For farmers faced with having to rebuild forage stocks this year, paying close attention to variety choice could form part of an effective strategy.
While it may be tempting to go for yield this year, growers are being warned to proceed with caution if this yield is at the detriment of quality and maturity.
Tim Richmond, maize seed manager for Limagrain UK, says once varieties with suitable maturity have been identified the focus must be on milk production potential.
“Production potential comes from a number of attributes including dry matter production, starch yield and cell wall digestibility, with a combination of high relative ME yield and ME content being the objective.”
He says advances in maize breeding means selecting newer varieties can have big benefits in terms of yield and quality.
He says rigorous plant breeding objectives have resulted in significant advances in maize variety performance over the last 15 years, with increases in dry matter production and starch content from varieties proven at trial sites across the UK.
“In the British Society of Plant Breeders/National Institute of Agricultural Botany (BSPB/NIAB) Descriptive List , the difference between the top and bottom varieties ranked on ME yield and content is more than 4,000 litres per hectare.
"For a farm growing 20 hectares of maize, this adds up to 80,000 litres less production from forage or an extra 36 tonnes of concentrate which needs to be fed.
“As a result of focused breeding for the factors affecting feed quality, compared to 2004, the average variety today will produce 2.7t/ha more dry matter and 1.1t/ha more starch. At 11.5MJ/kg DM, the extra dry matter would produce enough energy to produce an additional 560 litres per hectare.
Mr Richmond also advises farmers to make decisions quickly and get seed ordered soon. With maize seed all coming into the UK from Europe, depending on the terms of any Brexit deal, there may be an impact on maize seed supplies coming into the country.