Harvesting

maize silage harvest best practice

NOTE: This is not a replacement for a laboratory assessment of DM% of chopped maize
  1. Grab a large handful of chopped maize arriving at the stack or silage pit.
  2. Squeeze chopped material very firmly for 1-2 minutes into a tight ball
  3. Quickly release and watch the maize  ball:
  • Under  25%  DM  – Ball holds its shape, free plant juices flow between fingers.
    Delay  the harvest
  • 25-30% DM – Ball holds its shape, very little free plant juices, moisture is noticeable on hands.
    Delay the harvest, or chop longer TLC  15-20mm
  • 30-40% DM – Ball slowly loses its shape and crumbles. Hands feel just damp but no free plant juices.
    Target – start or continue with the  harvest
  • Greater than 40% – Ball is dry and crumbles/falls apart quickly. Hand feels dry. Chop shorter TLC 5-9mm to improve packing density.
Consider use of a lactobacillus buchnerii aerobic stability inoculant

did you know?

Squeezing a handful of chopped maize can help estimate possible DM%. This won't replace laboratory or microwave methods for DM% measurement. 

Check length of ‘average’ chopped plant material. Very occasional longer leaf pieces are not unusual.

  • Theoretical length of chop (“TLC”) for maize silage 32-38% DM = 10-15mm.
  • Maize silage less than 30% DM TLC = 15-20 mm
  • Maize silage greater than 40% DM TLC = 5-9 mm
 

did you know?

Chop length can be adjusted for maize crops that are harvested too wet or too dry.

Target pieces smaller than tip of your little finger. Larger pieces increase problems of air exclusion  from  the stack

4. Percentage of kernels processed

lacing  the  silage  sample  in  a  bucket  of  water,  allowing  the  cob/stover  to  float  off, then pouring water out can leave kernels at the bottom to improve the speed at which kernel  processing  can be checked.

Sort chopped material, checking  for:

  • Extent of kernel processing. Kernels must be well processed / crushed, not  just nicked.
  • Percentage of kernels adequately processed. Target is 95%+. Very low numbers of unprocessed, very small kernels are acceptable.
     

did you know?

Cattle cannot digest unprocessed kernels so aim for more than 95% of kernels to be crushed/cracked.

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