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Aug 25, 2022

Maintain maize silage quality from harvest to feed-out

Aug 25, 2022

Bought-in feed prices are soaring and this coupled with variable maize yields up and down the country, means that the value of forage in the clamp is going to be higher than ever. That applies to maize just as much as grass silage and it is vital to take steps to preserve its quality and reduce waste, all the way through from harvest to feed-out.  

Alongside the use of a silage inoculant, attention to detail at every stage of the process is key to yield the greatest benefits. 

Harvest timings will vary hugely across the country depending on time of planting and soil type, and the key is to cut when the crop reaches the correct dry matter – ideally averaging 30-35% for the whole plant. 

Ensiling correctly

It’s important to balance the rate of the maize coming in with the weight of the packing tractor to make sure it goes into the clamp in tight, even layers, as the first step for effective fermentation is to remove as much air as possible.  

If the clamp is left poorly compacted and spongy, the beneficial microbes cannot start to work as quickly and there is an increased risk of spoilage microbes interfering with fermentation. Good compaction increases the likelihood of a more stable silage during feed out.  

Magniva Platinum Maize, which is formulated specifically for maize, will ensure an optimal fermentation as well as keep the silage stable, reducing dry matter losses and contamination with yeasts and moulds. 

An oxygen barrier cling film under the top sheet is really beneficial; the film is drawn down into the undulations left by the tractor wheelings eliminating air pockets and helping to prevent any air moving down into the silage through the winter. Ordinary black plastic sheet is much more porous and allows air in over time.  

After ensiling, it’s important to keep an eye on the sheet weighting system. After a few days, the sheet can blow up like a balloon, which is a sign that fermentation is working well, but it can lift up gravel bags so once the sheet has settled you should recheck the gravel bags/tyres. Also remember to keep an eye out for vermin. 

If there is brown/orange gas seeping from the silage do not approach the silage until this gas has completely dissipated as it could be nitrogen dioxide which is highly toxic. With the variability in growing conditions seen this year, some maize crops may be particularly susceptible to the formation of this silo gas due to drought stress.  

All the above factors will combine to help reduce dry matter losses – it is worth comparing the number of tonnes going into the clamp with the tonnes actually fed. The level of ‘shrink’ or wastage will have more of an impact than ever this year.  

Avoiding losses on the clamp face

At feed out, you should ideally cut to a depth of one metre per week, across the silage face. If that is not possible, then you should still aim to cross the entire face each week, trying to keep up with the oxygen infiltrating the clamp.  

If it is taking more than a week, consider taking ½ shear grab depths across the face which will result in a more consistent feed. It is better to have a small, but consistent, amount of loss across the face. Defacers are a good option to help ensure a more consistent feed goes into the mixer wagon.  

Retaining more nutrients

Feed-out is when the benefits of inoculants really become evident. The Magniva Platinum inoculants designed for maize have a unique combination of homofermentative microbes, which produce lactic acid, to drive an efficient fermentation and heterofermentative microbes which produce acetic and propionic acids which are needed for silage stability at feed out.  

Through inoculating the maize not only is the amount of yeast reduced but the type of yeast present is changed, making the pH of the silage remain stable even 10 days after exposure to the air, slowing the spoilage cycle making the silage last longer and retain more nutritional value.