Manage maize for maximum benefit
09 August 2023
With the drive to farm sustainably, maize is an excellent source of homegrown starch and energy for dairy cows.
But for its full nutritional benefit, you must harvest and ensile it correctly.
Typically, 1 in every 10 trailer loads of maize dry matter (DM) ensiled is lost due to bacteria, yeast and moulds feeding on it. But losses can easily be higher. And these ‘bad bugs’ consume the most nutritious parts first.
They come into the clamp with the crop at harvest (see graphic for sources of contamination). So, as well as ensuring the clamp and any machines coming into the clamp are soil-free, ensure the crop is harvested in peak condition.
Modern maize varieties usually reach the optimum 30-33% DM for harvest while still green – before they die back. Also, as well as being a source of ‘bad bugs’, the stem base is low in nutritional value, so leave at least 15 cm of stubble.
Choose a dual-action additive
The most obvious sign of losses in maize silage is heating, caused by yeasts and moulds growing on it in the presence of air. But as much as half the losses can be invisible, due to inefficient fermentation. So it’s important to target both problems.
The additive Ecocool contains the trusted, beneficial ‘MTD/1’ bacteria found in Ecosyl, for improved fermentation, plus a second beneficial bacterium, ‘PJB/1’, to inhibit yeasts and moulds. In trials, Ecocool has kept maize silage exposed to air cool and stable for more than 10 days.
Also to minimise heating, keep air out of the clamp. This includes lining walls with polythene, and chopping maize short enough – for example 1.5-2 cm – then filling clamps in horizontal layers at most 15cm deep to aid compaction. A 30% DM crop needs about 25% of its weight arriving at the clamp per hour rolling it constantly. So 100 t/hour requires 25t – roughly a loader plus tractor.
Finally, place an oxygen barrier film on top. Fold side sheets over this with a minimum 1-2 metre overlap, followed by a tight top sheet, a well-weighted woven sheet, then netting to stop bird damage.
Make your next silage season the best yet!
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