Back It’s time to start thinking about maize silage harvesting

Date: 14 January 2016

If you’ve planted maize for silage this season, now is a good time to start thinking about the different aspects of harvesting.

The first step is to contact your local contractor and book him in. A reputable contractor understands how to make high quality silage and knows how to make the whole process flow smoothly.

If new areas are being harvested, it is a good idea to get the contractor out to look over the route between the paddocks and the stack to try and identify any pitfalls. Are the gates wide enough for his machinery? Are there any bridges that need to be crossed with fully-laden carting equipment? Does the area where the stack is to be sited have good access for the stacking equipment to move safely and freely?

You will also need to discuss who is doing the stacking and check if the stack or bunker size is sufficient to contain the whole maize crop. A silage stack (no walls) requires about 500 cubic meters for every 100 tonnes of drymatter whereas a bunker with walls can be compacted more densely and needs about 450 cubic meters per 100 tonnes.

Choosing your inoculant

Do the research now before the harvest has begun so you can make an informed decision.  Not all inoculants are created equal.  There are two main aspects to making an inoculant choice:

First look for proven products which have guaranteed bacteria numbers on the label and trial data to support their use. If the person trying to sell you an inoculant can’t provide you with product-specific  data to support the use of their product, choose an inoculant from a company that can.

Next decide whether you want a product which enhances fermentation (e.g Pioneer® brand 1132) or one which reduces heating reducing losses at feed-out time such as Pioneer® brand 11C33. The latter product is a good option if you want to fill your feed-out waggon or bins up to a day in advance of feeding.

Stack preparation

New stacks

If you are planning to stack some or all of your maize on the ground, mark out the location in the paddock well ahead of harvest. Make sure the stack is in a dry area. It should be far enough away from drains, fences and buildings to give stack tractor room to run off the stack.  This will ensure the sides of the stack are better compacted.

Also make sure the face matches the rate of maize silage feed-out. For more information see Pioneer Technical Insight 32: Designing a maize silage bunker or stack.

Existing stacks

Well before harvest time clean out any old silage as it can contain micro-organisms that will spoil the new silage. If these are allowed to grow they can cause losses in both quantity and quality which can wipe out all the benefits of using a good inoculant.

Rats and mice

Rats and mice love maize stacks. They can make holes in the silage cover which let in air and moisture, resulting in losses in both the amount of silage and the quality, along with causing potential animal health issues. It is advisable to reduce the rodent population around the area by using bait stations prior to harvest. 


It is a good idea to stack your tyres now while you have the time. On many farms the tyres are chucked off to one side and left to become covered in grass or weeds and full of filthy water. Easily accessible clean tyres at maize silage covering time make the job less stressful.

Equipment check

Arrange for other silage-making supplies to be on hand prior to the start of silage harvesting including:

  • Pioneer® brand silage inoculant.
  • High quality silage cover.
  • Silage tape to secure joins and/or patch holes.
  • Sand or limestone to seal the edges of the bunker or stack.

For more information on preparing for maize silage harvest, talk to your local Pioneer representative