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Plan, Harvest, Treat, Clamp, Feed

Cut to camp silage

Cut To Clamp Maize - 5 Steps to Success

With many farmers already short of silage at the end of last winter and many grass clamps opened to supplement grazing this summer the majority of maize looks good this year and has benefited from the high temperatures and sunshine in June and July, however on thin soils with a low moisture holding capacity, yields will be considerably down.

The harvest is likely to be earlier than previous years, which opens the opportunity to plant Westerwolds or Italian ryegrass after harvesting to produce early grazing or silage next spring. Whatever your maize yield, it’s going to be vital to minimise DM (dry matter) loses which occur in an unaided natural fermentation. Total DM losses can be as high as 20% from field to feeding the crop. It’s generally agreed that 10% of DM losses can be recovered by using an effective, proven additive on maize. A two year study by Volac showed that an overwhelming 99% of respondents said that they wanted to maximise milk produced from forage. So one has to ask the question why only 30% of farmers use an additive on maize?


The last month before harvest is when most of the starch is formed in the grain, so harvesting too early, or the incidence of eyespot disease can affect DM yield and starch content considerably.


Aim to harvest at 30-33% DM when the grain is at the ‘hard cheese’ stage. Harvesting

too late can result in ‘over ripe’ hard grains which are more difficult to digest and pose a greater opportunity for potentially harmful yeasts and moulds to form on the maize.

In a worst case scenario this could result in aerobic spoilage in the clamp, mycotoxins and heating/energy loss in the ration.

To help you with your maize silage making, Volac have a five point plan...




For an efficient harvest

Keep your contractor informed of the anticipated harvest date

Minimise contamination from last year’s mouldy silage and from soil carried on machinery by cleaning the clamp and surrounding area thoroughly

Start to make the clamp airtight by lining walls with polythene, leaving sufficient overlap with top sheets.




optimise starch content

Aim to harvest at 30-33% dry matter. Too dry is more

difficult to consolidate. Harvesting too early means starch in the maize kernels is not fully formed

Harvest modern ‘stay green’ varieties while still green – before they have died off

Resist the temptation to cut the maize plant too low at harvest in search of extra bulk – the base of the stalk has little nutritional value and increases the risks of soil contamination and mycotoxins

Consider a chop length of 1.5 to 2cm to make consolidation easier.




For greater control of the processes in the clamp

Minimise losses by choosing the right additive – eg one containing beneficial bacteria targeted at:

- Improving fermentation

- Reducing heating losses from aerobic spoilage, for instance using an additive such  as Ecocool.




To aid fermentation and starve spoilage organisms of oxygen


Fill in even layers no more than 15cm deep – the maximum that can be consolidated effectively

Apply salt into the top few inches of the clamp – which are particularly vulnerable to aerobic spoilage

Calculate the weight of machinery needed to consolidate to around 750kg or more of fresh weight of maize per cubic metre

Consider using an oxygen barrier film on top

Use a single 1000-gauge or two 500-gauge polythene sheets, pull tight and fold with the side sheets to seal

Protect from damage with a woven sheet over the top. Weigh down, use netting to stop birds and bait to stop rodents.




To protect your investment

Minimise air exposure using a block cutter or shear grab to keep the face tidy and by moving the face back quickly (aid progression across the face by using narrow clamps or dividing the clamp width)

Roll the top sheet forward as you progress through the clamp, keeping weights on the front edge. Never leave it hanging over the face as this encourages mould

Clean up silage that falls off the face to minimise mould spore contamination.

Most contractors are ready to use additives, so it’s just a matter of selecting a proven product. Ecosyl offers Double Action Ecocorn or Ecocool. Both products contain the unique

lactobacillus plantarum strain MTD/1, but have either potassium sorbate or L.buchneri strain PJB/1 respectively, as the secondary ingredient to prevent heat and spoilage when the clamp is opened. Ecocool has the added advantage it can be used at ultra-low volume application.



For further information go to or contact our Senior Agronomist Graham Ragg on 07798 583667 #MVFHotTopics

Source Details

 Newsletter 652

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