Feeding maize silage to cattle

Find out if feeding maize is suitable for your cattle and see our information on protein supplementation and feeding co-products.

Back to: Feeding maize silage for cattle and sheep

Finishing cattle on maize silage

The high starch and energy of maize silage make it ideal for finishing cattle.

For continental and/or dairy-cross finishing steers, maize silage can be the sole forage source.

For finishing heifers and native-bred steers, it can be mixed with forages that are lower in metabolisable energy, such as grass silage, wholecrop silage or straw, to prevent unwanted fat deposition.

Feeding maize silage to dry suckler cows

The metabolisable energy levels of maize silage are too high to be fed ad-lib or as the sole forage source for dry suckler cows.

Maize can be included in a mixed-forage or straw-based ration for dry cows. It is important to know their maintenance requirements and monitor body condition to prevent them from becoming overfat.

Feeding maize silage to lactating cows

Maize can form a substantial part of a diet for autumn and late winter/early spring-calved cows with calves at foot, in early to mid-lactation. During this phase, nutritional demand is high, about double that of a dry cow, and maize can provide a useful energy source.

Protein supplementation when feeding maize silage to cattle

Since maize silage has a relatively low protein content, it does need supplementation with a protein source when fed to cattle. This should be high in effective rumen degradable protein (ERDP) to improve starch and fibre utilisation. Sources of ERDP include:

  • Rapeseed meal
  • Pot ale syrup
  • Beans
  • Dried distillers’ grains

If using feed grade urea in any format, care must be taken to introduce it to cattle slowly. Measure amounts carefully and accurately and mix into the ration thoroughly. If in any doubt, seek professional nutritional advice.

Example maize rations for cattle


Growing (300 kg starting weight)

Finishing (500 kg starting weight)

Liveweight growth target (kg/day)



Grass silage (kg fresh)



Maize silage (kg fresh)



Rolled barley (kg)



Rapeseed meal (kg)



Minerals (g)



Reducing concentrate use when feeding maize silage

Maize can reduce concentrate use without compromising performance. In a Harper Adams University trial, there was no significant difference in the performance of beef bulls finished on a diet of 75% maize silage and 25% concentrate, compared to those fed a diet of 50% maize silage and 50% concentrate.

Other research has also demonstrated that maize silage can reduce concentrate input. However, the effect depends on the amount and quality of maize fed and the animals' DM intake.

Feeding co-product feeds with maize silage

Maize is versatile and can be used with a wide range of other feeds, including cereals, concentrates, co-products, liquid molasses-based feeds and root crops (such as stock-feed potatoes, fodder beet, parsnips). Suitable co-products include:

  • Waste bread, biscuit and confectionary meals
  • Maize germ meals
  • Wet distillery, brewing and starch extraction by-products
  • Potato waste
  • Processing by-products

It is important to compare co-products on a dry matter basis and balance them with appropriate protein and long fibre sources. Seek professional nutritional advice if unsure about the best way to formulate rations incorporating maize with co-products and other types of feed.

Effect of maize silage on the finished carcase

Inclusion of maize silage in a finishing ration increases the white/creamy colour of the carcase fat compared to cattle fed diets based on grazed or conserved grass. This is because maize contains fewer carotenoids than grass.

Useful links

Download our guide to growing and feeding maize silage

Download our guide on feeding growing and finishing cattle

Download our guide on Feeding suckler cows and calves for Better Returns

To order a hard copy of any of the folloowing, please contact publications@ahdb.org.uk or call 0247 799 0069:

  • Growing and feeding maize for better returns
  • Feeding growing and finishing cattle
  • Feeding suckler cows and calves for better returns 

More information on understanding forage analysis

Use the beef ration calculator

Information on managing dry cow feeding

Webinar: Feeding maize to beef cattle and earlier turnout: EBLEX telephone conference