MAIZE silage grown on dairyfarmer Andrew Tyler’s property at Tongala, Vic, has produced excellent yields of high quality forage.
Mr Tyler said they had used maize silage in the past for the dairy herd, and grew it for the first time on-farm last season.
“We have fed it on quite a few occasions over the last 15 years, buying it as a standing crop from other growers,” he said.
“This year we thought we would just try growing it ourselves, so we were really pleased.”
The DuPont Pioneer hybrid 35A30 was planted in early summer last season and impressed Mr Tyler with its yield in a hot year.
“It was about 1800 wet tonnes and it worked back to about 20-21 tonnes dry matter.
“We aimed for about 20 tonnes and the best block, in one section of the crop, did about 24 tonnes.
“So we were really pleased with that.
"Overall, it was a very even crop and we had a lot of comments from people driving past. It was a very impressive crop to look at.
“We aimed for 20 tonnes, but we probably wouldn’t have been surprised if we got 16 or 18.”
Mr Tyler said to get a 20-21 tonne average was above their expectations, adding it helped dilute the overhead costs.
“That has been good, in a tough year, financially, and it is good to have a stack of nearly 700 dry tonnes of silage sitting there,” he said.
He said the establishment of the crop was excellent and helped set it up for the high yields at the end.
“We sowed it at about 90,000 seeds a hectare," he said.
"It was a good sized seed, and obviously it had strong seedling vigour and really good germination and plant density which was what we were after.
“It was a very hot, dry summer. Two to three degrees above average maximum daytime temperatures for basically the whole growing period.
“Water usage was a little bit higher than we probably initially expected but it didn’t matter because the plant was growing really well.
“We were able to manage the watering without any trouble at all and didn’t have any rain interference - so it was a good growing season for maize.”
Mr Tyler said maize was a great crop to grow because it was responsive.
“You put nitrogen on and it just about talks to you," he said.
"It is a great irrigation crop for that reason."
The crop was taken off at about 41% dry matter.
“It was probably a little bit drier than we actually anticipated,” he said.
“We held off, we were getting really good grain fill and the weather was going with us through April and we weren’t too stressed.
“We are really rapt with it. It has compressed really well and everything went really smoothly.”
Mr Tyler said they hadn’t yet received their feed test back but the silage looked and smelt good.
“There is a fair bit of grain through it, and that is what we are after, energy density," he said.
"So at this stage it looks really promising.”
The maize has also fitted into the dairy ration well.
“For the first time we went straight in and started feeding it as green chop on the day it was harvested and we have just kept managing the face and there’s been no mould,” Mr Tyler said.
“The cows have just adjusted to it, whereas normally we would wait three weeks before we would open the stack.
“There has been no surface mould because we have just had to manage the face and keep it really tidy.”
A Pioneer inoculant was also used at harvest to help with the ensiling process.
“It is a great source of energy and helps balance the fibre in the ration through the winter months when we are feeding a lot of annual ryegrass,” Mr Tyler said.
“The cows actually do really well on it. They shine up on it.”
He said the fat tests went up a little on the introduction of the maize silage to the diet.
“That probably means it has helped balance the fibre in the ration a bit better," he said.
"It is a tricky time once you go from basically, a total mixed ration onto annuals, at this time of year.
It can really throw the cows around a bit, with balancing their stomach.
“They really have transitioned well, going from TMR (total mixed ration) basically through to annuals and the maize has obviously helped that a lot.”
Mr Tyler said autumn and winter were when they were looking for energy.
“It will also be very helpful in the spring time for lead feeding and just prior to joining.”
The paddock that grew the maize was then planted to wheat, which will be utilised through winter and spring before the area is prepared for another maize crop.