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Maize uses effluent, produces low cost feed

Maize uses effluent, produces low cost feed

2014/15 Season

Owners: Karl & Rachel Picard
Farm location: Okaiawa, Taranaki
Farm size: 340 ha (eff.)
Herd size: 1,050

On-farm maize growing allows Taranaki couple Karl and Rachel Picard to produce a high quality, low cost supplement while at the same time reducing the build-up of excessive soil nutrients.

The couple, along with children Casey (17) and Matthew (13), milk 1,050 Friesian and Friesian cross cows on 340 ha (eff.) at Okaiawa in South Taranaki. The farm is owned by Taranaki Byproducts Ltd. and is used as a greenbelt for the company’s rendering plant. 

The 2013-14 season was the couple’s first sharemilking on the farm and Karl was kept very busy re-fencing the farm, building races and upgrading the water system. A 300-cow feed pad was also extended to hold 800 cows at a time. 

“We nearly bit off more than we could chew with all the projects we started at once, but we got there in the end” says Karl. 

In the Picard’s first season on the farm their herd produced 487,000 kgMS (463 kgMS/cow or 1,432 kgMS/ha) which was 150,000 kgMS higher than the previous season. In the 2014-15 season they are on track to produce 550,000 kgMS. 

An upgrade to the cow shed is in the long term plan but will have to wait until the payout improves. 

“In the peak it takes us around four hours to milk 19-rows through a 58-a-side herringbone” says Karl. “Sometime down the track we would like to build a bigger shed near the centre of the farm so milking is faster and the cows don’t have to walk so far.” 

Karl has been growing and feeding maize silage for more than 10 years. 

“The maize plant is great at extracting excess nutrients including potassium from areas where effluent has been applied” says Karl. “It’s great for pasture renewal and maize silage is the cheapest form of supplement we can feed.” 

Maize crops typically yield 20 tDM/ha and cost 18 c/kgDM fed. This year the couple have planted 65 ha of Pioneer® brand P9400. 

“We’re looking for a hybrid which delivers a high yield with plenty of starch and energy” says Karl. “We also like the excellent advice and technical support we get from our local Pioneer Area Manager, Kim Sharpe.” 

The farm runs a split calving system with 320 autumn and 730 spring calving cows. Last spring mating lasted for six weeks, and the remaining 200 empties were carried over and mated in the autumn to get the balance between the two herds right. 

Karl measures pasture quality throughout the season and the feed test results, along with pasture availability and cow production levels, determine the rate and combination of supplements he feeds on the pad. In the 2013-14 season cows were fed a mix of maize silage, palm kernel, molasses and straw. This year he has dropped the molasses and straw, and is using a mixer waggon to feed maize silage, palm kernel and kibbled maize. 

“We wanted to put more energy into the diet, so we introduced kibbled maize” says Karl. “It’s a bit more expensive but it gives us more bang for our buck.” 

While the couple have farm ownership as their ultimate goal, the medium-term plan is to stay on the current farm and to continue to increase production. 

“We’ve done a lot of work on the farm and hopefully we can reap the benefits when the payout rises again” he says. 

In the meantime Karl is planning to grow the same, or a bit more maize silage next season, and he believes it will always have a place in his farm system. 

“If it wasn’t for maize silage we wouldn’t be able to run the stocking rate we are running and do what we are doing.” 

The Picard's maize silage crop