Get ready for maize harvest

With Maize crops looking forward in most areas, it is time to be thinking about maize harvest. Maize on many farms this winter and through into next year, will make up more of the ration than ever and with feed prices at record highs, getting the crop off and clamped in the best condition possible is a must.

Crops look forward and September is shaping up to be warm and relatively dry, but harvest date may not be as early as expected, as the crop still needs to go through its growth stages, that have been triggered from the point of tasselling. Whatever the use and however much maize is going to be fed in the ration, optimising dry matter, starch yield and fibre digestibility is the key. The latter of the two being more significant, yet harder to measure.

A unique year

Ultimately, we are trying to achieve the same goal as every other year- good quality forage, but considering the season and forage shortages in some situations, there may be some other considerations. With good harvest conditions predicted, we should be able to get drier crops without sacrificing fibre digestibility. The mad rush to get the crop as late as you dare before the late Autumn weather get hold, may not be quite so frantic this time. The cob may be fit to go, but the plant could still be green, or on drought stressed ground, the plant could well be very dry and fit to cut as soon as the cob firms up. Monitor crop dry matter, so you don’t get caught out. Aim for 32-35% DM with good starch and fibre digestibility that can be well compacted into the clamp. Use following steps developed by the Schothorst Feed Research Institute to determine when to cut.

1, Cob to plant ratio

This may have a more significant affect this year with some short crops, where the cob is 60% of the dry matter, compared to 50% for a standard crop. Some crops with poor cob development, that are tall and with a high plant population will be 40% cob. Ideally, take a selection of plants, pull the cobs off, cut the plant into manageable sized pieces and weigh them to get the ratio

2. Estimate the DM of the cob

Select a few kernels from a range of cobs – not just the best looking ones. Cut lengthways and compare the table below

Table 1 – Estimating the Dry Matter of the Cob

3. Estimate the DM of the plant and leaves

Cut the surface of several plant stems and press on the soft tissue inside. Observe the juice that flows out and compare with the table below.

4. Table 2 – Condition of stem and leaves –

Handboek Snijmais (2018) Wageningen University and Research: Click here

From this, simply multiply the enter the figures into one of the calculations below.

A. Cob/Plant ratio 60/40

(cobDM*0.6) + (plantDM*0.4)

B. Cob/Plant ration 50/50

(cobDM*0.5) + (plantDM*0.5)

C. Cob/Plant ratio 40/60

(cobDM*0.4) + (plantDM*0.6)

It is important to know the cob to plant ratio, as this can vary the whole plant dry matter significantly.

This year, we may have the luxury of waiting a few days to get the crop in the ideal condition and with such forage shortages, we need to make the most of retaining as much quality as we can in the maize crop. For farms feeding higher than normal levels of concentrates, ensure low levels of lactic acid, by getting the crop in above 32DM. All crops need an inoculant and compact, compact, compact in the pit, to retain the value of the crop. As soon as the crop is clamped, get a good estimation of stocks, to accurately budget for the forthcoming winter and into next year.

For further advice, please contact one of the Wynnstay Dairy Technical Services team, click here to meet the team.

Mark Price 

Dairy Specialist

Twitter | Email
Follow @m_priceo

Leave a Reply