8 March 2002

Ears to the ground for alternative

GROUND ear maize, normally fed to fattening pigs, offers dairy producers a cheaper alternative to maize grain, according to a German researcher.

Speaking at the MGA conference, University of Munich researcher Frieder Schwarz said several German producers were purchasing and transporting ground ear maize more than 50 miles for use in dairy rations.

"About 6% of the total German maize area is harvested as ground ear maize. Most of this is mixed with soya and fed to fattening pigs in a wet feeding system as it has a low fibre content of 3% and is high in starch."

An increasing number of dairy producers are looking at ground ear maize as a home-grown replacement for parlour concentrates. The crop can also be grown commercially in rotation with wheat on arable farms and exported to herds.

"Another attraction of ground ear maize is that the crop is about 20% cheaper to produce than grain maize for each unit of metabolisable energy. This calculation includes area aid and labour costs."

The crop is harvested with a double header which separates cobs from the rest of the plant. Cobs are ground on farm by contractors with a mobile mill before being ensiled. The stalk and leaves are then blown back on the field to be ploughed in, explained Prof Schwarz.

"Experiments at the university showed that parlour concentrate could be replaced with 4kg of ground ear maize and 1.9kg of soya without reducing milk yield.

"Some producers have fed 2kg/day without any adverse effect on milk protein," he added.

Another system being used on some units in Bavaria, involves a machine harvesting alternate maize rows fully and taking cobs only from ones between. This provides maize silage with an extra 0.8MJ/kg ME than conventional maize silage. &#42