Henry and Nicole Hendriks on their Hamilton farm.
|Farm size:||63 hectares|
|Herd size:||320 cows|
Maize silage is a central part of Waikato farmers Nicole and Henry Hendriks highly productive dairy farm system. Henry and Nicole farm 63 effective hectares in partnership with Henry’s parents John and Corrie, on the outskirts of Hamilton. In 2004 they were judged overall winners of the productivity award in the Fonterra Westpac Dairy Excellence Awards.
Their 320 cow Friesian/Jersey/Ayrshire cross herd produce 402 kgMS per cow and 2,030 kgMS per hectare. Henry and Nicole’s farming system delivers results with an industry leading EFS of $4,800 per hectare in the 2004-05 season.
Cows are fed 850 kgDM/cow maize silage per annum. They also receive palm kernel for protein when supplementation is high and molasses for additional energy in the spring. To keep feeding out simple, maize silage is taken from the bunker to the nearby feedpad using a tractor with an auger bucket. "The auger keeps the silage face tight and we feed the whole herd in less than 30 minutes. The feed out area is small as we require less room for turning machinery."
To maximise pasture growth Henry follows the cows spinning on nitrogen (at 220 kg N per hectare per annum) as the cows come out of the paddock each day. Summer irrigation combined with the Hendriks' unique pasture management regime allows the farm to achieve pasture utilisation of around 19 tonnes of drymatter per hectare per year.
Last season, the Hendriks grew 4.5 hectares of maize on farm and purchased in a further six hectares. This season they have planted seven hectares of Pioneer® brand 36H36 on farm. "We use a short maturity maize silage hybrid planting it in mid to late November after we have harvested the pasture silage. Planting a high population and applying plenty of fertiliser including dairy effluent, helps us to achieve an average maize silage yield of 28 tDM/ha. Not only does the shorter season hybrid yield extremely well, it ensures the paddock is back in grass well before the end of autumn."
"One of the big advantages of maize silage is that it allows us to maintain a significant quantity of feed so that no matter what the weather throws at us, we can guarantee our production. It is like having an insurance policy in place" says Henry. "It also allows us to increase total drymatter production per hectare and drive the average cost of feed down."
Cows are dried off based on calving date with the whole herd dry by the 10th of June. While they are dry, the cows are wintered in a barn coming out to graze for 2½ hours and eat supplements on the feed pad for one hour each day. This "on and off" grazing system combined with a 240 day winter round allows a very significant feed wedge to be pushed ahead of the herd so that when calving starts in late July the average pasture cover level is 3,200 kgDM/ha.
In the spring cows are fed to appetite using a combination of pasture and supplements. Maize silage feeding normally finishes in early November as pasture growth rates meet cow demand.
Artificial insemination lasts for three weeks and is followed up with bulls who are the offspring of high breeding worth cows in the herd. The replacement rate is 10%, the empty rate less than 2% and the oldest cows exit the herd at 18-20 years. "The best first calvers produce 350 kilograms of milksolids in a season. The older cows average 350 to 400 kgMS and so we keep milking them" says Henry.
Maize silage feeding is an integral part of the autumn management system. "For putting condition score onto cows nothing beats maize silage. While other herds are going backwards, ours keep on producing" says Henry.
While some would be comfortable with the production and profit levels they have achieved so far, Henry and Nicole strive to push their system further. "We have increased production by an average 12% per year. Our focus is always on the cows, which we aim to feed better so that we continue to increase per cow production. Our ultimate goal is 2,500 kgMS/ha with the same costs as someone doing 1,250kg MS/ha. Maize silage will be the key feed platform for achieving these targets."
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