Maize Harvesting & Clamp Management Guidelines

Small mistakes with harvest management can lead to costly results. Getting the details right at this stage will help to ensure all the resource that has been invested in growing the crop, doesn't go to waste!

  • Target 32% dry matter & >30% starch
  • Ensure 'corn crackers' are correctly set to 'crack' the grain
  • Harvest at the correct dry matter. Too early and starch yield will be affected; too late and feed value will be lost as the leaves senesce
  • Good consolidation when filling the pit is essential. Roll layers 15-20cm in depth 
  • Maize silage readily ferments but it is prone to aerobic spoilage. Use an appropriate additive to reduce waste
  • A short chop aids consolidation and so reduces waste in the pit. A longer chop helps rumen function but is more difficult to ensile well and can result in spoilage losses
  • A cost-effective way to reduce waste from aerobic spoilage is to apply salt across the top and shoulders of the pit at 3kg/m2 (double this rate on shoulders) and work into the surface layers by rolling before sheeting
  • If an early, severe frost kills the maize plant, harvest within 7 days to avoid deterioration
  • Fill, sheet and seal clamp as quickly as possible
  • Avoid leaving the clamp face open. If maize silage is to be fed straight away, a smaller, separate clamp should be created to supply this
  • Keep the pit face as narrow as possible and work across within a week to reduce heating and spoilage
  • Optimum cutting height is 20cm above ground-level. The stem below this level contains a higher proportion of water and has a low feeding value. If cutting height is too high total crop yield is compromised
  • A late harvest under wet ground conditions causes compaction and wheel-ruts lead to run-off and soil erosion. Grow an early variety to harvest under better conditions
  • On compacted/rutted fields or on sites with other risks of soil erosion (slopes) land should be cultivated immediately after harvest or as soon as conditions allow
  • Plan to establish another crop immediately after harvest if conditions allow e.g. forage rye, westerwold ryegrass 

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