While its energy, starch levels, intake characteristics and dry matter potential yield all make maize a good feed choice for dairy cows, it is one of the riskier forages to preserve.
Just one error in clamp management can significantly reduce maize silage quality and/or the volume of dry matter in the clamp. Air ingress, yeasts and moulds can rapidly grow in clamps, resulting in excessive heating and aerobic spoilage.
The optimum dry matter for harvesting maize is between 28% and 35%, and chop length should be between 1.5cm and 2cm to aid clamp consolidation. This will also help to improve fermentation and reduce heating when maize silage is fed out.
To maximise maize silage quality, clamps should be filled quickly and thoroughly consolidated. Producers should fill the clamp in thin layers, which can be compressed effectively, with each layer no more that 15cm deep.
Maize silage can be prone to losses from inefficient fermentation and, while these losses are often ‘invisible’, they can represent as much as 8% of maize harvested at the recommended dry matter content. By using an additives helps to produce faster, more efficient fermentation:
Maize silage should, ideally, be left for at least a month before feeding to allow pH and feed quality to stabilise. However, if required, it can be fed immediately and there are additive options to use in these situations.
Losses are avoidable if maize is stored and clamped correctly and managed to prevent aerobic spoilage. Using an inoculant helps to encourage fermentation and will significantly reduce DM losses.
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Forecasting the expected date of maize harvest is extremely important to maximise crop value as well as planning rotations. Harvest date is mainly determined by the variety sown and the season.
Getting land back into production quickly after a maize harvest can be the difference between having a crop for the spring that can be utilised or having expensive land out of production for a period.
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