since it was reclaimed from swampland in the 1920s. While the farm is run as a single operation, the cows are milked in two herds on two properties that are 2 km apart.
The larger unit comprises of 215 ha and milks around 750 cows. The smaller 65 ha farm, managed by Brian Lingard, milks 240 cows through a 24-bale internal rotary shed. The key challenges of both properties are wet winters and dry summers.
"We’ve reduced the impact of the summer dry by installing irrigation on two-thirds of the farm," says Matt. "Maize silage is fed on a feed pad on both properties and a 300-cow post-peeling loafing pad helps to protect pastures during the wetter months."
The farm’s maize silage supply comes from a small acreage on the milking platform with the main crop grown on lease land. This year, the Gows have planted 6 ha of Pioneer® brand 39F58 on the home farm on an area that required contouring and 26.5 ha of Pioneer® brand 34D71 on lease land.
"Maize silage is an excellent complement to pasture. It is easy to ensile, easy to feed-out, highly palatable and there is plenty of information on how to grow and feed it" says Matt. "It allows us to maximise the return from our lease blocks without a significant time investment."
Because maize silage must fit into the farming system, hybrid maturity is an important selection criterion along with yield potential.
"The lease block needs to be planted in annual ryegrass before the middle of March so that we can get two grazings off it over the winter as well as a cut of pasture silage in the spring," says Matt. "Pioneer Area Manager Robin Billett and Forage Specialist Ian Williams helped us to identify the best hybrids for our farming operation."
The heifers and main herd start calving on the main farm on 11 July and 17 July respectively. Once 240 "suitable cows" that are sound and four to nine years in age, have calved, they are transferred to the smaller farm.
Maize silage is fed from calving through to September or October, depending on pasture cover levels. It is also used in the autumn from harvest time in mid-March through to the end of May.
"Maize silage allows us to increase cow condition and to push production at each end of the season," says Matt. "It is fantastic for putting condition on cows and allows us to keep milking peak cow numbers into April before the first cull."
While the current system is both efficient and profitable, with a Dairybase EFS in the top 10% in the 2006/07 season, Matt aims to do even better in the future.
"We are aiming to optimise production while running a simple, profitable and sustainable system,"says Matt, adding "We are always striving to make this a better farm."
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