Back Maize grain for more milk value

Date: 16 July 2015

When a cow is fed maize grain she produces higher value milk.

The additional milk produced by cows on a starch or sugar-based supplement has more protein and lactose and less fat, while cows fed a fibre-based supplement produce less protein and more fat in their milk.1

Milk protein is worth two to three times the dollar value of the same weight of milk fat1 so it follows that the difference between and high and low protein milk can equate to significant differences in milk income for dairy farmers.

The table below shows that the milk revenue from extra milk produced by cows on a maize grain supplement is almost double the estimated income from cows fed a palm kernel supplement.

Table 1: Estimated milk revenue from feeding 1 tDM of different supplements fed through an in-shed feeding system with 5% wastage.1

As well as containing more energy, which is a key driver of milk production, maize grain offers starch that is digested at a less rapid rate and consequently there's a lower risk of acidosis (lactic acid build-up in the rumen) and an associated loss of appetite and milk yield.

Maize grain feeding rates will depend on the age and production level of livestock and the amount and type of other feeds in the diet.

The general recommendations for dairy cows are to:

• Feed a maximum of 30% of the total drymatter intake as maize grain.
• Start at lower rates e.g. 1 kg maize grain per cow per day and increase feeding rates gradually over 7 - 10 days.
• Feed a maximum of 2.5 kgDM maize grain in a single feed.

Feeding rates will be lower in diets that contain other sources of carbohydrate e.g. other grains or meals, molasses or high sugar or starch by-products.

Over the past few years there has been a rise in the number of in-shed feeders used on NZ dairy farms because it's a system that reduces feed wastage and gives farmers precise control of the intake of concentrates.

Maize grain's higher energy content compared to other grains and other commonly available concentrates is shown in the figure below and makes it the ideal option to increase cow energy intake, deliver more milk and accelerate their gain in body condition.

Figure 1: Typical Concentrate Energy Content2,3

Maize grain is also ideal as supplement for pasture-fed calves and young stock because it promotes rapid rumen development and excellent liveweight gains.

Processed maize grain can be purchased as required, from most local grain companies.

For more information on feeding maize grain talk to your local Pioneer representative.



1 Adapted from Roche and Hedley, 2011. Supplements - the facts to help improve your bottom line. DairyNZ Technical Series July, 2011 p 6-10. Assumes grazing residuals of 1,500-1,600 kgDM (7-8 clicks on RPM). Responses decline when residuals are higher than 1,600 kgDM (i.e. cows are better fed). For a full list of assumptions see
2 Feed values taken from Holmes et al. 2003. Milk Production from Pasture, Massey University, NZ.
3 Palm kernel extract feed value taken from Kolver E. 2006. PKE - Economically priced supplement. Dexcelink Autumn 2006.