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Getting Ready for Maize Harvest

Whilst the current maize crop is an unknown on the front of quality and quantity, we do know the importance of having a good maize silage this winter. So to maximise its use we need to ensure the relevant topics are looked at.

Plan ahead

Ensure all people involved in the harvest know their responsibilities and the requirements of the farm and the relevant pre-harvest checks are made.

  • Pre-harvest dry matter check – helps to determine harvest date
  • Supervising chopping – who makes the changes based on the following measurements
    • Measuring dry matter – can affect packing quality and starch digestibility
    • Check chop length – longer chop may be more difficult to pack but may be needed by the cow
    • Monitor kernel processing – if changes are needed, report back to chopper driver
  • Apply an NWF Sila-Maize additive, either for faster fermentation and/or to minimise heating losses during feeding out
  • Supervise packing of the clamp
  • Supervise fast and effective sealing of the clamp post-harvest – consider using an added oxygen barrier underneath the main sheet


What is the right harvest time?

High forage quality drives intake and in turn, this drives production. Maize silage should be harvested when the whole plant is at about 33 ± 2% DM. Depending on the conditions, corn plants will dry down at a rate of about 0.5 percentage units per day (clearly less if raining).

Harvesting maize silage that is too wet (typically < 28% DM) results in excessive fermentation that often produces high concentrations of total silage acids and may result in excessive seepage losses.  Specifically, these wet silages are often characterized by high concentrations of acetic and butyric acid produced from “wild” fermentations.

A common problem when feeding large quantities of wet maize silage is a reduction in DM intake because of the high acid content.  In contrast, extremely dry maize silage (> 40% DM) should be avoided because the low moisture restricts fermentation and this material is more difficult to pack which often leads to poor aerobic stability. Kernel processing is key, ideally a kernel should be broken into 4 pieces, however a more conventional split down the middle is acceptable. Poor kernel processing will result in poor starch digestibility and result in waste. Simply take a 1 litre cup full of silage, spread it over a clean surface and check the processing quality. Overall, a key component to achieving a successful crop is good communication and an action plan in place to quickly react to whatever may occur during harvest.

NWF Agriculture is a national supplier of high quality compound feeds, blends and straights dairy, beef and sheep feeds to UK farmers. All our feeds are backed by our extensive technical services to make ensure stock perform to their potential and our sales team provide expert advice and solutions to help farm businesses.


By Adam Clay, NWF Head of Technical



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