Back Autumn Management Guidelines

Date: 10 March 2017

This season would have to have been one of the most difficult for cropping I have ever experienced. Planting was delayed throughout the North Island due to ongoing rain. Northland went from floods to drought in just a few short weeks. Heat unit accumulation was slow in most regions in early summer. Many maize silage crops in both the North and South Islands are now 2 - 4 weeks behind last year. This article provides a few autumn management tips for the autumn

  1. Regrassing. If your maize crop is running late, consider planting an annual or Italian ryegrass rather than permanent pasture. Annual or Italian ryegrasses have better cool season activity, a faster time to first grazing and will produce more winter feed than a perennial ryegrass pasture.  They will provide valuable winter feed and any surplus can be used to make high quality pasture silage. Work towards planting a shorter maturity maize hybrid in the late spring (once you have a pasture surplus) and then go back into permanent pasture in 2018.
  1. Test your maize silage. It is always a good idea to test your maize silage to determine the drymatter content and feed value. It’s even more important this year as it has been a far-from-normal growing season and crop drymatter levels are more difficult to estimate using milk-line score. Knowing maize silage drymatter content and nutritive value will enable you to feed budget and plan feed-out rates more effectively. The best way to sample is to take handfuls across an open stack face. Alternatively a closed stack can be cored, but make sure you plug the holes with salt and seal the cover. Samples should be submitted to the laboratory as soon after collection as is possible. Place them in a plastic bag, burp the air out and store them in a cool place. Avoid couriering samples at the end of the week.
  1. Watch maize silage wastage. Good feed-out management is important. Keep the silage face tight and remove all loose silage on a daily basis. If you have used Pioneer® brand11C33 or 11CFT and your maize silage has fermented for a minimum of 30 days, you can feed out maize silage up to a day in advance. In all other situations feed out as close to when the cows will eat the silage as possible. Remember there is a feed energy loss associated with any silage heating.
  1. Watch calcium intake especially if you are milking or wintering cows which are in the early dry period on lower calcium feedstuffs such as palm kernel, maize silage, grains or straws.  Calcium is the major mineral in the body with 98% of it contained in the bones and teeth. It is essential for muscle activity, blood clotting, nerve transmission and enzyme function. Low calcium status increases the incidence of milk fever and calving difficulties. Ideally the diet should contain 0.6% calcium. If your diet contains less consider supplementing with limestone (calcium carbonate). Your veterinarian, nutritionist or local Pioneer® brand products representative can help determine appropriate feeding rates.  Limestone supplementation in the late dry period is not generally recommended.

Our company is very focused on helping farmers get the most out of their investment in maize silage. If you need assistance balancing rations or determining what supplement to feed when, contact us


Ian Williams 

Forage and Farm Systems Specialist