A new approach to chopping maize which has been well tested in the States is about to hit the UK shores, and is claimed to improve rumen function and boost milk yields. Laura Bowyer reports from Germany.
Shredlage first came to people’s attention when it was noticed that the shredded maize from an ill-adjusted harvester had some startling ability to boost milk yields. Such happenstance and humble beginnings set minds whirring and spurred world renowned machinery innovator Claas into embracing the idea, and resulted in their installing a specially developed corn cracker in their foragers to mimic this processing effect.
The cracker, which is designed to increase the effective neutral detergent fibre (NDF) of maize, produces this longer type of ‘shredded’ material which has been appropriately dubbed Shredlage. With 600 Shredlage units sold in the US and another 15 across the world, the plan is now to offer this cracker on machines destined for the UK market.
At a press briefing in the Lower Saxony region of Germany, Roger Olson, technical director and co-founder at Shredlage, explained the concept. He said: “Small pieces of silage do not let the rumen function properly and we have therefore designed the corn cracker to cut at 26-30mm, producing what the company calls Shredlage.
“By lengthening the maize fragments, the NDF level is increased, encouraging rumen function. Fibre digestibility is improved and the nutritional value of the silage increases. If the pieces were any longer, the rumen wouldn’t work correctly.” Mr Olson invented the corn cracker after seeing the long fibres being produced by a neighbour’s worn-out forager. After developing the product and starting the family company with his son and father, he teamed up with Claas to produce and market the cracker. The revolutionary cracker is designed to split and tear the maize stalk and crush the kernel rather than simply chop it into pre- scribed lengths. This enhances its nutritional value and makes the crop easier to compact when rolled and boosts silage density.
To test the theory, trials were conducted at the University of Wisconsin where some of the long fibres in Shredlage were replaced with alfalfa hay, and milk yields dropped. “Milk yields were less when fed the maize and alfalfa mixture than when fed conventional silage.
It is clear the long maize fibres are responsible for getting the most from the cow,” explained Mr Olson. “A longer length of maize cut decreases the need to introduce other sources of fibre into the diet such as hay and straw, but going much longer will make the silage easily sortable. “Dry matter intake was higher in this cut of silage than the conventional type or the maize and hay mix.”
He said: “I believe feeding our cut of maize to your cows can increase milk yields by 5-8lbs (2.3-3.6 litres). This is based on a diet of 65% maize, 5% straw and 30% alfalfa hay.
“The more maize you put in the diet the more productive cows should be. Straw is a good source of fibre, but it has no digestibility. “Typically our corn cracker cuts maize at 26- 30mm, with kernels cracked into multiple fractions. Not much of the maize is left three dimensional. The two rollers run at a 50% differential speed, while many competitors use the same speed.
“I have got farmers back in the US who are now feeding nothing but this maize silage, which is great because it is low cost and only takes one cut. “However, I don’t think the UK climate is right to grow the quality of maize to fulfil all the cow’s requirements, but there are cost savings to be made through less concentrates,” he said.
What should Shredlage be like?
What is NDF?