0717 PROGRESS newsletter - page 2

Maize silage is a vital component for most KZN dairy farms as it provides
the farm with fodder during difficult winter months as well as providing a
good source of fibre and energy to be used throughout the year for milking
cows, dry cows and young stock. Many factors play a role in the quality
of the final product and deciding when to cut silage can have a significant
impact on the quality of your silage that you will be using for possibly the
next year or longer.
Silage that is too wet when cut can lead to poor quality as there is a loss of
nutrients through seepage from the pit. Additionally, there is also less starch
available as the starch is not yet mature and the total dry matter that can be
harvested per ha is lower. Silage cut too late can lead to very dry silage resulting
in difficulty to compact it properly, which allows oxygen into the silage and leads
to moulds and poor ensiling. Additionally, although the silage is higher in starch
the plant component is less digestible as it’s more mature which is an important
factor in nutrition.
For these reasons, it is vital that we have a closer look at determining the best
time for cutting.
The ideal dry matter (DM) of silage is considered by many to be 30 - 35% and
the milk line test is commonly used to indicate the best time of cutting. Many
factors may change your planned time of cutting your crop such as good and bad
growing conditions, plant stress from disease and pests, hail damage, extreme
weather at time of cutting, mechanical breakdowns as well as factors such as
when your contractor is able to reach your farm for cutting.
The better you are able to predict a cutting time, the better you are able to plan.
With an accurate prediction, you are able to communicate with the contractor on
a cutting schedule for your farm depending on different lands and varieties, as
well as considering your neighbours who might be using the same machine.
The De Heus
program is a tool to help farmers to better predict the
best date for cutting their silage.
The program uses a combination of information such as growing conditions, leaf
and stalk moisture as well as the milk line of the seed. The program will give a
predicted DM at time of testing and considering the weather forecast we can
predict a drop in DM of 0,5 - 1% per day depending on conditions.
The data shows that the highest starch levels are in maize silage that has a DM
of 30-35% dry matter. Maize silage is often the main source of starch in the dairy
ration. This makes it a vital energy component. Starch is fermented by rumen
microbes as well as also being enzymatically broken down in the small intestine.
Starch makes up an important source of glucose and contributes to the formation
of lactose in milk.
VEM is the Dutch parameter indicating the energy content of a product for
milking cows. VEM is calculated taking into account the digestibility of crude
protein, organic matter, crude fat and carbohydrates. For this reason, it gives vital
information on the quality of the silage to produce milk.
system from De Heus is based on the concept of rumen
synchronization. In other words, feeding the rumen bugs the right amount of
energy and protein at the right moment. Maize silage is an important component
in the feeding of dairy cows and good maize silage can help improve profit by
making more milk from roughage.
Author: Mark Willment
Technical Advisor: Dairy
20 - 30% DM 30 - 35% DM 35 - 40% DM
The table above shows a summary of 162 silage samples taken in
KwaZulu-Natal over the last few years.
As published in The Dairy Mail – July 2017
1 3,4,5,6
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