Silage maize variety testing systems usually evaluate new varieties within properly defined maturity groups; within a maturity group, all varieties are harvested on a single harvest date. In a small country like Belgium where growing conditions are similar across the maize growing areas, all tested silage maize varieties, comprising different maturity groups, are harvested on a single date. Under this testing system, only few varieties are harvested at the physiological stage where they theoretically show their optimal performance. In the current research, eight silage maize varieties were monitored from 25 to 40% whole-crop dry matter (DM) content at three locations in Belgium during the period 2007–2009. The optimal harvest date was calculated as the date where whole-crop DM yield, ear DM yield and organic matter digestibility were maximal. The variety rank at the optimal harvest date was compared with the variety rank at any studied single harvest date. Harvest dates where the variety rank was not statistically different to the rank at the optimal harvest date were pooled in a ‘harvest window’. Based on the current data, the harvest window comprised a flexible harvest period of about 14 days. It was therefore concluded that applying a single harvest date is scientifically justified for the ranking of silage maize varieties in Belgium, when the whole-crop DM content is between 28·1 and 40·6% with a maximum difference of 7·2% between all compared varieties.