Contractors harvest maize© Tim Scrivener

With maize ready in many areas now growers need to plan clamping carefully to maximise the performance of silage next winter, according to Neil Groom, technical director for Grainseed.

“Maize is now ready on some of the more fertile and stronger soils in many parts of the country and yields are very good.

“It’s important to consolidate the maize well to remove oxygen and improve fermentation.”

According to the Maize Gowers Association’s rule of thumb, the buckrake weight should be 25% of the clamping rate per hour.

So, if you harvest 100t/hour you need 25t of tractor weight rolling the clamp – this would be equivalent to two tractors.

See also: Raise cutting height in big maize crops for higher quality

Rain before sampling for Farmers Weekly has resulted is slower dry matter increases this week, believes Mr Groom, but the grains are getting harder as sugars in the leaf are converted to starch in the grains.

Both Toby Tibbenham in Norfolk and Chris Blake in Devon intend to harvest this week if the weather improves.

“We have some maize on heavy land that has to come back through the village, so we’ll chop slightly green if the weather window is there,” says Mr Blake, who adds he would rather this than risk leaving the crop out and the weather closing in again.

Most of our maize is rotated around wheat and as soon as the maize is off the wheat will be drilled so we have a crop growing in the field and to ensure the wheat is well established before winter.

Site

Drill date

Ht above sea level (m)

Crop dry matter 5 September

Increase from last week

Petworth, Sussex

2 May

50

Harvested

 

Harleston, Norfolk

5 May

30

30.6%

+1.1

Crediton, Devon

24 April

118

27.8%

+1.6

Ticknall, Derbyshire

7 May

 67

25.1%

-2.0

landeilo, Carmarthenshire*

10 May

32

24.9%

 

-2.0

SRUC, Dumfries, Scotland (plastic)

4 May

45

23.4%

+ 3.0

* Variety Es Picker, all other sites are Es Ballade. Variety under plastic Es Marco   

Tips to improve fermentation and reduce mud on roads

  • Narrow tyres are better to get more weight transfer down through the silage
  • Load the clamp in shallow layers rolling all the time
  • Use oxygen barrier film to sheet the clamp and cover with a protective net to prevent bird damage over winter
  • Double gravel bag all around the clamp sides and leave sealed for six weeks to ferment properly if you can
  • Filling gateways with clean stone to reduce mud on the road and get a sweeper operating early if conditions are sticky to reduce any mud coming on to the road
  • If travelling more than six miles, consider using lorries to more efficiently haul your maize, new high lift trailers will rapidly fill the lorries and keep soil in the field rather than out on to roads.