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Maize used to increase cow condition & pasture cover levels

Mark and Tania Stratford with Pioneer Area Manager Mark Burke.

Maize used to increase cow condition & pasture cover levels

2008/09 Season

Owners: Kevin and Helen Adin
Sharemilker: Mark and Tania Stratford
Farm location: Feilding

An excellent farming partnership has allowed Manawatu sharemilkers Mark and Tania Stratford to increase their herd size from 200 to 600 cows in the past eight seasons.

The Stratford’s and their five children, Brooke (21), Hayden (19), Marti (18), Jesse (16) and Leah (14), returned to work with Kevin and Helen Adin in the 1999/2000 season, milking 200 cows south of Levin. Four years ago, the Adins sold their farm and bought a 160 ha, 300 cow farm near Feilding which needed plenty of development. The Stratford’s were relocated there.

"While the home farm had been milked on for years, it presented a lot of challenges for us when we arrived," says Mark. "The soil is a heavy clay which gets very wet in the winter and the farm needed a lot of development work to enable us to get the most out of it. We have put in a new farm dairy, underpasses, races, fences and a feed pad as well as upgrading the water system."

In the 2007/08 season, the 530 cow split-calving Friesian herd produced 181,300 kgMS (1,007 kgMS/ha and 342 kgMS/cow). In the current season (2008/09), the farm area has increased with the addition of a 25 ha lease block in March and the purchase of 49 ha adjoining farmland in October. Mark is milking 600 cows and targeting 200,000 kgMS production.

"In the last four years we have been able to lift production from 100,000 kgMS to 200,000 kgMS," says Mark. "There is no way that we could have achieved this without the Adins backing."

Maize silage forms an important part in the farm’s management system. Last year, Mark purchased 300 tDM maize silage from local contract growers. This year, he has planted 17 ha of Pioneer® brand 38P05 maize silage on-farm in paddocks where effluent can be applied and has contracted to buy in an additional 10 ha.

"Getting the new land gave us the opportunity to grow our own crops for the first time," says Mark. "Maize fits in well with our pasture renovation programme and because a local contractor does all of the work it’s a hassle-free crop to grow."

Next year, Mark plans to increase cow numbers to 700 and purchase in more of his maize silage requirements.

"With more cows on the farm we won’t have the luxury of land to spare," he says. "We will probably plant 7-10 ha on-farm and buy in the rest of our maize silage."

All the farm’s maize silage is stacked on a concrete pad that was part of the old farm dairy and is fed on the feed pad.

The spring and autumn herds start calving 20 July and 20 March respectively. Mark uses nominated sires and is aiming to breed a small, high fertility Friesian that will give good milk yields and a saleable black and white calf.

Maize silage is used to build up cow condition and pasture cover during the autumn months as well as to supplement the milkers during the winter and spring.

"Maize silage helps us to get condition score right at drying off and that has huge animal health and cow fertility benefits. Last season we faced record drought conditions and we just had no grass," says Mark.

"Maize silage was a Godsend because it helped us build up pasture cover before the spring."

For the Stratfords and Adins, the key focus over the coming seasons will be developing the recently purchased land so it can reach its full potential.

"We all think that the farm can realistically produce over 240,000 kgMS within the next few years," says Mark.