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Strategically using maize silage in a large herd

David Turner with daughter Mary on their farm on Rakaia Island, Canterbury.

Strategically using maize silage in a large herd

2006/07 Season

Owners: David and Margaret Turner, and Doug and Helen Turner
Farm location: Rakaia Island
Farm size: 1,200 hectares (eff.)
Herd size: 5,000 cows

The sheer size of the operation produces major challenges which the Turners have had to overcome. Currently the cows are milked once-a-day through two 54 and one 62 bale rotary sheds. "Once-a-day suits us because the farm is 14 km long and so the cows have a long walk home and the sheer size of the operation makes twice daily milking logistically difficult," says David.

The farm feeds a total of 500 tDM of Pioneer® brand maize for silage which is contract grown by local cropping farmers. This year the hybrid of choice is Pioneer® brand 38F70. Crops yield an average of 18-20 tDM/ha and the maize silage is carted home and stacked for around 20c/KgDM. The herd starts calving on July 27 and maize silage is fed for two weeks prior to calving until the end of calving around September 10. "We use maize silage to keep the cows on a rising plane of nutrition pre-calving without causing udder oedema issues," says David. "It also provides us with an easy way of getting minerals such as causmag into 5,000 cows prior to calving."

The farm also grows 60 hectares of Pioneer® brand 54Q53 lucerne on their 350 hectare dairy support block. This is made into high quality lucerne baleage and fed from the end of February onwards. "Our first choice for autumn feeding is lucerne silage because of its superior quality," says David, "but we also feed some lower quality grass silage and straw in the winter." Both the maize and lucerne silage is inoculated with Pioneer® brand inoculant to maximise feed value and reduce drymatter losses.

The Turners' aim for the future is to increase per cow performance. They believe that improved once-a-day genetics and culling will help them achieve their objective.