Maize harvest is here – and get renovating pasture soon!

with Bill Webb
Bill Webb Feed Solutions

It’s very dry. As of February 20 we’ve had about 10mm of rain this year. That includes 3.5mm at our yard for February so far. I haven’t seen the dust dampened once.

Luckily, the maize seems to be doing okay. But maize growing down Taupo way is drying out, which could have affected pollination, so there may not be much value in it. Waikato maize crops have experienced a similar thing. They may not have much of a cob because it got too dry earlier on and this affected pollination. The later-planted crops will be most affected, as they haven’t had the moisture to get them through pollination. Our earlier crops got some rain in December and early-January and we got good pollination – thank goodness!

A bad pollination creates a cob not fully formed or the silk may have dehydrated and won’t pollinate kernels. Sometimes the timing of silks and pollination has been out with the funny weather.

We started our maize harvest on February 20 – a week earlier than expected due to the hot, dry conditions. Some farmers were happy to get this feed earlier to keep cows milking, to put condition on them and slow the round down. Silage has been moving a bit faster this year and hay is doing better than last year too.

Farmers need to get ready for their maize to arrive early. You need to get in touch with your suppliers or contractors early, as it will run out fast. Get stack sites ready, identify hazards and advise the contractors and trucking companies.

Drains, crossings, overhead powerlines, uneven ground and holes in front of a stack tip trucks and trailers nearly every year, so try to prevent this from happening. Ensure the stack is on a free-draining area away from water courses. Fill in any holes, level tracks and warn contractors of power lines.

Make sure you have good access for long rigs to turn around; maybe drop fences. Have everything ready so the job runs smoothly for everyone.

The public needs to be aware there will be a lot of harvesting equipment moving around the regions. Also, this harvest there will be dust issues due to dry weather. We can’t help it. We have to get maize off paddocks. Be mindful of your neighbours. Communicate with them so they can close their homes, get their washing in and so forth. Then they don’t come to a house full of dust or washing full of dirt. If you talk to them, most will be happy to work in with you. Talk to your contractor to see if they can move to the other side of the paddock until the wind changes if necessary. Come to a compromise – it’s better than authorities getting involved.

Use a good quality inoculant and ensure the maize is well-processed. If it’s dry maize, ensure it is chopped short and the kernels are well smashed-up and broken open, so it compacts easier. If in doubt, ring whoever is doing the job to check.

You will need keep stacks well-covered, tyres touching, seal around the base, have bait stations set to keep vermin out. If you’ve got bird problems, put shade cloth over the tyres to keep them off. Keep the stack well-fenced to keep the stock off too.

Farmers need to stay on once-a-day milking for as long as they can until silage or the rain arrives. Extend rounds out nice and long, cows do alright with a bit of rough feed, give them a bit more good quality supplementary feed to keep them going and the condition on them. Then when rain arrives they can make the most of the payout.

As for pasture renovation, everyone should be ordering seed now for the rains to come. My idea is the seed is better in the paddock than in the shed when it rains. If you’re drilling, carry on renovation work. But if you’re roller-seeding where you have light powdery soil, then think twice about doing this.

Slugs could be lurking in dry dead matter. Leave a damp sack out overnight and you’ll soon find if you have a slug population. If so, use slug bait – because if seed is sitting on dry paddocks they’ll have a field day, they’ll love germination time too! But it’s better to have seed on paddocks ready to get the first rains.

Be organised. Contractors get busy as rain arrives so there could be a delay. This plan has worked for me so far – but I’m not saying every situation is the same.

With a total fire ban in the North Island be careful of work you’re doing on the farm. Any machinery that could create sparks or bearing failure like orchard mulchers can cause fires in the paddock or orchard, which are all tinder dry. Last year’s Nelson fires were started by ploughing. So be careful of what farming activities you’re doing…. or go to the beach, go fishing or something instead!

If you’re looking like you’re about to run into a pinch period with feed, do something about it now. Don’t leave it until a Friday afternoon when you only have three bales of silage left. Transporters get busy and there could be a delay in delivery. Quality could also be down when demand is high.


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