Maize options highlighted at talks
Maize silage is the cheapest option for dairy farmers to add extra feed to cows, says a Pioneer farm and forage specialist.
A Pioneer brand seminar saw 240 people crowd into the Palmerston North's Awapuni Racecourse. It is part of seven industry get-togethers being held around the country.
The crop will be sown in spring or early summer but people are making decisions now on how much area they might grow.
There were some other maize seed sellers, but Ian Williams of Pioneer said Pioneer was the only maize company which researched brands.
It brought some new varieties in each year, and the brands were dependent on climate.
Williams said the company had five research units and about 20 commercial farms.
People might see Pioneer numbered-pegs, which gave the farmer the chance to see which variety grew best on their property.
They also see silage stacks, with plastic covers and tyres on top, that may contain grass or maize silage.
Williams said once the air was out of maize silage, it kept for years and the tyres helped that process.
It gave farmers peace of mind that they had a feed source ready to go in time of drought, or rain, Williams said.
"What we're seeing is more maize silage used over the past 10 years. It comes and goes depending on the season's climate. But when the payout is higher, we see more farmers using maize silage."
He said it compared favourably to palm kernel expeller, and was cheaper. More farmers were using both.
Williams said there had been a trend to grow more silage under the farmer's control and planning was cheaper than buying on a spot market.
"They use that to bring down the average cost of feed."
He said in Manawatu from the best to the worst year, there was a variance of about 4 tonnes a hectare - the equivalent of one cow per hectare a year: ''so a lot of guys carry extra maize silage to be sure they have enough feed. It is cheap insurance.''
He said maize silage could be fed out on feed pads to keep cows from damaging wet paddocks.
"When silage was first being used, people thought it was the silver bullet and would lift production per cow. That has happened, but it is more a way of managing pasture and managing feed. It is a strategic tool."
The advantages of maize over other grains and concentrates include:
* It is the highest commonly used concentrate with higher energy levels than other grains, molasses, palm kernel extract and the majority of other dairy meals.
* It is more slowly digested in the cow's rumen than other grains, decreasing the risk of acidosis.
* It is low in nitrogen, which means it could be used to reduce urinary nitrogen and decreased nitrogen leaching.
* It is grown locally, so the price and supply are not subject to the exchange rate or overseas demand.