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Year-round maize use, all-round improvements

Year-round maize use, all-round improvements

2019/20 Season

Owners: Shanan & Debbie Wellman
Farm location: Rai Valley, Marlborough
Farm size: 120 ha milking platform
Herd size: 380 cows

The Wellmans, who milk 380 cows on a 120 ha effective milking platform between Nelson and Blenheim, are replicating the farming system they used in their previous job as 50/50 sharemilkers of a large herd in the Waikato.

“We were doing 525 kgMS/cow in the Waikato – serious production – so we are trying to replicate that here,” Shanan says.

“We did 168,000 kgMS last season, and we are targeting 500 kgMS/cow.”

“Production is important, but it needs to be done on a cost-effective basis, and that’s where maize fits in well.”

The Wellmans feed 2 kg of maize silage per cow per day, year-round, in addition to some palm kernel.

The couple, who are in their second season on the farm, bought in 7 ha and grew 5.5 ha of maize this year. They expect to grow the same again this season, whilst increasing the bought-in portion to 12 ha.

“This year we are increasing our bought-in maize as there is more certainty around pricing – your feed budget can be calculated more accurately, and you know you’re not getting stung when the going gets tough,” Shanan says. “Plus, maize is a more ethical farming method.”

Despite a rocky start to growing maize on farm, things are looking up. This season they planted their maize crop in late October, with mid-December rain delivering a yield of 20 tonnes DM/ha.

Their average yield over the last two seasons is 18 tonnes DM/ha.

In addition to cow condition and milk production, the Wellmans use maize as part of their regrassing programme.

“The farm needs a lot of regrassing, a lot of fertiliser – a lot of love, really,” Shanan says. “Planting maize helps on that front.”

The Wellmans’ Pioneer Area Manager Tony Pascoe has been involved in hybrid selection and discussions of where maize fits into their farm system.

“Tony helps us to choose cultivars, as being new to the area we were unfamiliar with environmental patterns,” Shanan says.

“The farm also has a variety of different environments within it – some areas are prone to wind damage, and some need monitoring for pests.”

For the Wellmans, who strive for cost-effective production, maize silage is an inexpensive, high quality feed.

“We like running a basic system and maize fits in well – it’s cheap, basic and creates good production.”