Maize silage: Small adjustments can make a big difference
Maize silage: Small adjustments can make a big difference
Maize silage is a key source of roughage in many dairy and beef cattle enterprises. Livestock producers are aware of the basic principles of ensiling and that they must plant the cultivar most suited to their environment.
Robin Meeske

In a recent trial at Heidelberg, the yield of 18 maize silage cultivars under irrigation varied between 18 and 30 tons of dry matter or DM/ha. If the yield is 30% lower, silage costs will be 30% higher.

Ensiling parameters

In order to ensile a crop successfully, ensiling should take place at the right stage and must contain enough sugar. Maize must be ensiled when the plant contains 35% DM. Grain filling must have taken place and kernels must be indented. On a dry basis, grain should comprise 40 to 45% of maize silage.

The maize plant contains 10 to 12% water-soluble carbohydrates (sugars) which is sufficient for successful ensiling. Maize silage often contains 4 to 5% sugar when removed from the bunker. Under no circumstances must molasses be added during ensiling, as excess sugar will increase the silage’s instability when exposed to air. Yeasts and fungi utilise lactic acid and sugar as energy sources when silage is exposed to air.

Guidelines for maize silage

The Santam Agriculture National Silage Competition is an annual event that has taken place since 2014. The competition guidelines for maize silage entail the following:


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April 2020