Two dairy farmers who have grown and fed a new type of hybrid maize have seen a definite response from their cows this winter.
Sara Gregson reports...
Maize has been grown at the 577-hectare (1,426-acre) Two Pools Farm, Gloucestershire, for many years, with Mike King’s father, Philip, one of the first farmers to grow maize back in the 1970s.
“The Severn Vale is perfect for growing maize – it is warm and damp,” says Mike.
“We grow 245ha of maize alongside 204ha of arable and 128ha of grass. We use this to feed our growing herd of pedigree Holstein cows and 150 beef cattle. As the herd has increased, the amount of maize has increased with it.”
Today, 570 cows calve all-year round, giving an average milk yield of 10,900 litres, milked three times-a-day.
All cows are housed at night and fresh calvers stay indoors, while the mid and low yielders graze in summer. They are fed a TMR, typically of 60 per cent maize and 40 per cent grass silage.
This is mixed with a blend of soya bean meal, rape meal, soya hulls and caustic treated homegrown wheat. At night, this is topped up with zero-grazed fresh grass, allowing cows to eat up to 20kg each day. Milk yield from forage is 3,900 litres.
The team at Two Pools farm cultivates, drills and harvests its own maize, which rotates behind a first wheat crop. Cattle slurry and poultry manure is applied to maize ground before ploughing – one third of the 2019 maize land has already been prepared.
Mike has taken part in the Pioneer accurate crop testing system maize hybrid trials for the past 22 years, which tests Pioneer varieties against each other on farms across the UK.
Last season, he drilled 28ha (70 acres) of a new very early maturity hybrid P7034 and this year will be drilling it across half the maize acreage.
Mike says the hybrid has done well on his land, and it has fed well.
“The starch in the grain is more easily accessed by the cow, because it is a ‘dent’ type as opposed to a ‘flint’ type.
“We do wet chemistry nutritional analysis of the silage every quarter, and near infrared analysis monthly, which all show very high starch levels. We also analyse the manure and find there is less starch coming out the back end too.
“We noticed the difference within 48 hours of starting to feed the P7034 and quickly had to take 1.5kg of caustic wheat out of the ration, to allow for all the additional available starch coming from the maize. We also saw a small increase in milk yield too.”
Brothers Spencer and Ralph Mogridge run 190 cows on 120 hectares (297 acres) at Thornton Farm. They calve all-year-round and the cows average 9,000 litres at 4.6 per cent fat and 3.45 per cent protein.
The cows are fed a TMR consisting of a 60:40 mix of grass and maize. Spencer has been carrying out Pioneer accurate crop testing system trials for Pioneer for four years and, like Mike, has spotted P7034 as an interesting contender.
“We grew 20ha in 2018 and will be growing a similar amount again this year,” says Spencer.
“We feed maize every day of the year and aim to provide cows with consistent, high quality mixed forage through the feeder wagon twice-a-day.
“The fat and protein content of the milk both went up when we started feeding P7034 – the protein up from 4.2 per cent to 4.6 per cent and butterfat up 0.2-0.3 per cent. That is worth half a pence a litre.”
To prevent leaving maize stubble and bare soil all winter, the Mogridges direct drilled four-metre bands of perennial rye-grass and forage rape into stubble last October. This has now grown into a substantial additional early feed source.
Spencer says: “This has supplied us with 20ha of extra food and taken away all risk of soil erosion.
“It is a bit of a trial, but we can use it in different ways – zero-graze it for the cows now, strip graze it with heifers or cut it for silage in April before the maize goes back in at the end of April.”