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Pasture renewal starts with maize

Cor Verwey with some of his herd on his Te Puke farm.

Pasture renewal starts with maize

2009/10 Season

Owners: Cor and Christine Verwey
Farm location: Te Puke

Maize silage, coupled with a pasture renewal programme, has allowed Cor and Christine Verwey to develop a simple but highly profitable farm system.

The Verweys and their family farm 450 cows on 122 ha (eff.) near Te Puke in the Bay of Plenty. In the 2008/09season, their Friesian cross herd produced 143,000 kgMS (1,172 kgMS/ha or 318 kgMS/cow). The farm is predominately peat and, over the past 23 years, Cor has planted maize silage as part of a pasture renewal programme, allowing him to incorporate fertiliser and lime, and contour run-out pasture paddocks. Last year’s 8 ha crop of Pioneer® brand 34B23 was grown on the farm’s effluent area and yielded around 22 tDM/ha.

“Making grass silage or hay is not cheap and it really knocks the paddocks around,” says Cor. “We use a higher stocking rate so the cows can harvest all the grass we grow and maize silage provides us with quality feed at a cost-effective price.”

Both the maize silage and kiwifruit sourced from the nearby Satara pack house are fed in concrete water troughs on a feed pad using a tractor and a front-end loader.

Cor is aiming for a long lactation and his supplementary feeding regime allows him to achieve this objective. Last season, the cows were only dry for seven weeks before calving. Cor won’t induce cows and feeding maize silage helps ensure they meet condition score targets so they cycle quickly and get back in calf.

In June 2007 the Verweys purchased a 130 ha dairy unit at Reefton. The West Coast farm is managed by their son Andrew. Cor, who thinks outside the square, believes there is “more than one way to skin a cat”.

To reduce the cost of establishing the herd on the Reefton farm, he shipped 50 cows a year from the home farm to the South Island. Milking the empties and late calvers through the winter allowed him to maintain herd numbers on the home farm.

The Verweys’ belief in the benefits of maize silage has seen it incorporated into the farming system at Reefton. For the last two seasons, they have grown 15 ha of Pioneer® brand 39G12 on lease land. Last year’s crop yielded 20 tDM/ha.

Cor says the secret to making money out of dairying is to have “short arms and deep pockets”.

“While we are focused on getting good production, we watch our costs all the time,” he says. “Maize silage fits into our low-cost farming system very well.”