Earle and wife Shelagh have been dairy farming for over 50 years and for the last 15 years they have fed maize in a way that is probably considered a bit ‘unorthodox’ to some, but it has produced successful and measurable results.
The couple milk 650 cows near Te Puke and grow VP483 and VP383 (a shorter season option) for grain on a mix of owned and leased land at Tolaga Bay, near Gisborne. Each season they grow around 80 ha of maize, dependent on several factors including spring planting conditions and actual feed requirements.
Once harvested the maize is transported to Te Puke where it is dried and stored. It is delivered to the farm as whole maize through the season as required. After being milled on farm, the maize is mixed with palm kernel and fed to the cows through an in-shed feeding system.
“We’ve been doing this for a long time,” Earle says. “I think we have fed more than 10,000 tonnes of maize grain to the cows over the years.
“What I believe to be true is feeding maize to cows will likely get you a one-for-ten response; that is, if you feed 10 kg of maize, you will get 1 kgMS in return.
“If I can go out of the district and grow my own maize and get 10 tonnes of grain to the hectare, then I can effectively produce 1,000 kgMS per hectare on the milking platform. That’s my reasoning for doing things this way.”
Earle says feeding maize this way is “a simple philosophy that fits well into dairying.” “We have some control over the price of the feed by owning the land and growing the crop ourselves,” he says.
“This strategy can apply to anyone, regardless of the property or herd size. It fits well with the rotary cow shed as it’s easy to feed in the bails, and we have very little wastage.” Earle says their technique is just another way you can utilise maize on farm.
"It demonstrates that growing a maize crop a long way from the farm and carting the crop to the milking platform is viable for dairy farmers…and the cropping block is easy to run"
With 50 years of farming under his belt and son Rory now in charge of the dayto-day running of the business, Earle says thinking outside the box has stood him in good stead. “There are always different ways of doing things and I have liked to try different things,” he says. “I believe you have to be a good pasture manager and utilise the grass you have first, but if you do that well, you get a good reward from feeding maize grain.”