Help from the weather gods and industry experts is paying dividends for a Waikato dairy farmer’s mixed feed crop programme.
Rape and maize blocks on 96ha owned by Mark and Fiona Speake near Cambridge, reported on soon after planting in Coast & Country News, November 2020, were given a stamp of approval prior to harvest by Waikato Farm Source technical sales representative Neil Dunderdale.
A varied diet
Mark and Fiona have 6ha in maize and 4ha in rape on the peat property, along Cambridge Rd, to supplement the diet of their 245 Friesian-cross herd.
The rape will be break-fed to the cows, with the maize silorated and stored in a bunker near the dairy shed ready for feeding-out as required.
After experimenting with turnips and sorghum, Mark says he turned to maize for energy and rape for protein.
Added to the varied diet is chicory mixed in regular pasture, with PKE (palm kernel extract) fed in the milking shed. Hay is also brought in as a winter supplement from a nearby run-off at Maungatautari.
On a recent visit, Neil Dunderdale initially took samples from three areas of a rape field on the Speake farm.
A bag of rape was collected from 1m squares, covering ‘good, average and not so good’ parts of the paddock.
The ‘wet weight’ of each bag is multiplied by a dry matter average, which equated to 16 tonnes/ha on the Speake farm.
“If you have 14 tonnes or more you are doing a good job,” says Neil.
The yield from the three samples was “better than expected,” he says, through a good mix of sun and rain since planting coupled with sound management by Mark.
Mark has sprayed the rape crop with herbicide, for weeds such as knightshade, and pesticide for leaf miner, plus ‘two lots’ of nitrogen. He also planned to spray for white butterfly before grazing started this month.
Right on target
During his recent visit, Neil Dunderdale also checked aspects of the maize crop including height, stalk strength and – most importantly – cob development, along with any presence of insects (army worm) and a clean base around the plants (so weeds and grasses are not competing with the maize).
Neil says the maize looked fantastic and is “right on target” for the goal of 25 tonnes/ha.
Since planting, Mark has sprayed for weeds and grasses.
The maize silage is due to be cut in March.
Keeping farm records for the past 10 years, Mark predicts a five to seven per cent increase in milk production compared to last year at the end of the current season.