There are 2 main aspects that need to be considered when looking to introduce maize silage into the diet:
New cows and rising two year old heifers need time with mixed age cows who are more experienced with a maize silage feeding system.
Expose heifers to maize silage several weeks pre-calving – they’ll be settled and consuming maize silage well, in time for calving.
Types of rumen microbes that utilise starch are different to those that digest pasture. Microbial populations take 10-14 days to change from pasture to starch digesters. Sudden change to starchy diets may increase risk of ruminal acidosis (“grain overload”). Risk depends on maize silage feeding rates, total levels of dietary fibre (NDF), and on the presence of other starchy feeds.
Low rates of maize silage (less than 3 kg DM/cow/day) typically won’t require adaptation.
Higher rates (more than 5 kg DM/cow/day) increases requirement for adaptation.
Start cows on low rates of maize silage, building up to final rates over a few days. For example, if the target is 5 kg DM maize silage/cow/day, start at 2 kg DM for two days, lifting by a further 1.0-1.5 kg DM every two days.
For calving cows, use time spent by cows in different mobs to gradually ‘step’ up silage feeding rates: