A re-think of how maize is utilised on farm has allowed a Hawera dairy farming family to significantly increase milk production while reducing cow numbers.
Last season, Mike and Leigh Eggink reduced cow numbers on their 307 ha farm from 500 cows – producing 170,000 kgMS, or 340 kgMS/cow - to 420 cows, which are on track to produce 195,000 kgMS, or 464 kgMS/cow, this season.
The Egginks have fed maize silage in the paddock for the past eight years to extend lactation and increase body condition, but an ideal summer in 2017/18 saw a previously unexplored opportunity take shape.
“With the farm being large, and cows having to walk up to 3 km a day, we’ve always fed a bit of in-shed feed – pellets, blends, or whatever is the best value for money – as the herd needs a bit of high-energy feed,” Mike says.
“But with a bunker full of leftover grass silage in 2017/18, we were forced to leave our maize crop for grain.”
“Since then, maize grain has replaced the pellets in-shed, with the combined methods of feeding maize enabling us to fully feed the herd.”
Today, the farm grows 22 ha of maize in total: VPMAXX® hybrid VP577 for grain and silage, and VP383 for silage.
Mike grows 11 ha of maize for grain on their 46 ha runoff, yielding approximately 14 tonnes of grain per hectare. It is harvested, dried, kibbled, and fed through in-shed feeders from post-calving until the grain runs out in January.
He also grows 10 ha of maize silage at the back of the farm, yielding between 18-23 tDM/ha.
The silage is fed to the cows in autumn to lift performance at the end of the season, extending lactation and increasing cow condition.
It’s also fed around mating, pre-Christmas and post-calving. “When you’re trying to fully feed your cows maize is invaluable; we’re lucky to have it, and can farm smarter as a result,” Mike says.
The Egginks were first introduced to the VPMAXX brand through their merchant rep, and soon found themselves neck-deep in “intriguing” maize crop trials on their farm, implemented by VPMAXX Account Manager Joe Heng.
“When you’re trying to fully feed your cows, maize is invaluable”
Their farm has been the VPMAXX South Taranaki demonstration site for several years and was the only VPMAXX grain hybrid trial site in Taranaki in 2018.
“Joe placed a hybrid trial on farm to gather data on the best performing hybrids to suit our farming plan,”
“The trial work has been really interesting to see; we have seen results that indicate the grain yield of a particular hybrid has potential to reach 17 t/ha.”
The Eggink’s maize growing operation is not typical of the area, nor of a traditional farmer. Maize grain growing is a relatively new concept in Taranaki, and Joe says usually farmers grow either grain or silage.
“Mike is one of the few farmers that is not only growing their own maize silage, but also growing grain to feed their own cows, rather than buying in or selling to a merchant,” Joe says.
Mike says Joe has been instrumental in the successful growth of both maize crops.
“Joe has great planting knowledge, soil testing each time to determine the fertiliser requirements and recommends the correct planting dates, depending on the season,” he says.
“He treats our grain and silage crops differently and was proactive at providing agronomic advice on growing grain, rather than silage, as we were reasonably new to growing grain.”
“We are still tweaking how we do things, but lower stocking rate, higher production and self-sufficiency are all components of the system that we are trying to achieve,” Mike says.
“We want a good sustainable system that doesn’t rely heavily on other companies to supply feedwhen the world goes to pot. With what’s happening in the world right now, it has never been more significant.”