Bay of Plenty dairy farmer Bryon Osborne, who milks 420 cows on 158 ha at Waimana, has created a feed strategy that aims to do just that, as well as improving conception rates and milk production.
“Our primary goal is to maintain our cow condition scores so the herd is cycling and back in calf without any issues,” Bryon says.
“The carbohydrates in maize silage are a critical component to achieve that weight gain.”
Bryon has been growing maize on-farm for seven years.
This season he planted 11 ha of VPMAXX® longer maturity hybrid VP647, yielding a consistent 22 tDM/ha; a good year can see a harvest of 25 tDM/ha.
The resulting maize silage, of which 260-270 tDM is consumed annually, is fed on the feed pad in a PKE/maize silage mix.
“We have found a mix of 2 kgDM maize silage and 2 kgDM PKE very strategic in helping improve in-calf rates,” Bryon says.
“The increase in milk production, to achieve our annual production figure of 165,000 kgMS, is a bonus on top of that.”
Bryon starts feeding maize silage in autumn, continuing through the dry period to keep condition on cows until calving.
He tries to stretch the maize silage through until mating in mid-November if he can, which has been made possible with the help of VPMAXX® account manager Barry Smallridge.
Two seasons ago Barry suggested Bryon change from a short maturity hybrid to long maturity hybrid VP647, to achieve more tonnage.
“Bryon has always wanted to improve maize yields. Planting VP647 increased total silage yield by more than 40 tDM above what was budgeted for, and this got them comfortably into mating,” Barry says.
“That season was excessively dry and maize yields across the board were down, but we got a great result with VP647.”
Bryon’s farm consultant Mike Beavon says the performance of the maize crop is paramount to the success of the business.
“As the maize is grown on the milking platform, we have to maximise the yield of the crop that is growing there,” he says.
Bryon says an advantage with maize silage is that it can be mixed with small amounts of other products to increase the energy and protein levels of the diet pre-mating.
Bryon also feeds maize silage as a supplement to balance the high levels of protein and ME in early spring pasture, increasing dry matter percentage and encouraging the maintenance of body condition score.
Feeding maize silage helps keep the level of imported feed to less than 20%, so the farm is eligible for the Fonterra Cooperative Difference payment.
Bryon is confident the longer maturity hybrid VP647 – resulting in higher tonnage and the ability to feed maize silage for longer - will continue to positively impact the business, something he thanks Barry for.
“I’ve known Barry for yonks, and his support here on farm has been really good,” he says.
“He has assisted us through any issues we’ve had with insects and weed control that would have otherwise impacted the maize we’re growing.
“We’ve had a long relationship and value and trust his advice.”