Farmers are being advised to pay close attention to detail when harvesting maize and take steps to minimise waste and preserve maximum quality.
Although many maize crops look good, variable weather and a challenging start to the season meant mean many crops went into the ground late, says Lientjie Colahan, technical sales support at Lallemand Animal Nutrition.
“Quality and yield is looking variable – so it’s important that farmers explore avenues which could help maximise quality and minimise dry matter losses between the field and feed-out. This will allow them to reduce purchased feed costs.”
Using a maize specific inoculant at ensiling will help get the most out of the crop, which is particularly beneficial during challenging seasons like this one, says Mrs Colahan.
“Maize can be more difficult to compact, meaning there’s more potential for residual oxygen in the clamp.
“When the clamp is opened, oxygen will penetrate faster, re-activating the yeasts and leading to aerobic spoilage and wasted silage.”
New metagenomic trial data which looked at bacterial levels in maize silage treated with Magniva Platinum Maize over a 10-day period, found that the pH of the treated silage was unchanged after being exposed to oxygen.
This indicates a significant improvement in aerobic stability which was made possible due to the reduction of spoilage yeast populations when treating with the combination of L. buchneri NCIMB 40788 and L. hilgardii CNCM I-4785.
Trial data also revealed that the treated silage showed a lower production of some specific mycotoxins after it had been exposed to oxygen, supporting palatability and reducing a potential threat to cow health.
Alongside using an inoculant, paying close attention to the management practices at cutting will also be extremely important to maximise maize silage quality, suggests Lallemand Animal Nutrition regional business manager Jon Barton.
“In order to harvest as much of the farm as possible, at the optimum time and quality, farmers often need to make a compromise. This year it’s looking even more likely that farmers may need to be realistic and go with an average optimum quality,” says Mr Barton.
“It’s important to keep your contractor informed about acreage, field positions, processing and clamping. This needs to be a co-ordinated team effort, in order to achieve the best possible feed for your livestock.”
Regardless of timings, the importance of correct cutting should not be overlooked – maize should be cut 10-20cm high or above the second node of the plant. This is because nitrogen accumulates in the bottom third of the plant.
Cutting too low means an increased risk of ensiling problems and toxic silo gases. Cutting the plant higher will also reduce the risk of soil contamination which will help to reduce the likelihood of ensiling issues and the presence of spoilage microbes.