Dayna Rowe manages the family dairy farm at Pongakawa in the Bay of Plenty. Rowe Farm is a 1,000-cow operation on a 289-effective hectare milking platform.
Dayna comes from a long line of dairy farmers and won Dairy Trainee of the Year at the 2021 Bay of Plenty Dairy Industry Awards. She was named runner-up in the same category in 2020.
In a region which is known for its dry summers and wet winters, Dayna says the farm gets a lot of moisture, which helps get them through the drier months.
“Summer doesn't tend to be where our problems lie on this farm because we are quite a wet farm. So we seem to carry through a dry summer and struggle a bit more in the winter,” she explains.
The introduction of maize has increased the yield on the milking platform and helped push surplus feed into the summer months. With cows housed in a herd barn for much of the winter, maize has been a great way to increase feed to milkers and put weight onto dry cows.
“We use maize as a tool to gain weight at the end of season and put on body condition scores before calving. We use it as our main source of feed in the spring until the grass sort of rolls through and starts growing again,” says Dayna.
Maize is an integral part of the regrassing programme at Rowe Farm.“Here we get paddocks that need a little bit of love and attention and those go into maize and then we get to spend some time on them in the next season,” says Dayna.
To get the best from the crop, Dayna works closely with her local Farm Source TSR, Adam Borriello, and she says he knows the farm inside out.
“Adam from Farm Source is the man who remembers everything about our farm. He's in direct contact with our Pioneer rep and makes sure that we get the right seed for our farm and that it's going to grow well. He's in contact about timing if the season changes and weather constraints and all of that. And he also recommends and make sure that we get the right seed treatment,” she says.
Before Dayna took the reins at Rowe Farm, Adam worked for years with the farm’s owner, Grant Rowe, having built up the relationship from the time Adam was a sales assistant at the Te Puke Farm Source store.
Adam is in contact with Dayna throughout the year on everything from regrassing and cropping plans to calving supplies.
“I also make a point of getting in touch during our early-bird maize campaign to discuss last year’s crop and plans for the upcoming season such as areas to be planted, feed requirements, yield expectations, plant dates and harvest dates. Together with the Pioneer rep we select a hybrid which fits these parameters and secure the order with Pioneer so the Rowes can be sure the seed they require will be available for planting when they need it,” says Adam.
He and the Pioneer rep keep each other updated with any changes or updates from their farmers.
“We collaborate together throughout the year to make sure we are all on the same page so everything can run smoothly,” says Adam.
Dayna appreciates the collaboration and values the on-tap expertise.
“Pioneer are awesome - they're really hands on. Our rep comes out and gives us all the technical advice on our crop, information on when we should harvest and the population of the crop. And they educate us on what we can look at as well,” she says.
The fact that Pioneer are a local company is important for Dayna – it means their seed is produced in New Zealand for New Zealand conditions and New Zealand farmers.
“It’s successful for our farm. It's great to be able to grow our own feed - other than grass – on farm when the conditions require it,” she says.
For Rowe Farm, there’s a financial benefit to growing maize – it costs about half the price of imported feeds like PKE. Price fluctuations are less of a worry with farm grown feed, which was a relief particularly with COVID impacting the prices of imported feeds due to the difficulty of getting them into the country.
“We were really lucky to be able to grow our own feed and know that we were going to be secure,” says Dayna.
Dayna’s long-term goal is to take over the farm so her parents can completely retire. On winning the Bay of Plenty Dairy Trainee award this year, Dayna talked of her passion for the industry, and excitement for its future.
“I’m excited for the future generation of dairy farmers in New Zealand. I believe we grew up being involved in conversations where we had to think deeper regarding our environment and sustainability.”
Maize has become an increasingly important part of the New Zealand dairy farm system. There are many reasons for this: the increasing frequency and severity of dry summers, the desire to grow more dry matter per hectare, the environmental benefits of growing and feeding the crop, plus it’s good for your cows and for the country.