Step by step preparation of quality silage for your dairy animals

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The animals feed in one of the pools at the Eldoret Technical Training Institute, Kapseret region, Uasin Gishu county. [Peter Ochieng, Standard]

For farmers in livestock businesses such as dairy cow and goat farming, there is a need to find an alternative source of food as the cost of commercial dairy meals has skyrocketed.

Research indicates that the key to unlocking the potential of dairy farming lies in improving animal feeds and reducing milk production costs. Silage has thus become the feed source of choice for running dairy systems because it is healthy, nutritious, can be stored for a long time and dramatically reduces the number of commercial feeds needed on a farm to improve and maintain milk production. .

What is silage?

Silage is any crop harvested green and kept in a succulent state by partial fermentation under more or less airtight conditions.

The desirable material used in making silage should have a moisture content of 60 to 70 percent and a pH of less than 4.2 for wet crops and less than 4.8 for wilted silage. Grass species used include napier, sorghum, corn, and cane tops.

Silage helps to counter feed shortages during dry seasons and ensures that sufficient feed is available year round; thus the animals remain healthy. Silage can be done with fresh or wilted material.

How to make silage?

The crop should be ready to harvest: The seed of forage sorghum or corn should be soft but not milky when you squeeze it open. Napier grass should be about three feet tall. Legumes should have young pods that are not dry.

If it has been raining and the forage is wet, or if the forage appears immature while the seed is very milky, it is best to harvest it and leave it in the sun for a few hours so that it wilts because too much water can spoil the silage.

The chopping and bagging area or silage pit should be clean and dry. For nutrient poor material, corn germ can be added to enrich it.

Ensure proper compaction whether you are silage in a pit or in a bag. For small silage volumes, compaction can be done using a cylindrical drum filled with water. A tractor can be used to compact large volumes.

Anaerobic fermentation

Seal the silage material and make sure the silo is airtight. Silage is formed by anaerobic fermentation by microorganisms.

When the need arises, carefully cut open a small portion of the silage, remove what you need, and seal the rest of the silage.

Common methods of making silage

The common method of making silage is to use trench / pit silos and plastic / bag silos.

A trench silo is built underground or semi-underground. A tractor or heavy loads such as a metal drum filled with water are used to compact the material inside the silo. The silo is then covered with a plastic sheet weighed down with earth. This helps to maintain anaerobic conditions.

For plastic silos: The harvested forage is cut into 1-inch pieces, mixed with molasses diluted in water. The mixture is then packaged in a polyethylene tube. When the tube is full, tie both ends firmly. The bag is then placed in an airtight container for fermentation to occur. The advantage of plastic silos is that they are inexpensive and can be moved easily.

The quality of the silage obtained, with maximum preservation of nutrients, depends on the quality of the forage used, the silage process and the use of molasses. For example, Napier grass should be ensiled when it is 1 meter long.

Correctly ensiled material can store silage for up to a year without loss of quality.

Silage in pit

The crop should be ready to harvest: The seed of forage sorghum or corn should be soft but not milky when you squeeze it open. Napier grass should be about three feet tall.

If there are legumes growing between crops, make sure they have young pods that are not dry.

The chopping and bagging area or silage pit should be clean and ready for forage. If possible, a large piece of plastic should spill out.

Ensure proper compaction whether you are silage in a pit or in a bag. Seal the silage material making sure that no air can enter. Silage is formed by anaerobic fermentation by microorganisms.

When you need the feed, carefully open a small portion of the bag and immediately seal the remaining silage to maintain freshness.

Farmers can earn additional income by selling excess silage, especially for bag silos.

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