A-maize-ing silage keeps farm tick­ing

Matamata Chronicle - - Rural Delivery -

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.

Photo: SUP­PLIED.

Pre­pared: The so­lu­tion ev­ery dairy farmer should con­sider is to hold an on-farm buf­fer of home-grown maize silage.

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