As farmers look to harvest their maize crops, attention to detail will pay dividends, guaranteeing a good looking crop in the field and resulting in a quality silage in the clamp.
“Maize is an intensive crop to grow,” explains Dr Simon Pope, Crop Protection Manager for Wynnstay.
“A lot of money, time and effort goes into producing the crop, but often growers overlook the attention to detail that’s needed to get maize harvested in good condition, and ensiled correctly, to limit nutritional losses.
“This year, maize is likely to yield very well and be of a high quality thanks to the good growing weather. This doesn’t happen every year, so growers should make the most of this and protect their crop in the clamp,” he adds.
“The main issues are losses due to aerobic spoilage and heating of the face, which devalues the Dry Matter (DM) feeding values.”
Research has shown that a 10oC rise in silage temperature at the clamp face over a three-day period can result in a loss of DM valued at £125/100 tonnes of 33% DM maize silage. Or more simply put, £1.25/tonne of silage.
“Treatment with an appropriate silage additive can considerably reduce this spoilage, and although additives are considered by some to be an unnecessary cost, they should be seen as protection for farmers’ investment,” explains Dr Pope.
“This year it’s even more important to consider as early results are showing the potential for high DM contents at harvest. For example, new variety Reason is positioned on the NIAB forage maize list with a very early maturity and outstanding DM yield, and this is being reflected by the variety’s performance in the field.”
“At a target harvest DM of 32% and with a high yield of high ME silage, it is important to minimise losses of this valuable resource,” he says.
Dr Pope suggests that by focussing extra attention in a few key areas, this can be achieved.
“Consolidation of the pit is key to a successful fermentation process, and filling in layers of six to nine inches allows for effective compaction when rolled to expel as much air as possible. The less oxygen present, the lower the risks of losses due to aerobic spoilage.
“Alongside good clamp management, the use of an additive will help to further reduce costly losses in feed value during the ensiling process. So, there should be more maize to feed out, with higher nutritive quality, resulting in better animal performance,” he adds.
“Maize is sometimes seen as a tricky crop to grow. However, as long as close attention is given throughout the process, farmers shouldn’t experience losses at the final stage, and they should end up with a high yield of a quality crop.”