Selecting best maize varieties helps input costs

Maximising the amount of energy available to the cow from home grown forages will improve production and drive down input costs.

With this in mind, producers should be thinking about the quality of maize varieties they are selecting and focus on choosing a crop that will deliver the most energy to the animal.

Speaking at the launch of LG Animal Nutrition at the Botanic Gardens, Birmingham, Limagrain UK’s technical manager Richard Camplin explained that there were two ways of increasing energy output from a crop – improving cell wall digestibility (CWD) or starch content.

“A couple of points difference in CWD can make a big difference to performance,” he said.

“Maize growers want a mature crop that delivers good starch yield first and foremost, but their next objective is improved CWD.”

And European research has found a 0.5 litre a day increase by including maize with high CWD at a 52% inclusion rate.

Michele Champion, head nutritionist for Limagrain Europe, explained that there can be a significant range in CWD between varieties. “Some of the lowest registered hybrids have 40% CWD – that means 60% is being lost in the faeces. In comparison, the highest varieties have 60% digestibility.

“Better CWD means maize spends less time in the rumen, resulting in improved dry matter intakes.”

Limagrain has drawn on these principles to launch a new nutritional accreditation system for their maize varieties. Varieties that deliver superior feeding value, along with good yields and performance will be given the LG Animal Nutrition (LGAN) stamp, allowing farmers to select the best varieties on offer.

The LGAN concept is already being successfully used in mainland Europe, but the idea has been developed for the UK market.

To be classified as an LGAN variety, each variety must be high performing in eight key areas, with the main emphasis placed on starch, CWD and ME.

Mr Camplin said: “We want the crop to be used by the cow as efficiently as possible, so this is why the emphasis is on these key areas. By planting such varieties and harvesting at the optimum time, it is possible to maximise intakes and output.”

Varieties will have to be high performing within a combined data set of the latest five years of NIAB trials and Limagrain’s own trials. The main areas are early vigour, dry matter content and yield, starch content and yield, metabolisable energy and yield and CWD.

The first two varieties qualifying for LGAN status are Ambition and Activate, which are due to appear on the 2013 NIAB list. Both have above average CWD although the main emphasis is on starch. “Ambition is early maturing and has a starch yield higher than any other variety on the 2012 NIAB list. Activate is higher than any other variety on the list for ME due to high starch and CWD and is very early maturing.”