The stakes are high as dairy farmers gear up for this year's maize harvest.
Uncertainty looms over milk prices, and the potential impact of volatile cereal prices on feed costs highlights the need to make the most of your maize crop.
Quality maize silage can be a helpful buffer against a fluctuating milk price. In times of volatility, preserving quality silage stocks to maximize milk production from homegrown forage makes sound financial sense.
To ensure a successful harvest, make sure you avoid these 3 common mistakes:
Mistake 1: Harvesting Too Late
If maize is harvested late, it may be past its nutritional peak and carry unwanted microbes into the clamp.
Harvest the maize when it reaches 30-33% DM, ideally while still green.
By doing so, the cobs and living foliage will be nutrient-dense with the right balance of starch.
Also, the drier the crop, the harder it is to consolidate. Therefore, more prone to losses from heating caused by aerobic spoilage.
Mistake 2: Maize Doesn't Ensile Itself
Sheeting a maize clamp using silage film that is permeable to oxygen (cling film and black plastic) will result in unnecessary surface waste and DM losses.
After all the effort you've invested in its growth, this is what you want to avoid.
Oxygen is the enemy of the clamp, and you must keep it out. Switching to a high oxygen barrier (HOB) silage film will help you accomplish this.
For example, Silostop Max is an all-in-one o2 barrier silage film that blocks the entry of oxygen into your clamp. Silostop Max will help you eliminate surface waste, reduce DM losses in the top layers of the clamp, and improve overall silage quality.
Mistake 3: Harvesting Maize Too Low.
It is tempting to cut maize low to the ground to increase bulk, but you will be sacrificing nutritional value and introducing unwanted microbes.
Ensure you leave 15cm of stubble when harvesting and chop the crop to help consolidation. The ideal chop length for maize silage is around 1.5-2.0cm.
Remember these tips as you gear up for maize, and you'll have a successful and plentiful harvest.