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Maize Silage

the benefits of maize silage

Making the Most of Maize Silage

Maize silage benefits dairy and beef finishing rations, not only by the mixing of silages increasing forage intake, but by the provision of additional ‘starchy’ energy. However, excess starch can be detrimental to rumen health, and both the cost of growing maize and the supplementary protein required to balance maize in the ration means that maize silage needs to be effectively incorporated into a ration to ensure optimal cost effectiveness. Cattle and sheep derive most of their energy from rumen digestion.

Built into Feed Solutions unique rationing program, Precision Nutrition, the amounts and ratios of glucogenic, aminogenic and ketogenic end products of digestion are assessed to provide optimal energy supply for targeted requirements. Glucogenic energy is an end product from the development of propionate and lactate from rumen bacteria, these are then converted to glucose in the liver and fi nally lactose in the mammary gland. To achieve glucogenic energy, feeds and forages must be prioritised as propionate precursors. Whilst most nutrients produce some propionate, the nutrient that has the largest impact on propionate is starch.

Glucogenic energy can have a positive effect on milk yield and milk protein percentage. A significant benefit t to formulating diets which are weighted towards glucogenic energy is the positive effects it can have on negative energy balance in early lactation cows. Glucogenic energy based diets can return cows to positive energy balance quicker than ketogenic
energy based diets. In turn this can have a positive effect on fertility and overall health.

However, as published on many occasions, the benefits of leaving maize silage in the clamp for a couple of months before feeding are conclusive, as the starch becomes more available over time.

Precision Nutrition rationing not only looks at starch and glucogenic energy levels, but specifically also Rumen Fermentable Carbohydrates (RFC), Total Fermentable Carbohydrates (TFC) and Digestible Undegradable Starch (DUS – or ‘bypass starch’).

This then enables an accurate prediction of both rumen and intestinal energy supply, but ensuring healthy digestion not resulting in SARA or clinical acidosis by the incorrect balance of starches in the diet, especially with feeding freshly harvested maize silage. With current cereal prices, starch levels should be maintained at optimum levels without compromising rumen health.

There are a number of feeds that can be used to supplement the starch in maize silage based rations, but have differing digestibilities which needs to be considered in a balanced ration. Starch sources such as stock feed potatoes and cereals potentially reduce rumen pH, caustic treated cereals can be used, or Maxammon treated cereals and maize which has benefits for rumen pH and supply additional rumen protein to aid ration balancing.

Pivotal to the efficient utilisation of the maize silage is the maintenance of rumen health. Precision Nutrition also models both Structural Fibre Index (SFI) and Acid Loading.

To ensure rumen health is managed correctly, the Precision Nutrition rationing program can accurately predict the amount of fermentation acids produced from carbohydrates and proteins. The fermentation acids produced from feeds and forages will vary depending on type, amount and treatment. The Acid Load index will then factor these levels which can be used alongside SFI to determine rumen health.

Therefore, when harvesting maize silage, the fibre content (NDF – with respect to timing of harvesting) and the chop length / processing of the crop are vital. Generally, a chop length of 15-20mm is advisable, but the chop length requirement is very dependent on the rest of the ration. For example, are other fibre sources, such as straw included in the ration? Also the extent of mixer wagon processing needs consideration. Over chopping of the maize silage at harvesting, then over mixing will reduce the physically effective NDF (peNDF). This can be simply measured using the Penn State Separator to assess correct proportions.

In summary, Mole Valley Feed Solutions unique Precision Nutrition software will be crucial this year in making sure that maize silage, specifically the starch, is fully utilised, and along with this ensuring the right balance of effective structural fibre to maximise cost effective milk production in what will be a very challenging winter feed period.

Call the Feedline on 01278 444829

Source Details

Dr Robin Hawkey, BSC (Hons) phD, Senior Nutritionist

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