THERE HAVEN’T been too many things in the dairy industry that have made people smile this year but for Patho dairy farmers Chris and Jade Jones, the sight of a 150 m long pit of corn has brought some joy.
Of course, the pit didn’t come for free in an expensive water year, but what it has done is given the couple the security of fodder in the bank — if they were just feeding the core herd of 320 milkers, it is enough feed for half their diet this year.
“Coming off a tough year, the silage means I don’t have to go out and look for hay. It is definitely security for our business once we put it in the pit and had it covered,” Chris said.
This is the fourth season Chris has decided to grow corn and at 40 ha sown, this is by far his largest crop.
It was sown just before Christmas and germinated just after Boxing Day.
“I was a bit late getting the crop in the ground, but we had three inches of rain which put me back a couple of weeks. I knew it was going to be a tough year, but I just decided to grow more corn than I ever had before.
“I haven’t grown a boomer crop yet, but I have noticed different soil types within my farm seem to grow it better, I think we averaged 19.3 tonne/ha this year.”
Chris likes the bulk of feed the corn crop produces and it has grown to become quite a big part of the cow’s diet over the years.
The silage provides options and takes away some of the reliance on buying in expensive semi loads of hay.
“I actually couldn’t imagine not having it as part of the feed mix now. I would like to say I am only going to feed it to milkers, but the reality is it will probably go to some of the young stock as well.”
The business has been able to hang onto around 70 replacement heifers, something Chris attributes to now calving three times a year.
“We have shorter joinings and have added an extra one in to even out milk flow and help with fertility,” he said.
“We wanted to have enough replacements on hand for when things turn around, but it is a fine line managing young stock in a tight feed year when feeding your core milking herd is a priority.”
Growing as much home-grown fodder as possible is something Chris has been working on since he purchased the farm 10 years ago.
The corn has now been resown to wheat and vetch and there is an 18 ha stand of second- and third-year lucerne.
“I have just sown another 10 ha of Lucerne and I have around 36 ha of a shaftal mix in the ground. Basically, I am trying to grow as much feed as I can to keep the hay trucks and their expensive bills away from the bottom line.
“I would rather cut hay than silage because I think hay is good for cows and they love to eat it, but at the end of the day, it’s all about conserving and storing as much feed as possible and silage is a large part of that.”
Chris said this season’s milk price will be critical in determining what happens with the industry moving forward.
“They are talking around $7/ kg and that is the only way people will stay in, is if there is money this year.
“Things are critical, and something really needs to change to ensure we all have a future. I love dairying and I love my cows and I just want to be able to continue to do what I love.”