Winter grazing of forage crops is very harmful to the environment, says an AgResearch scientist, Professor Richard McDowell.
As I write this, I look out on blue sky and brownfields (except for the maize paddocks) and listen to the deafening sounds of cicadas.
While many great-looking maize crops are growing across New Zealand, we are starting to get reports of crops NZ-wide beginning to show moisture stress. Hopefully by the time you read this the rains will have come and we will end up having another good autumn with high yielding, high quality maize silage.
Good quality maize silage results from a series of good choices – not by accident. So before harvesting a crop most farmers can do a few things to ensure they make the best quality maize possible. These are as follows:
- Check your crop now to see when it is likely to be ready to harvest.
- Contact the company that sold you your seed and ask them to have a look at your crop. They should be able to give you an approximate harvest date simply by looking at the plant’s stage of growth.
Harvesting the crop
The aim is to harvest at 32 - 38%DM. Any earlier than this will likely cause some yield loss and bring potential for leachate losses. Any drier than this, unless there is a lot of starch, will mean that the crop is relatively difficult to stack and therefore ensile.
Crops badly affected by disease or drought are likely to be ready earlier than those which are healthy and green all the way to the base of the plant. Crops in hotter regions are also more likely to be ready sooner than crops in cooler regions.
Tell your contractor when the maize is likely to be ready; this will enable him to plan the work schedule and put you in a work queue. If the crops in your region get affected by dry or by disease, everyone will likely want their maize silage harvested at the same time. Better planned farmers usually get their maize silage harvested on time.; poorly planned farmers usually miss out.
Get the person harvesting and stacking your maize to come out and look at where you are planning to stack it. They will look at site access; closeness to drains, sheds and fences; and possible health and safety hazards (e.g. overhead powerlines). You may need to drop some fences to ensure safe and efficient access to your stack site
Bait for rats
Pre-bait the stack site for at least three weeks prior to the maize being stacked to slash the local rat population. Rat bait is cheap compared to the damage that they could do.
Check your stock of tyres
Check how many tyres you have available and get the local tyre supplier to deliver more if you think you will be short. The aim is to have tyres touching across the whole stack.
Buy inoculant that works
Order your inoculant – one that is proven effective, trialed by independent organisations (e.g. universities), carrying label claims on the number of bacteria contained, and coming with after-sales service you can trust. My experience is that things are usually cheap for a reason: cheap inoculants usually have no data to back up the claims of the salesman.
Ian Williams is a Pioneer genetics specialist.