Plan now to make most of this year’s maize silage

Farmers have the opportunity to make optimum use of maize silage as part of their winter rations – and potentially benefit from savings on bought-in concentrates.

But getting the most out of maize relies on achieving high standards of processing and good clamp management to minimise waste, says nutritionist Hefin Richards.

“Those who still have stocks of last year’s maize should consider moving it and reclamping if necessary to allow this year’s crop to be ensiled, sealed and left untouched for as long as possible,” says Mr Richards.

See also: Hold back maize harvest for optimal starch levels

He urges those using maize silage in cattle diets this winter to ensure they are making the best use of the feed value in their clamps and capitalising on the good levels of starch.

“There’s the potential for this crop to reduce concentrates or increase output. It’s important to look at all the forages available for winter feeding and to target them effectively within the diet to achieve the maximum feed value of each.

“Most farmers would like to be able to feed maize to their cattle every day of the year, but as soon as the crop is in the clamp it’s the time to make long-term feeding decisions to achieve prolonged availability of maize in the diet.”

Mr Richards says running out of maize sooner than intended is usually the result of bad feed planning at the start of the winter: “Feedstock budgeting and ration formulation is the key to making the best use of this season’s maize crop.

“As an example it’s often by making a small tweak to the diet that significant savings can be made that will impact on the whole winter’s feeding.

“So if you feed 1kg less a head a day of maize in a 400-cow herd it saves 12t a month – that’s 72t of maize saved over six months to enable the crop to be fed for longer.”

Case study: Richard Pearman, Worcestershire

Worcestershire dairy farmer Richard Pearman reckons he could have a bumper maize crop when he starts to harvest his 60ha in mid-October.

“Some of it is 10ft high and the cobs look good,” says Mr Pearman, who milks 220 Holsteins near Stourbridge.

His maize silage will stay in the clamp until December. “It needs eight weeks to properly ferment.

“Once it’s ready we can start to look at the analysis and the starch content and see how we can tweak the mix to get the best from it,” says Mr Pearman, who expects to be feeding a 50:50 split between grass and maize silage this winter.

This year’s seed-rate was increased by 2,475 seeds/ha and indications are the crop will be yielding between 44.5-50t/acre.

“We’re now getting 10,050 litres of milk sold per cow. We run a high-input system but we’ve been working with nutritionist Hefin Richards and have put 1,000 litres on the yield over the last year.”

Ingredients in the TMR include pot-ale syrup, a rape/soya blend, rolled wheat plus distiller’s grains and caustic wheat.

“The rolled wheat is rapidly fermentable and the caustic wheat is slower release. But we’re also using a clamped feed of chopped fodder beet incorporated with soya hulls at the rate of 200kg of soya hulls to 1t of fodder. It’s a good complement to the maize silage.”