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On-farm maize growing stacks up

John Malcom (right) with son Peter and grandson Luther.

On-farm maize growing stacks up

2004/05 Season

Owners: John and Peter Malcolm
Farm location: Haweram
Farm size: 65 hectares
Herd size: 210 cows

Feeding maize silage and growing it on-farm have proven to be sound decisions for Hawera farmers John and Peter Malcolm. The Malcolms farm Jerseys on a 65 hectare milking platform north of Hawera. The main farm is supported by a 20 hectare run-off which is used for young stock and as a grass silage block.

After watching a relative who farmed nearby achieve excellent results with maize silage, John and Peter decided to "give it a go" themselves. The first crop was purchased four years ago and was used to feed the herd better by filling the feed deficits created by seasonal fluctuations in pasture growth.

For the past three years, maize silage has been grown on-farm. "The decision to grow maize silage on-farm was based on increasing the area that we put back into new pasture and reducing the overall cost per unit of drymatter," says John. "By growing on-farm we also had full control of the crop."

Around 2.5 hectares of a short maturity hybrid (this year Pioneer® brand 39K24) is planted in late October and harvested in March delivering good yields and allowing for timely regrassing. Some of the maize silage is fed out immediately after harvest to extend lactation length and increase cow condition. A portion is used in the spring to fill feed deficits and the balance is fed in the late summer to keep the cows going until the next crop is harvested.

"When we started feeding maize silage we didn't want to buy any extra gear," says John, "so the maize silage is fed in the spring and autumn periods directly onto the paddocks using a centre feed wagon."

John is quick to point out the advantage of maize silage compared to other summer crop options. "We used to feed turnips but you can't carry them over - you have to feed them when they are ready. With maize silage we can feed out within a few days of the crop being harvested or we can carry-over the feed until we need it and the cows like it so much, it is hard to stop feeding."

The high carbohydrate content of maize silage has also led to other benefits. "We have found that the milksolids test goes up when we are feeding maize silage over the late summer and autumn," says John. "We know this doesn't always happen, but it is an extra bonus for us when it does."