Maize is a valued component of dairy and beef rations and maximising its feed value and minimising wastage will contribute to reduced feed costs and improved performance.
According to Richard Camplin, UK trials manager with LG, farmers who were able to harvest maize before the weather turned at the end of September will have seen dry matter (DM) values of 32 per cent and above.
He says: “Where harvest was delayed by the poor wet weather, the plants absorbed some of the moisture after the rain, lowering the DM of the crop.
“Where early varieties were sown, starch deposition was already high and DM values only slipped back by 2-3 per cent to 30 per cent DM in most cases, meaning farmers were still able to harvest a good quality maize crop.
“However, where farmers sowed later maturing varieties, the maize was still immature with less starch in the cobs, with plants taking up much more moisture, resulting in crops being harvested at 28 per cent DM and below.
“Such low DMs create problems in the clamp from effluent, but also a waste of potential feed energy as the sugary sap is mainly burned off in the fermentation process.
This demonstrates the value of selecting an early maturing variety as we see the climate changing and unpredictable autumn weather becoming the norm.” Laura Drury, of Brightmaize comments that in the past variety choice would only account for about 5-10 per cent of yield variation, but thanks to significant genetic improvements found in modern maize varieties, this is now far greater.
“LG Conclusion, for example, matures six days earlier than average varieties and has exceptional DM yield and energy content.” Glen Johns, of Harpers Feeds, reiterates these observations, saying that in the south west, the early maize varieties came off the field well, with analysis showing good DM and starch content.
He adds: “In late September we had very heavy rain and, unfortunately, there was still a significant acreage of maize in the field.
Looking forward, we need to learn from this.
Farming on the Ceredigion coast brings significant challenges, but modern varieties have allowed Morris Davies to reintroduce maize into his system after a 20-year break.
He is in his second year of growing maize again and, while 2020 has had its challenges, the maize crop has performed well.
He has grown 12 hectares (30 acres) of LG Reason under plastic this year, and also experimented with 16ha (40 acres) of Reason, LG Gema and LG Prospect grown conventionally.
“We harvested the maize grown under plastic on September 15 and we are already feeding this.
The yields exceeded 44.5 tonnes/ha fresh weight and we expect the analysis to show DM and starch both at more than 30 per cent.” The conventionally grown crops were harvested in mid-October.
He says the crops have looked well throughout the season and he is very optimistic about achieving a high quality feed which can make up 50 per cent of the forage proportion of his total mixed ration this year.
"Good clamp management is paramount when clamps are opened early to avoid spoilage"
Above: A picture of the fresh maize at harvest sieved though a 12mm and 6mm soil sieve which gives a good indication of overall chop length and how well the grains are processed.
“Farmers should plan to drill the crop in a timely manner and in good conditions so they can manage the environmental risks associated with growing maize.
“Pre-cut near infrared testing this year has shown early varieties are often ready sooner than farmers think, so it is important to grasp this advantage.
LG varieties, such as Pinnacle and Prospect, were looking really strong and ahead of the rest in terms of maturity and yielded well.” Roy Eastlake, Lallemand Animal Nutrition’s national technical support manager, has been speaking to farmers as they begin to open maize clamps to feed this autumn.
Many clamps will be opened only two or three weeks after harvest as farmers need to bring this year’s maize into the diet now most herds are inside.
He says: “Good clamp management is paramount when clamps are opened early to avoid spoilage and consequent waste.
Only roll back the top sheet as far as is necessary and move across the width of the clamp face within a week.
“Aim to use a metre depth of maize across the clamp each week to ensure the silage is fed as fresh as possible.
“Discard any waste silage from the shoulder, corners and front of the clamp, rather than feeding to youngstock.
“Keeping the base of the clamp tidy is also important, because any piles of loose silage can heat up and, if in contact with the clamp face, can cause the adjacent silage to spoil.
This year’s harvest was a timely one for Joe Carter at Carpenter’s Farm, Wiltshire.
The first 40 hectares (100 acres) were harvested in a day in the middle of September and Mr Carter was pleased with how the crop came off.
He says: “We had hoped to do all the maize in one hit, but found one section was less mature, so we left 26ha until the following week.
This was not ideal, but has proved to be the best thing to do.
The first tranche has analysed really well, with 34 per cent DM, 11.6 ME and 33.4 per cent starch.
We are waiting for the results for the second batch.
Harvesting most of the crop early has allowed usto start feeding maize when it has only been in the clamp for 15 days.
“We used Magniva Platinum Maize inoculant and the silage has stayed very stable in the clamp as a result.
Transition “We are very pleased with how cows have transitioned onto this year’s maize silage; forage intakes and milk yields have held up well.
The forage ration comprises 28kg of maize and 10kg of grass, so achieving the best quality maize is vital to achieving our goal of increasing milk from forage so we can reduce purchased feed costs.”
“The feed value of the maize, especially the starch content, will be affected by the extent to which the maize grain has been broken up by the processor.
“Each grain should be crushed into at least four pieces if it is to be easily digested in the rumen.
“It is worth checking this by sieving the maize and watching to see if the maize grain has been processed properly.
If not, it is important to have a conversation with the contractor ahead of next year’s harvest to highlight this problem.” Mr Camplin suggests taking the time after harvest to review the performance of this year’s maize crop to allow sufficient time to plan adequately ahead of next season.
He says: “Assess the performance of the varieties this year and consider whether you need to switch to modern early maturing varieties.
It is important to protect your investment to ensure you grow maize which can deliver high feed quality and be harvested before weather conditions deteriorate.
“It is also vital to order seed promptly this year, ideally well before Christmas, to avoid any delays or shortages which may be caused by Brexit.”