The cold and dry conditions in April this year significantly reduced grass growth, with many farmers taking light cuts of first cut grass silage as fields failed to bulk up. While recent rains will help aftermaths and second cut yields, farmers will need to plan now to make up for reduced overall grass silage tonnages.

“With commodity and purchased feed prices remaining high, farmers were hoping for a good forage year to help reduced purchased feed costs per litre over the winter,” comments Tim Richmond of LG Seeds. “They will need to review stocks and plan to make up the shortfall – maize could be a valuable option in many parts of the country.”

Mr Richmond says soil temperatures and moisture are now perfect for maize establishment. “Maize can be successfully drilled until the end of May and modern early maturing varieties will ensure crops are mature and ready to harvest in time to establish a successor crop. But it will be vital to choose a suitable variety.”

He also recommends selecting a variety with high cell wall digestibility. He explains that 50% of the energy in maize is in the vegetative parts of the plant. Increasing cell wall digestibility makes more energy available to the cow and helps support rumen function.

“Maize offers the most assured way to increase forage output this year as no other crops will produce such high yields of quality forage in a shortened growing season,” continues Mr Richmond. “Growing maize also provides an opportunity to drill a successor crop for early bite in the spring to further increase forage availability.

“Despite the cold spring we now have the warmth and moisture needed for crops to grow away quickly. This will be particularly important if maize follows grass, as a rapidly growing crop will reduce the risk of potential wireworm attack.

“Growers deciding to grow maize should plant an early maturing variety with good early vigour to ensure the crop gets away quickly and matures in good time,” he concludes.