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Using run-off to achieve farming goals

Sharemilker Norman Burgoyne (left) and farm assistant Geoff Watt (centre) with farm owner Ross Dunlop (right) on Ross's southern Taranaki farm that looks out over Ohawe Beach.

Using run-off to achieve farming goals

2006/07 Season

Owners: Ross and Jan Dunlop
Farm location: Hawera
Farm size: 210 hectares
Herd size: 500 cows

Maize silage is part of a successful management package for Taranaki farmers Ross and Jan Dunlop. The Dunlops, with help from sharemilkers Norm and Rachel Burgoyne, farm a 150 hectare milking platform that extends over hilly contour to the sea at Ohawe Beach near Hawera. In the 05/06 season their 500 cow split calving herd (320 spring: 180 autumn) produced 1,168 kgMS/ha (350 kgMS/cow). They are on target to achieve the same production this year, despite a very slow and cold spring.

Summer dryness and the hilly contour are probably the key challenges for this farm, which can experience its lowest annual pasture growth rates between mid January and the end of March. To fill the resultant autumn feed deficit, the Dunlops have fed maize silage to their herd since the mid 1990s. "We are pleased with our production increase over the last decade and maize silage has been a key factor," says Ross.

Maize silage is fed to all the milkers from when it is harvested at the beginning of April through to the early spring. "If you feed grass silage or other supplements going into the winter, cows start to lose condition," says Ross. "We can milk through the winter and instead of losing weight, our cows are gaining it."

The Dunlops grow their own maize silage on a separate block and it is carted back to the milking platform and stacked at a cost of 14-15 c/kgDM. "When you have a separate piece of land that you can’t milk on, the best way of utilising it is to grow a high yielding crop of high quality maize silage and bring it back to the milking platform," says Ross.

In the 06/07 season the Dunlops grew a total of 17 hectares of maize silage which had an average yield of 22 tDM/ha, allowing them to feed 680 kgDM/cow. This year they have increased their maize area to 19 hectares growing Pioneer® brand 38F70 and 39F58. "We are looking for a maize silage hybrid that yields well," says Ross. "This season we decided to use some 39F58 because it yielded 25 tDM/ha in the Pioneer® maize silage trial that we had on our farm last year."

"In the future we will continue to improve our farming systems and will be looking at ways that maize silage can be used on a recently acquired 380 hectare dry stock farm to the best advantage."