A-maize-ing silage keeps farm ticking
The past summer’s drought hit many Waikato farms hard decreasing production and profit and creating significant stress for farmers and their herds.
NIWA predictions show most farmers in the North Island are in line to spend 5 to 10 per cent more time in drought.
Developing droughtresilient farm systems will become increasingly important for farmers in the future.
The solution every dairy farmer should consider is to hold an on-farm buffer of home-grown maize silage.
There are a number of reasons why maize silage is an obvious choice to weather-proof your farm. These include:
1. Maize silage is cost effective.
While the price of imported supplements varies according to global demand, changes in the exchange rate and shipping costs, the price of homegrown maize silage remains low and relatively constant.
Most Waikato farmers can grow maize silage crops yielding 20-24 tDM/ha for 16-19c/kgDM.
Maize silage can be grown in high fertility paddocks (including effluent paddocks) without the need for additional fertiliser.
This reduces the feed cost to just 12-14c/kgDM. 2. Maize is reliable. Maize is a drought tolerant crop with a summer water use efficiency more than three times that of ryegrass.
Its deep rooting system allows it to access water which has dropped out of the root zone of shallowrooted pasture species.
Maize silage can be stored on-farm for several seasons providing a quality feed, at a cost-effective price when it is needed most.
3. Maize silage can be fed to milkers, dry cows and heifers.
Modern high-genetic cows are milk-producing machines.
Underfeeding results in significant loss in body condition and the carryover effects of decreased production and poor reproductive performance can last for several seasons.
Milkers. Maize silage can be used to fill feed deficits and to extend lactation length increasing milk production and farm profitability.
Dry cows. Maize is the premium cow conditioner.
It is highly palatable, can be safely fed in large amounts and the energy from maize silage is used 50 per cent more efficiently for condition score gain than energy in autumn pasture.
Heifers. Young-stock growth rates are often compromised when feed is short.
Always having a stack of maize silage on hand can help guarantee they always meet mating and calving liveweight targets.
4.Growing and feeding maize can help improve pasture persistence.
Maize is an ideal break crop helping farmers to establish new, higher yielding pastures. The cultivation process allows farmers to apply fertiliser, incorporate lime and address drainage issues which may have been negatively impacting pasture persistence. Cropping removes the normal feed source for pasture pests including black beetle.
This interrupts their breeding cycle and reduces insect pressure on seedling plants during the pasture renewal process.
The combination of maize silage and a well-designed stand-off pad with feeding facilities allows farmers to keep cows off wet or drought stressed pastures without compromising milk production or animal welfare.
Prepared: The solution every dairy farmer should consider is to hold an on-farm buffer of home-grown maize silage.