Maize was a winner at the 2017 Dairy Business of the Year awards, with the supplement an integral part of both the supreme winner and the runner ups’ farm systems.
Supreme winners Sulzberger Farms Ltd, owned by Andrew and Sibylle Sulzberger and his parents Brad and Chris Sulzberger, and runners up, equity managed by Joe and Jemima Foster, both successfully used maize silage in their award-winning systems despite running very different farm systems and input levels.
The awards aimed to define, benchmark and showcase excellence in the dairy industry, celebrating successful businesses from all farm systems. Andrew Sulzberger, milking 320 cows on the 115ha Urenui farm in Taranaki, ran a low-input, forage-based system 2-3 farm, with 85.6 per cent of the cows diet pasture, and a further 6.7 per cent as home-produced forage.
Growing five to seven ha of maize on farm to fill genuine feed deficits contributed to the lowest cost of forage consumed in the competition, at $173 t/DM, and their low cost of production of $2.50 per kg/MS, also the lowest in the competition.
Andrew says feeding maize silage is an excellent tool to get condition on cows. “We use it in autumn, straight after harvest, from early March until some stage in June when cows are near their target calving body condition score. We also use maize silage as a pasture management tool: it enables us to extend the autumn rotation and build pasture cover at the same time.”
Runners up Okaihau Pastoral Ltd ran a completely different farm system to the Sulzbergers – a high input, System 5 farm – but their use of maize was equally as successful.
The Fosters milk 1190 crossbred cows on the 368ha Northland farm and produced 1645kg MS/ha in the 2015/16 season, much of that figure attributed to the use of supplementary feed and concentrates, and pasture consumed at 61.6 per cent.
However, their competitive advantage was a high proportion of home-grown forage (94 per cent), helping to keep the cost of consumed feed low at $292/t DM and cementing their additional award for High Input Farm with the Best Financial Performance.
They grow 80ha of maize on a dairy support land near the farm, feeding maize all year round but primarily from late summer to the end of mating, as a tool to best utilise pasture.
“Maize is a reliable crop in the Northland area, it puts condition on cows and gives a good balance to the other feeds we use, and it’s environmentally friendly,” Joe says. “We utilise the effluent solids as part of our fertiliser system.”