Nurtures Bumper Maize
Crop at High Altitude
CLARK PETERS FARMS LTD, STRATFORD
Pictured above: Taranaki farmers Kevin Clark, Shelley Clark, Bev Peters and Ross Clark
Growing a prolific maize crop at high altitude has become more of a certainty for Taranaki Dairy Farmer Ross Clark when using the SAMCO System to protect young plants.
Planted under OXO-biodegradable SAMCO film, the result was a bumper silage harvest, huge savings on feed costs and an extended milking season on the eastern slopes of Mt Taranaki.
Ross says their surplus of maize silage from a crop sown under SAMCO's OXO-biodegradable film helped extend the herd's days in milk 19 days beyond the usual May 20 end to Stratford's dairy season.
"It had good strong cobs and was an amazing crop," says Ross, who is aiming for a bigger harvest for the coming season with 20 ha of maize to be planted under SAMCO film in early October.
In partnership with his wife Shelley and her mother Bev Peters, the 2014 - 15 season was their first on the 250 ha (effective) farm, at 400 metres above sea level, where the benefit of good rainfall and shelter from coastal westerlies is limited by the early onset of winter and cold spring conditions.
Maize is not usually planted until almost November but the trial crop was planted, sprayed and covered by a SAMCO 3-in-1 planting machine a month early to allow a longer maturing and higher yielding hybrid to be grown.
"The crop was planted in the first week of October and it was quite amazing to see it up within five days. The film acts like a little glasshouse and three weeks later the plants are poking through it."
Ross and his brother Kevin, who manages the 600-cow farm while Ross sharemilks on another farm, had expected a yield of 14 tDM/ha but hoped for more.
"I thought if we could get 18 tonne we would be happy," says Ross, whose trial was conducted under the guidance of their local Pioneer representative, Kim Sharpe.
The 3 ha trial harvest weighed out at 26 tDM/ha, almost double the yield considered achievable at this altitude. A further 12 ha was grown in wetter paddocks, but not as part of the trial and yielded an estimated 20 – 22 tDM/ha.
The brothers were impressed, as was their farmers' discussion group and Ross says there's good interest in a repeat of the exercise with Pioneer® brand P9400 as well as a shorter maturing hybrid for an earlier harvest and consequently earlier start to regrassing the crop area.
"The trial harvest was during the first week of April and the first of it went straight into the mixer wagon with grass silage and palm kernel to feed to the cows. It had heaps of grain and was the best maize silage I have grown."
Ross says the cost of their home-grown maize for silage was about 10 c/kgDM less than bought-in maize and their total saving for an estimated 280 tDM would be at least $28,000.
There was no film residue from the SAMCO System as it was breaking down four months after planting "and nothing was left when we started to put it back into grass."
Last season they produced 270,000 kgMS – an average of 450 kgMS/cow, which was well ahead of the Stratford average of 369 kgMS/cow. For the coming season the Clark brothers are targeting 500 kgMS/cow.