John Milne discovers trial and error is the only way to work out what summer crops are right for the farm.

If you haven’t got it, you will need it. If you don’t need it, you will have it.

That’s how we sum up growing summer crops.

We have tried plenty of them, from a straight chicory crop to turnips and summer rape.

Trial and error over the years has shown us that it can be extremely expensive and quite disappointing, to be blunt.

Establishment of crops is the biggest challenge in our environment.

Saturated soils changing to bone dry, compacted seedbeds. Every insect known to man, and a few extras that haven’t been heard of before turn up.

All resulting in endless sprays and diminishing yield.

This spring we made a big effort to identify a summer feed which will give us yield and results.

The main criteria had to be:

  1. Great at harvesting soil moisture. (Dry sandy soils)
  2. Able to stand extreme periods of wind. (25 – 35km/h day on day)
  3. Damn-all sprays required to get yield.

The answer: Forage King maize.

That’s what we went with and it has delivered beyond our expectations.

Five hectares in total, two planted late September, three in late October.

Planting was done with a conventional drill at a depth of 35mm.

Sowing rate is recommended at 50kg/ha. We went with 85kg/ha in September and 65kg/ha in October.

The main reason for this is a ‘strength in numbers’ game. The only way we can beat the winds.


  • Nitrophoska went in with the drill at sowing.
  • Base fertiliser was applied at germination.
  • Then two side dressings of fertiliser until grazing.
  • Spray was applied after drilling and that was it.

Mid January we started to feed it out and the cows adjusted straight away. (We had trialled one paddock last summer.) Here’s the important stuff:

  • 12% DM
  • 9 – 10.2 ME (range over the three paddocks)
  • 3 crude protein

Weighed out at 15 tonne DM/ha (12-18 tonne range over the three paddocks)

No harvesting costs!!!

Equivalent to approximately 400 bales of balage.

So we worked on feeding 4kg/cow/day, approx 700 x 750 m²/day.

One hour on this and most are lying down, very content. Production is holding steady at 1.46 MS kg/cow on OAD at time of writing.

The only downside is a bit of wastage from some of the crop being as tall as hand-reach height (see picture). What they don’t eat today, they clean up fairly well the next day after some wilting.

Half the area grown came straight out of winter crop paddock – harrowed and drilled.

One of the main reasons we need green feed other than the dry is to help combat facial eczema (FE). Along with zinc in the water, balage combined with the maize should make for a good management tool. FE is more common on our farm than not now. It would appear we have quite a hot spot in our region for spores and it can be very devastating to the tail-end of our season.

When the spores go right out of control we administer a zinc bolus to give us six weeks total cover for each cow.