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More days in milk

More days in milk

2010/11 Season

Owners: Gary & Stacey Graham
Farm location: West Coast, South Island

Maize silage is playing an important role in West Coast farmers Gary and Stacey Graham's plans to increase farm production and profit.

The Grahams farm 380 ha at Atarau in the Grey Valley. In the 2010-11 season their 1,075 cow herd produced 380,000 kgMS (380 kgMS per cow and 1000 kgMS/ha) and the Grahams future target is to double production by milking 1,525 cows and producing 500 kgMS/cow.

"We've been a low input system but now we are using maize silage to help us intensify", says Gary. "It's all about a more efficient use of our land and cow resources. We've done the numbers and we can make more money out of a higher input system."

The Grahams planted 18 hectares of maize for silage on their run-offs for the first time in 2009. They increased the area to 36 hectares in spring 2011 and are planning to plant 60-70 hectares in 2012. Their hybrid of choice is Pioneer® brand 39G12 which "grows well on the Coast" producing 20-21 tDM/ha. Crops are harvested early enough to enable the autumn establishment of a forage rape crop which produces 3-5 tDM/ha of late winter feed.

"Maize silage is an excellent way to get cost-effective feed off our run-offs", says Gary. "It is an easy crop to grow as long as you do the basics right and follow the recommendations of the local Pioneer team."

Maize silage is fed in bins on a low-cost gravel stand-off pad near the farm dairy. It is used to extend lactation with two-thirds being fed in the autumn and one-third in the spring.

"Feeding maize silage in the autumn allows us to milk longer, put condition on cows and extend the rotation length. We're also using it to move our calving date forward to 1 August so we get more milk in the spring."

"It's pretty easy to do the figures to show that using maize silage to increase days in milk is profitable", says Gary. "It's not rocket science!"