Back Why use maize silage?

Date: 20 September 2016

With the decrease in cow numbers, pasture management through summer is something on many farmers minds at the moment. Maize silage, whether grown on farm or bought in, is a great tool to help you manage your pasture so you get maximum quality and return for every paddock. 

The recent lift in the last two GDT auctions has given many dairy farmers a glimmer of hope for a lift in this season’s forecasted payout.  However, many farmers have reduced stock numbers over the last three years.  It is thought that the national dairy herd is down by somewhere between 8-10% in cow numbers from its peak in 2013.

Many farmers discovered last season that reduced cow numbers combined with a good grass growing season resulted in some quite large spring pasture surpluses.  The cost of ensiling this surplus meant many farmers spent more than they planned on conserving feed. Where the surplus was recognised too late and feed quality dropped, they didn’t get the milk production they hoped for, despite the good grass growing season. Growing maize silage on farm helps solve these problems.

Firstly it makes very good sense from a pasture management perspective.  The surplus pasture production caused by less cows per hectare can be controlled by taking out a paddock or two and planting it in maize.  The extra grazing pressure this puts on the rest of the farm helps ensure the farm maintains pasture quality. The surplus feed that may have been a problem is effectively transferred from spring to autumn in the form of a maize silage crop. This can be used to put weight on cows and extend lactation.

Secondly it makes sense from an economic perspective.  Grass silage typically costs around 25 c/kgDM to bale and store.  A 20 tDM maize silage crop, grown with either no fertiliser or with effluent will cost around about 20 c/kgDM.

Bought in maize silage can be used to supplement the supply of home-grown feed.  Bought in maize silage is often more cost effective than other alternatives such as pasture silage, hay or PKE. Maize silage is also higher in starch than these feeds. High starch feeds drive milk protein production resulting in higher value milk.  Maize silage also creates pasture substitution meaning farmers can use maize silage to extend their grazing round and carry feed forward for the winter spring deficit.