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Using maize silage as an insurance policy against the weather

Pioneer Area Manager Craig Booth (left) with Terence Brocx inspecting Terence's maize silage harvest.

Using maize silage as an insurance policy against the weather

2006/07 Season

Owners: Terence and Suzanne Brocx
Farm location: Kerikeri
Farm size: 162 hectares (eff.)
Herd size: 440 cows

Terence and Suzanne Brocx farm a 440 cow split calving Friesian herd on 162 hectares (eff.) near Kerikeri. Last season they produced a total of 1,000 kgMS/ha and this year they are on target for 1,150 kgMS/ha (423 kgMS/cow).

"Farming in Northland is very variable," says Terence. "You just don't know when you will get too much or too little rain. With an all-grass system you can do everything right and the weather can pull the results away from you. With maize silage in the stack, you effectively have an insurance policy in place. It is a tap you can turn on at any time."

As well as providing reliable drymatter intakes for autumn calving cows, maize silage has been used to bring spring calving forward to July 10.

"One of the biggest management issues is to find quality winter grazing," says Terence. "Feed gets short on most farms in July/August. You can be paying money for off-farm grazing and your cows are losing weight. Calving earlier and filling the feed demand with maize, turns those liability dry cows into profitable milkers and helps increase days in milk before Christmas and overall lactation days."

Terence believes farmers underestimate the benefits of feeding maize silage from autumn through to spring when pastures generally have an excess of protein.

The Brocxs feed a total of 300 tDM (675 kgDM/cow) of maize silage. This year they have planted 2.5 hectares of Pioneer® brand 34B23 on farm and 12.5 hectares on leased land. "We approached a sheep and beef farmer with the aim of securing our maize silage supply while at the same time increasing his farm returns. Our approach was to demonstrate to dry land farmers that leasing land for maize cropping is a more profitable land use than grazing. The land is leased for a two year period giving flexibility in length of maturity in maize varieties," says Terence.

The Brocx's farming goals are overall profit and simplicity.

Maize has achieved this giving high profit, high production and good utilisation of their current labour workforce.