PAC 440 corn converts dairy farmers
October 14, 2019
Princetown dairy farmer Steven Brown is reducing the impact of feed prices and drought-prone pasture by trying his hand at homegrown corn silage.
Mr Brown had been feeding his 450 Fresian and Jersey cows a ration of barley, soybean meal, baled grass silage, corn grain, and pasture, but with the price of hay and grain fetching up to $450 and pasture being depleted by the dry, his bottom line was taking a big hit.
“We envisage grain getting dearer and while we believe grass is the best feed – usually perennial grasses – a few years ago we lost our grass due to dry season,” Mr Brown said.
“It costs time and money to get that established again.
“If you look at dollars – buying in vetch is $300-450 and cereal hay is $400 – it’s getting too dear.
“We’ve been feeding whole corn from farms adjacent to the Western Treatment Plant near Werribee, but even if corn silage costs you $200-220/t in the pit, it’s cheap feed.
“We’re trying to be more self-sufficient.”
Mr Brown attempted his first corn silage crop four years ago, but the small input program and dry conditions hampered the crop.
Their second attempt last season was a different story, with his 34ha dryland crop of PAC 440 yielding an average of 18t/ha of dry matter or 48t/ha wet (1660t harvested).
“We were staggered by the result. We went in thinking we’d get 12 or 13 tonnes per hectare, but to get 18t/ha was outstanding.
“We weighed the cobs and were getting 265-270 grams per cob. Most plants were single cob, but some were double.
“We believe the fresh corn is better than dried whole corn. It helps with cow health and getting cows in calving. Our cows are consuming 12kg per cow, per day dry.”
Mr Brown said every load was weighed to get an accurate yield, and while the tonnage was nice, it wasn’t the primary goal.
“You can go on about how tall your crop is, but the cob is what we’re after – the size of the grain relative to the cob and the quality.
“The cobs were slightly smaller than other varieties, but the smaller core meant larger kernels.
Steven and his wife Jo, in partnership with their son Travis and his partner Sarah, run the 480ha property.
Steven and Travis put a large part of the success down to their agronomist Harrold Hanlon at MG Trading Colac, Brown McNeill Contracting for preparation and harvesting, and Logan Contracting, who used their brand new, state-of-the-art planter.
“Harrold really got the program going for us. He advised on the inputs and the corn variety, which has a medium CRM of 108.
“That works for us southern corn growers because we want the crop off early.
“We only calve in autumn, so we want it off early and put it back to grass before it gets too wet.
“Spraying out the paddock early so we had plenty of soil moisture also made a big difference. We’re doing that a lot earlier now.”
Mr Brown said the fertiliser program was designed with enough inputs to aim for a 20-tonne crop.
The program began with a pre-plant deep band application of 92kg/ha of nitrogen (Entec treated urea).
This was followed by an at-plant application of 27/30/0/3 zinc-coated DAP and a broadcasted blend of 27/20/280/22.
The PAC 440 crop was sown on November 17 and received 75mm GSR before being harvested on April 12 and put into aboveground silage with plastic wrap near the feed pads.
“We didn’t get a lot of rain this summer last summer, but we did get some good rain right on tasselling.”
Mr Brown said they are increasing the hectares planted to PAC 440 to 50ha this season.
“If we could average 14-15t/ha dry over the next eight years, I see it as very high-quality feed and great value.”