Focus on how to obtain the best from forage to counteract rising feed costs
(without plastic) still rages. Unfortunately, a lot of growers are making ill-informed decisions in this regard – for example, growing without the aid of plastic in marginal areas and selecting a variety more suited for use with plastic.
Variety choice will determine the harvest date and overall yield of the crop. When considering growing maize for selling on to other livestock farmers it's essential that it's grown under plastic to ensure that the maximum energy yield is obtained by the user and the maximum fresh tonnes are sold by the grower.
Currently, contracts are being agreed on a per tonne basis of €40-45/t ex-field. If the crop reaches 30pc starch and 30pc DM then with current alternative energy feed costs this is a fair price for all. There are now greater options on the grain (energy) utilisation of the maize crop. Whole cob processing or ground ear maize ( GEM) has been produced on many farms over recent years. The whole cob, or ears, are stripped from the plant and processed for ensiling with a stabilising additive.
With energy levels of 12.7MJ ME/kg DM, starch of 56pc and dry matter exceeding 55pc this product has a huge role in finishing diets. This product is ensiled conventionally and my experience over recent years has been very positive towards this high-energy concentrate/ forage.
There have been limited but very successful attempts at harvesting whole maize grain and storing it by crimping.
With imported dry maize meal reaching €270-290/t delivered on to farms this winter, the possibility of growing your own maize equivalent needs a closer look.
Crimped maize can be ensiled in a conventional clamp or in round bale form. It's very convenient for transporting anywhere in the country and I can see it becoming even more popular.
With rising fuel costs maize silage is a more price competitive alternative to grass silage. Grass silage is at best a very variable commodity. I have noted on a lot of beef farms in recent years a marked fall in silage energy and digestibility. When grass is harvested at a young and leafy stage digestibility and dry matter content is generally good, but in modern-day finishing diets it is very unreliable as the primary forage source.
In some situations the inclusion of higher levels of maize in the diet has often been associated with increased incidence of digestive upsets in ruminants. This should not be the case when the overall diet is correctly balanced especially with an effective fibre source such as cereal straw.