Harvesting growth

Maize has been a talking point around the Reymer family kitchen table for decades. The generational contracting business in the heart of the Waikato has taken the journey alongside dairy farmers as maize has become an integral part of the industry.
Words Sheryl Haitana. Photos Emma McCarthy.

Talie, Mike, Chris and Bill Reymer live and breathe maize.

Sixty years ago just a few dairy farmers were growing a couple of acres of maize each year to help fatten the cows. But the writing was on the wall – maize silage was going to become a popular supplementary feed on more dairy farms. 

Back then, contractors would plant maize for silage after they had finished planting the maize for grain, with the maize silage then being harvested relatively late (after Easter), Pirongia contractor Bill Reymer remembers.

“There were two reasons for that; firstly because the hybrids were not as short growing as they are now, and two because the maize didn’t get planted until the contractor had planted all the grain. Maize was about 95% grown for grain in the Waikato back then,” he says.

Bill expanded his contracting business to meet the increased demand of farmers growing maize. His brother John and Andrew Reymer had another contracting business at Ohaupo and the brothers worked together during the years contracting and growing their own businesses.

Maize silage continues to shape dairy farming in the region, from those early days in the 1970s when it really started to get noticed by more farmers.

Bill has continued to upgrade his machinery from a single-row harvester, to 2-row to 3-row as the demand increased. After a succession of John Deere harvesters, Reymer Ag Contracting finally purchased their first brand new harvester – a John Deere 8600 in 2022.

“The machines have got bigger and quicker,” says Bill, “but the principles of how the machines work hasn’t really changed.”

Fast forward to today, Reymer Ag Contracting, owned by Bill and Lyn Reymer and their sons Mike and Chris, plant and harvest more than 700ha of maize around the Waipa District. Growing and contracting their own maize to trade is about a third of their contracting business so selecting the best cultivars to plant is key to trading a good product, but also for logistics come harvest time, Chris says.

Bill Reymer increased his contracting business as dairy farmers found the value of maize in the Waikato.

The Corson Maize hybrid’s have the ability to hold on when every farmer is wanting their maize harvested at the same time.

“We like their drought tolerance and their staygreen. When you’re really under the pump and we’ve got to do our bread and butter, our customers work, we know our maize can stand there for another week if it has to,” Chris says.

Mike and Chris are also partners in their sharemilking business, which is milking 300 cows on 95ha at Ngahinapouri. The System 2-3 operation is buying between 120-130 tonnes of maize silage every year to feed in the autumn and spring, Mike says.

“The maize is really good to help keep condition on the cows during the autumn. We’re also looking to feed more during the spring to push out our peak a bit extra.”

The passion for contracting and growing maize has also flown through to Bill and Lyn’s daughter Talie who works for Corson Maize as a sales and research agronomist. Talie spent hours in tractors and harvesters growing up and flipping through the maize brochures on the table.

She studied Bachelor of Science (BSc) majoring in Earth Sciences at Waikato University and has now landed her “dream job” which involves analysis of all the Corson Maize hybrids as well as planting the trial hybrids all around New Zealand, driving the tractor and operating the planter. “I’ve always had an interest in maize, I remember looking at the maize hybrid information and being intrigued at the ideas behind them and how they knew the agronomic characteristics of each hybrid.”

Last year, Talie got talking maize with Mike Turner – Corson Maize National Research Manager through the Pirongia Junior Rugby Club. Mike has a long customer relationship with the Reymer’s assisting them with their hybrid selections for many years. That chat led to Talie taking up a role working with Mike and Corson Maize trial research programme in 2023.

“I love what I do now. I’ve even been on the Wintersteiger precision small plot planter behind the JD6155R. I’ve done planting both manning the seeds into the planter and tractor operation, but it was not easy to operate a green tractor after a strong Massey Ferguson following growing up.”

Talie enjoys being out in the field and with her science background is enthusiastic about what Corson Maize are doing with their research programme to adapt hybrids to different farm conditions.

“What I like about Corson Maize is we have a large diverse range of genetics that we select from, and I really enjoy seeing how they perform in NZ soils. I really like the science aspect of what Corson is doing in terms of population studies, it’s not just the hybrids they’re looking at, it’s all aspects of maize growing.

Rather than just selling seed, Corson Maize is looking at how you can get a better maize quality result in terms of megajoules of metabolisable energy as opposed to just yield.

“I also enjoy travelling the country and seeing how the maize changes and adapts to its environment in the different regions, looking at the ear heights, the staygreen, the dry down of the starch in the kernels etcetera, it’s all relative to where it’s being grown.”

Corson maize flex ears are adaptable to different conditions.