Back Maize in a low payout season

Date: 12 April 2016

The current challenging payout conditions mean many farmers are scrutinising budgets and looking for ways to further reduce expenditure. We’ve had a lot of farmers asking questions around whether they should still feed supplements and how much they can afford to pay for supplements. Here are a couple of things you will need to consider when looking at your supplementary feed inputs for the coming season. 

Feed input drives milk output.

Unless you were wasting significant amounts of supplement or see opportunities to increase pasture harvest, lower supplementary feed inputs usually will result in less milk in the vat.  If you were feeding significant amounts of costly supplements, it is possible that less feed may mean a more profitable system, however it is important to remember that if you decrease production, then fixed costs (such as interest) become higher on a per kgMS basis.

Comparative stocking rate

While there have been a significant number of cows culled in the past year, many farmers have made even greater changes to their supplementary feed regime. In some cases the result has been lower per cow production, increased animal health costs and decreased reproductive performance. If you have changed your stocking rate or feed inputs check your comparative stocking rate (CSR) to ensure you are still sitting in the ideal range of 75 - 80 kg liveweight per tDM. You can find the comparative stocking rate calculator at

Milksolids response rates.

How much milk you get from a feed, and the value of that milk determines how much you can afford to pay for supplements. New Zealand milk production trials have shown an average response to supplements close to 80 gMS/kgDM fed, however there is a large range with much higher and much lower response rates being possible depending on a number of factors. The most important factor of which is how much pasture is available to feed cows. Where cows are drastically underfed on pasture, you are likely to see very high milksolids responses to supplements, while responses are likely to be low if there is plenty of grass. Facts and Figures for NZ Dairy Farmers outlines likely milksolids responses based on post-grazing residuals and average pasture cover. See pages 32 - 33 in

The value of the milk produced from feeding 1 kgDM at a $4.25 payout and a range of milksolids response rates are shown in Table 1 below.

Note: this is not the amount you can afford to pay for supplement, as other factors such as wastage, additional costs (e.g. power and labour) and your desired profit margin must also be considered.


Table 1: Value of the milk produced from feeding 1 kgDM at a $4.25 payout and a range of milksolids response rates.

Milksolids Response Rate (gMS/kgDM fed)

Value of the milk produced (c/kgDM fed)













Finally, think ahead.

In some regions the past summer has been unusually kind. However one certainty in farming is that you can’t rely on the weather. Regardless of the payout, it makes sense to plan ahead for next season.  A limitation of grazed crops like brassicas is that they must be fed when they are mature regardless as to whether you need the feed. Maize is a better option because it can be stored and fed anytime when feed supply is limited