Friday, 05 February 2021 06:55

Failing to plan is planning to fail

Written by  Ian Williams

It seems basic human nature that when things are tough, we become very focused on surviving. We concentrate on doing the essential things that will enable us to get through the pressure or difficulty we are facing. 

Likewise, when things are going well, we often kick back and relax. Many of the disciplines that enable us to get through a tough time go out the door and we let things slip.

Farmers are no different. Good farmers keep doing the things that make them successful in both tough times and good times. They take control of the things they can control and try and set themselves up so that they are not too affected when things don’t go as expected. 

It is the same for maize growers. High quality, high yielding maize is made by a series of good decisions.  It is not something that happens by accident.  While most of the yield affecting decisions will have already been made by now (e.g., hybrid choice, planting date, nutrient input etc.), there are still a few things most farmers can do to ensure they maximise yield and make the best quality maize silage.  These are as follows:

Get in the queue

Contact your contractor and let them know when your maize is likely to be ready.  This enables the contractor to plan their work schedule and put you in their work queue. 

If the crops in your region get affected by lack of moisture, disease, or frost, it is likely everyone will want their maize silage harvested at the same time. 

Better planned farmers usually get their maize silage harvested on time.  Poorly planned farmers usually have to wait.

Get the person harvesting and stacking your maize to come out and look at where you are planning to stack it.  They can look at site access, closeness to drains, sheds and fences and assess any potential 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.

Clean up your storage area.

Clear away and dump any rubbish. Bait for rats at least three weeks prior to the maize being stacked to ensure you have dramatically reduced their numbers.  Make sure the fences around the storage area are stock proof.

Ensure you have enough tyres

Check that the number of tyres you have available will be enough to fully cover the stack.  Remember that the aim is to have tyres touching across the whole stack.

Buy an inoculant that works

Order your inoculant, making sure you buy a product which has been proven to work. Look for products that have been trialed by independent organisations (e.g., universities), with label claims around the number of bacteria in the product and after sales service you can trust.  There are a lot of unproven silage additives in the marketplace that are simply a waste of money.

Harvest at the right time. 

Contact the merchant company who sold you maize seed and ask them to check your crop.  They should be able to give you a reasonable idea of an approximate harvest date simply by looking at the plant’s stage of growth. 

The aim is to harvest somewhere between 32 - 38% DM.  Any earlier than this will mean there is likely to be some yield loss due to less starch.

Usually drier crops are more difficult to stack and therefore ensile however it should be noted that some very high grain maize silages can be drier and yet still easy to compact. Crops which are badly affected by disease, drought or frost 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 those in cooler regions.

Ian Williams is a Pioneer forage specialist. Contact him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

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