Maize silage stacks are an increasingly common sight on dairy farms up and down the country. It’s not surprising as farmers appreciate the costeffectiveness and relative ease of producing bulk feed on-farm: harvesting the whole crop, chopping, compacting and ensiling it in stacks.
However, not all maize silage is created equal!
Science Extension Officer, Natalie Hughes points out that various factors influence its quality and nutritional value. Take the chop length, for instance. Longer lengths can create air pockets when insufficiently compacted, thus affecting the quality of the silage and producing harmful mycotoxins. Then consider the kernels themselves, which are a lead indicator for the starch content. Starch level is determined by kernel quality and quantity – not only cobs/kernels per plant but also a result of what is lost during harvesting. Kernels that are cracked open make it easier for rumen microbes to access the entire kernel, especially its nutritionally loaded centre. Lastly, the silage quality is influenced by the dry matter (or conversely water content) within the stack as this drives aerobic activity; a higher water content means it takes longer for the silage to reach the target pH.
“Storage management also plays a huge role,” Natalie says. “You’re aiming for a silage pit that’s well drained and covered securely with strong plastic.” Effluent run-off and a poor stack face due to improper removal of silage during feed out will keep the bottom layer of the stack wet and promote mould growth.
It’s obvious that all of these factors can significantly impact the nutritional value of silage. But how can you be certain? Natalie cautions against the eye-ometer and highly recommends laboratory testing. “It specifies the dry matter content, the nutritional composition and the quality of fermentation within the stack.” This information is vital whether you’re selling the silage or using it on your own farm.
Generally speaking, maize is nutritionally deficient in terms of calcium, magnesium, sodium and phosphorus. “Pasture simply can’t compensate for the lacking trace minerals,” states Natalie. “The only way to achieve a balanced feed and optimise milksolids production is by adding supplements that provide the minerals deficient in maize silage.”
Armed with knowledge about the composition of your silage, you can make an informed decision about which supplement is best. The SealesWinslow range is comprehensive and includes Mineral Max® Maize Silage Balancer.
Maize Silage Balancer (which also addresses the often low level of phosphate) is such a product. Specifically formulated, this sand like textured product naturally balances our the mineral deficincies of maize silage and is easy to use. Mixed in with your Maize Silage, ultimately you’ll have peace of mind that your cows are getting the nutrients they require.
There’s nothing to stop you from making maize an all-round profitable experience.