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Managing pasture and maximising production using maize silage

John and Christine Lambert with Pioneer Forage Specialist Ian Williams (centre).

Managing pasture and maximising production using maize silage

2006/07 Season

Owners: John and Christine Lambert
Farm location: Matamata
Farm size: 50 hectares (eff.)
Herd size: 227 cows

In the last five seasons John and Christine Lambert have increased milk production by 100% from 1,150 kgMS/ha to 2,300 kgMS/ha in the 05/06 season by moving from a successful all-grass system to one which uses large amounts of maize silage and other supplements.

The Lamberts milk 227 spring calving Friesian cows on 50 hectares (eff.) near Matamata in the Eastern Waikato. Their change to a more intensive system was motivated by an interest in higher input systems along with a desire to overcome the limitations of a farm which is very wet in the winter and spring. "We wanted to grow our dairy farming business and head to a place where we could work on it, not in it," says John. "Pasture utilisation is number one and the maize silage allows us to avoid pasture damage so we can grow more grass. At the same time we are feeding our cows better and producing a lot more milk. With this system we have doubled our production, but not our costs and so it is more profitable."

Last season the Lamberts fed around 500 kgDM/cow of maize silage. This year they have purchased a combination of two hybrids, Pioneer® brand 36M28 which will be harvested and fed in February, and a later maturing crop of Pioneer® brand 33J56. "We use maize silage because it is a good energy source. The carbohydrate in it allows us to maintain cow condition and we can feed it as required to look after our grass," says John. The Lamberts also feed a range of other supplements including brewers grain and grass silage.

Cows are dried off according to calving date with the last milking occurring on June 12. The whole herd is wintered off the farm for two weeks. Springers return home and are fed maize silage prior to calving. Cows start calving July 10 and maize silage intake is varied as required. As pasture growth rates increase, maize silage feeding is reduced down to 1-2 kgDM/cow. Maize silage intake is increased as pasture growth rates fall in the summer and is fed throughout the autumn to ensure that the cows are in good condition prior to drying off.

"We stop feeding maize silage for 2-3 weeks in the winter when we go on holiday," says John. "All our maize silage is inoculated with Pioneer® brand 11C33 because it eliminates heating at the face and allows us to close down the stack and re-open it 2-3 weeks later without any wastage."

All the supplements are fed on a feed pad and the effluent is collected and spread back over the farm. The system is environmentally kind since soil structure damage has been virtually eliminated.

"We are feeding the cows so that they milk to their genetic potential. This system offers us a challenge and the production just keeps on growing," says John. "I wouldn't ever go back to all-grass farming."