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Timing your maize silage harvesting with the De Heus OptiMaize program

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Silage that is too wet when cut can lead to poor quality as there is a loss of nutrients through seepage from the pit. Additionally, there is also less starch available as the starch is not yet mature and the total dry matter that can be harvested per ha is lower. Silage cut too late can lead to very dry silage resulting in difficulty to compact it properly, which allows oxygen into the silage and leads to moulds and poor ensiling. Additionally, although the silage is higher in starch the plant component is less digestible as it’s more mature which is an important factor in nutrition.

For these reasons, it is vital that we have a closer look at determining the best time for cutting.

The ideal dry matter (DM) of silage is considered by many to be 30 - 35% and the milk line test is commonly used to indicate the best time of cutting. Many factors may change your planned time of cutting your crop such as good and bad growing conditions, plant stress from disease and pests, hail damage, extreme weather at time of cutting, mechanical breakdowns as well as factors such as when your contractor is able to reach your farm for cutting.

The better you are able to predict a cutting time, the better you are able to plan. With an accurate prediction, you are able to communicate with the contractor on a cutting schedule for your farm depending on different lands and varieties, as well as considering your neighbours who might be using the same machine.

The De Heus OptiMaize Program is a tool to help farmers to better predict the best date for cutting their silage.

The program uses a combination of information such as growing conditions, leaf and stalk moisture as well as the milk line of the seed. The program will give a predicted DM at time of testing and considering the weather forecast we can predict a drop in DM of 0,5 - 1% per day depending on conditions.


The table shows a summary of 162 silage samples taken in KwaZulu-Natal over the last few years.

The data shows that the highest starch levels are in maize silage that has a DM of 30-35% dry matter. Maize silage is often the main source of starch in the dairy ration. This makes it a vital energy component. Starch is fermented by rumen microbes as well as also being enzymatically broken down in the small intestine. Starch makes up an important source of glucose and contributes to the formation of lactose in milk.

VEM is the Dutch parameter indicating the energy content of a product for milking cows. VEM is calculated taking into account the digestibility of crude protein, organic matter, crude fat and carbohydrates. For this reason, it gives vital information on the quality of the silage to produce milk.

The SynchroFos® system from De Heus is based on the concept of rumen synchronization. In other words, feeding the rumen bugs the right amount of energy and protein at the right moment. Maize silage is an important component in the feeding of dairy cows and good maize silage can help improve profit by making more milk from roughage.

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