Maize Silage Quality

Many maize hybrids and management factors influence the final quality of maize silage. Examples of factors that change quality can include:

  • Ratio of maize stover to maize grain
  • Quality of maize stover and grain are very different

Maize silage is a mixture of different parts of the maize plant

  • Stover – stalk, leaves, husk that covers the cob, and the cob that holds the maize grain
  • Maize kernel/grain

The combination of stover and maize grain provides an excellent source of starch, combined with effective fibre for ruminant species (cattle, sheep, goats, deer). Maize kernels deliver an energy dense, high starch feed that complements the lower quality stover.

Stover, made up of stalk, leaf, husk cover and cob is of lower quality than maize grain. Stover contains no starch, limited water soluble carbohydrates, low protein and is high in fibre (NDF).
As a maize crop matures, quality of stover falls. By the time the whole plant DM% reaches 40-42% DM or more, content of NDF and lignin increases (so NDFd – digestibility of NDF falls), water soluble carbohydrate content and MJME/kgDM are lower than for a less mature plant.

Quality of maize grain is high compared to maize stover. MJME is high, due to a high starch and low fibre (NDF) content. As maize plants mature, starch accumulation increases until the plant reaches physiological maturity (black line, or black layer). As the plant dries down, starch digestibility reduces.

Like stover, protein content of maize grain is low, typically lower than 10% DM.

As the ratio of stover to maize grain changes, so does the quality of maize silage. More grain means better overall quality of maize silage.


Typical analyses for maize grain and maize stover harvested at 35% DM

  Grain  Stover 
NDF %  9.5  6.5 
Energy (MJME/KGDM)  14.5  8.5 
Starch %  78.0 

Effect of different ratios of maize grain to maize stover

Grain % Stover %  NDF %  MJME/KGDM  Starch % 
30  70  48.4  10.3  23.4 
35  65  45.6  10.6  27.3 
40  60  42.8  10.9  31.2 
45  55  40.0  11.2  35.1 
50  50  37.3  11.5  39.0 

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