As crops mature at pace, maize growers should be on the ball and ready for their harvest to begin.

“Maize is such a farm specific crop, with factors such as variety, management and weather all impacting on when its ready to be chopped,” says Dr Simon Pope, crop protection manager for Wynnstay.

“The key to a successful crop is harvesting at the right stage. For maize, the target is 32 per cent dry matter (DM), to keep ensiling and feed-out losses at a minimum, and at least 30 per cent starch.

“If harvested below or above this DM value, then losses could be seen in the clamp either through effluent production if the silage is too wet, or through aerobic spoilage due to the difficulty consolidating over-dry silage.

“DM contents are rapidly increasing across the country and harvesting is already underway in some areas, so its important growers closely monitor their crops so that the optimum harvest window isn’t missed,” he adds.

Dr Pope explains that cob maturity should be scrutinised closely as one of the best indicators of when the crop should be chopped.

“If cobs are allowed to become over mature the grains become ‘bullet hard’ and are less easily digested in the rumen, so the number of grains passing through the animal increases.

“The easiest way to check cob maturity is to snap a cob in half and squeeze the kernels. If the grain ‘squirts’ the crop needs to be left to ripen further. If there is just a trace of moisture on your finger the crop is ready to harvest and if the kernel is rock-hard and the starch inside is floury it should already have been chopped. Both weather and variety plays a role as to when this happens.”

Although it sounds obvious, he reiterates that it is important to plan ahead to ensure everything is ready for harvest to begin.

“Pits should be cleaned out thoroughly, and side sheets installed on the clamp walls if required, ready for the harvest to begin. Make sure the contractor knows your preferred chop length and that ‘corn crackers’ are effectively employed.

“Orders should be placed in advance for silage additive and salt to be applied to the top and shoulders of the clamp, ” says Dr Pope.

One variety that is standing out above the rest this year is Limagrain’s Reason. This variety also performed exceptionally well last year, showing consistency, which is something growers are always pleased to see.

“For early maturing varieties, Reason is leading the way again in terms of its total feed value. At a milk price of 27ppl, the variety is worth nearly £4,000/acre thanks to its ME value, which takes into account the variety’s starch yield, DM yield and cell wall digestibility.

“It’s likely to be a popular choice for growers thinking ahead to next year and it is positioned very favourably on the newly released 2018 NIAB/BSPB maize descriptive list,” he explains.

“Maize is considered to be an expensive crop to grow, but its true financial value is very often overlooked. By preparing ahead of harvest it should be possible to ensile the crop with minimal losses to help to ensure the full nutritional value of the silage is realised at feed-out.”