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  • Writer's pictureDebby Brown

Maize vs. Alkalage

Updated: Mar 11

Do you find maize is a crop that is becoming more challenging to grow, or is it a crop you are unable to crow cost-effectively or reliably? Do you find your cows do well while you have maize silage available in the diet, but do you run out and miss it through the summer months?


Can you grow wheat or barley instead or as well as? Can you harvest these crops when they are fully ripe?


Do you find maize is a crop that is becoming more challenging to grow, or is it a crop you are unable to crow cost-effectively or reliably? Do you find your cows do well while you have maize silage available in the diet, but do you run out and miss it through the summer months?


Alkalage Typical Analysis:

Nutrient

Maize

Alkalage Wheat

Dry Matter %

28

78

ME (MJ/kgDM)

11.7

11.2

Protein (% DM)

9

15

NDF (% DM)

43

43

Starch (% DM)

31

30


With the Home ‘n’ Dry treatment at harvest of the ripe wholecrop cereal the straw increases in its digestibility and results in a crop which is similar in its utilisable fibre to maize. The starch level of the 2 crops is very similar. The dry matter of the Alkalage is much higher and therefore less needs to be fed in the diet to achieve the same energy and starch inclusion.



The biggest benefit is the extra protein with the Alkalage which results in lower supplemental protein being required in the diet, saving cost, and improving nitrogen efficiency.


The Alkalage has an alkaline pH which supports the rumen pH and therefore function. This leads to animals with lower risk of sub-acute ruminal acidosis. Maize silage does not have the alkaline benefits and can increase the risk of some hind gut acidosis if not well balanced and utilised in the diet.

Alkalage produced with Home n' Dry

Alkalage can be fed successfully alongside maize silage, reducing the possible challenges from a high starch diet, providing some of the extra protein and a more rumen digestible starch, required to drive the rumen microflora, to ensure the best use of the maize silage is achieved. Using a balance of the two crops can allow the daily amount fed to be reduced, therefore spreading out across the year, providing a more stable diet to your livestock.


The alkalinity of the alkalage helps the cows remain content and comfortable as their rumen is functioning more efficiently, optimising the fibre digesting bacteria, and reducing the risk from high starch diets.


Hands full of Alkalage, made with Home n' Dry

Maize silage and alkalage are usually stable crops and of a reasonably consistent nutrient value which helps diet balance with changing grass-based forages throughout the year. The Alkalage pH helps balance the acidic pH of grass silages, and some maize silages, ensuring the fibre digesting bacteria in the rumen have the environment required to optimise their performance. The balance of alkalage and grass-silage, or alkalage, maize and grass-silage in a ration will go a long way to increasing production from forage, and therefore reducing the need for other, costly inputs on farm.


When feeding ruminants such as cattle we need to prioritise supply of nutrients to the rumen microflora. These microorganisms break down much of the feed provided and produce the volatile fatty acids the ruminant uses for energy, as well as the rumen bacteria becoming the main source of protein for utilisation and absorption in the small intestine. Ensuring we supply the right balance of energy and nitrogen sources for the rumen microorganisms optimises their productivity and therefore, the performance of the ruminant themselves. The efficiency of digestion and forage utilisation is enhanced and provides a win-win for the animals and farmers alike. Having good forage sources makes this possible and alkalage could be the missing link on many farms to balance grass silages.


Both are excellent feeds to ensure best use is made from grass-based forages and having the option may give alternatives in challenging environments. They will complement each other as well as providing options where required to ensure the animals nutritional requirements are met all year round.


Debby Brown BVMS GPcertFAP MRCVS

Veterinary Technical Manager

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