Greener maize crops may need silage preservation rethink
15 September 2017
With the rise in popularity of harvesting maize while it’s still green, there could be different requirements when it comes to silage preservation, says Ecosyl silage expert, Colin Callender.
Silage preservation for maize harvest
More than three quarters of long-term forage maize growers are now harvesting the crop greener than they used to, according to a new survey of UK dairy farmers. Yet a substantial number have not changed how they preserve them.
Those were among the key findings of a new Ecosyl survey of UK dairy farmers’ approaches to forage maize harvest and how it is ensiled.
Conducted among more than 100 UK dairy farmers, results revealed that, among longer-term maize growers, a massive 77% said the crops they cut for silage nowadays were greener and less brown than those of 10 to 20 years ago.
However, of these growers, more than a third (37%) had made no or little change to the way they preserved them.
Of those who had made a change, most (49%) had put more emphasis on preventing aerobic spoilage or silage heating, with fewer than half (45%) putting more emphasis on achieving a good fermentation.
With the rise in popularity of harvesting maize while it’s still green, there could be different requirements when it comes to silage preservation,” explains Ecosyl silage expert, Colin Callender.
“Maize crops that are harvested as they die back and become brown and drier are likely to contain higher populations of moulds – which are the microbes that cause problems of aerobic spoilage or silage heating.
“By comparison, crops harvested greener are likely to contain higher levels of moisture. In these situations, achieving a good fermentation to preserve the silage against the growth of undesirable bacteria can become an additional challenge.
“This isn’t to say that greener crops won’t also be at risk from aerobic spoilage. As a high energy silage, maize can be prone to this. But with greener crops, it could be even more important to consider both problems – both of which can result in losses in silage feed quality and in tonnes of dry matter.”
Protect your maize harvest with good clamp practices
Fortunately, Mr Callender says clamp practices such as good consolidation and effective sealing against air will help against both problems. However, check also whether the additive being applied covers both bases, he stresses – in particular because it isn’t always possible to predict how late maize crops will be harvested, and therefore how green or dry they will be.
Ultimately, the purpose of having maize on the farm is for a forage that delivers high milk yields per acre grown,” continues Mr Callender. “The Ecosyl range of additives contains the MTD/1 strain of the beneficial bacterium Lactobacillus plantarum, developed to improve fermentation and improve animal performance. Our range of products for maize is also designed to tackle heating and aerobic spoilage.
In the survey, just 10% of long-term forage maize growers said they were not cutting maize crops for silage greener nowadays, with 13% saying they couldn’t remember.