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Most cost-effective feed

Graeme and John Davison on their Ruakura farm, Eastern Waikato.

Most cost-effective feed

2004/05 Season

Owners: John and Helen, and Graeme and Rebecca Davison
Farm location: Ruakura
Farm size: 280 hectares
Herd size: 900 cows

Graeme Davison is a third generation dairy farmer who loves to farm. Along with his wife Rebecca, son Connor (5 months) and parents John and Helen, Graeme milks 900 cows on a 280 hectare farm on the peat at Ruakura near Hamilton.

Despite the challenges of the 2004-05 season which included a cold, wet spring, the crossbred herd produced 1,136 kilograms of milksolids per hectare (353 kgMS/cow).

John Davison was an early adopter of maize silage back in 1970 and the farm has been growing maize silage on an annual basis ever since. Last season a total of 28 hectares of Pioneer® brand 34B23 was grown on-farm. The crop had an average yield of 24 tonnes of drymatter per hectare costing just 14.1 cents per kilogram of drymatter fed.

"To achieve high yields, we first prepare a fine, weed-free seedbed. We place a lot of emphasis on selecting the best Pioneer® brand maize silage hybrid for our growing conditions. Then we use a high quality contractor to plant the seed. Finally, we ensure that we apply enough fertiliser to achieve the yield that we are targeting."

"We use maize silage because it allows us to increase the farm drymatter yield per hectare, it is the cheapest feed available and it fits in with our pasture renovation programme," says Graeme. "We feed it in the paddock when ground conditions allow and on the feed pad when the weather turns wet."

The maize silage is fed from May until October at 4-6 kilograms of drymatter per cow per day. John places much emphasis on ensuring that maize silage quality is maximised. The crop is harvested at around 35% whole-plant drymatter, compacted thoroughly and sealed. Laboratory analysis shows this attention to detail pays dividends with the current maize silage testing at an energy level of 12.3 megajoules of metabolisable energy per kilogram of drymatter.

"In the future our aim is to decrease the cost of production by increasing total farm drymatter production allowing us to milk more cows and achieve more days in milk," says Graeme. "Maize silage will continue to play an important part in helping us meet these objectives."