Fo­cus on how to ob­tain the best from for­age to coun­ter­act ris­ing feed costs

Irish Independent - Farming - - Front Page -

(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.

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