Maize features in forage diet
Maize is a valuable forage for dairy, beef and sheep production. Jessica Buss and Robert Davies report
MAIZE growing first began on one Bucks farm 13 years ago to enable it to dispose of slurry but since then other benefits of the crop have become more important.
Jim and Charles Kent now grow maize because they believe even cows fed a lot of concentrates benefit from a mixed forage diet.
"We can get 8000 litres a cow off an all-grass or all-maize silage diet but would not get the higher intakes the mixed forage diet gives," says Charles Kent.
His family runs 250 cows on 113ha (279 acres) of grade three and four land at North Dean, High Wycombe which also grows 32ha (79 acres) of wheat. Youngstock are reared on extra steep ground.
The stocking rate of 2.27 cows/ha (0.92 cows/acre) is tight for this land so the forage grown is insufficient for the herd, claims Mr Kent. Straw and brewers grains are bought each year to make up the shortfall, with 2.5kg of treated straw and 8kg of brewers grains in this years ration.
"The reasons for growing maize have changed over the years," he says. "When spreading slurry nearly every day maize ground was useful. But now with four months slurry storage more is spread on grass and maize has received more bag fertiliser."
Less slurry has also reduced compaction allowing maize to be grown continuously on the same field whereas previously a ryegrass break was needed every three years to improve soil structure.
This year maize was cheaper to grow than grass silage but, admits Mr Kent, in a poor year maize can be more expensive. Arable aid payments reduce the cost of maize growing but even when these payments are cut he intends to grow the forage.
The aim is to harvest maize at 30 to 35% dry matter at 30% starch, but it is still good value below this, says Mr Kent.
Last September some maize was harvested three weeks before the main crop to keep the ration stable. This analysed at 26% DM and 18% starch and is feeding well. Wetter silage may also be less prone to spoilage in the clamp, he adds. The later cut maize analysed at 33% DM and 40% starch.
Charles Kent believes high-yielding cows benefit from a mixed forage diet including maize, provided it is balanced with different protein sources .
• TMR not essential.
• Improves intakes.
• Increases milk quality.