With both quality and yields of grass silage down this year, it is more important than ever for farmers to get the very best out of their maize silage - and good clamp management can make a huge difference when it comes to reducing aerobic spoilage.
Maize silage is particularly prone to aerobic instability due to its high energy, and according to Ecosyl’s forage manager, Derek Nelson, wastage can be as much as 20- 30% dry matter between fermentation and field losses.
He says: “A 1% rise in temperature above ambient typically results in a 0.23% loss of dry matter – so it is easy to see how the losses can build up, often unnoticed.
“This year’s maize crops are looking well and have the potential to be very good with a bit of sunshine, but obviously the weather is outwith our control. Once we are able to take control though, it is essential to make the most out of the crop, so it should be monitored closely (ideally looking for 30-35% dry matter) and harvested when the cob is at the correct stage and the grain is full and has adequate starch.”
Mr Nelson stresses the importance of best practice when it comes to filling the clamp and suggests the following pointers to help remove the air and make it more difficult for yeast and mould to grow:
To improve the fermentation process and further minimise aerobic instability, he recommends using a proven silage inoculant.
“For maize silage, Ecocool is our best option – it contains lactic acid bacteria to speed up fermentation and minimise ensiling losses, and also Lactobacillus buchneri which inhibits yeast and mould growth. The trials we have carried out suggest this product can delay the heating process by an additional 4.7 days. (See graph).
“As with any additive however, I would recommend speaking to one of our experts to ensure you are getting the best product to suit your own circumstances.”
Mr Nelson adds: “At the end of the day, none of these suggestions are particularly costly, but if done properly they can make a significant difference to the quality and yield of the silage – reducing wastage from 20-30% DM down to 10%.
“Weather dictates how well the crop will grow, but once harvested the challenge is getting the most out of every tonne grown, and preserving as many nutrients as possible which can then be turned into milk.
“Maize silage is a great complement to grass silage with its high starch values, and together they can help drive dry matter intake and consequently improve milk production. In a year where poor weather may have resulted in lower quality grass silage, making the most of your maize silage is all the more important.”