Silage making


  • Conservation of green fodders under anaerobic conditions in the green form is called ensiling and the conserved green fodder is called silage.
  • Silage is highly palatable , slightly laxative, easily digestible and loss of carotene during ensiling is very less. Organic wastes, weeds, coarse fodders and thick stemmed forages can be effectively conserved as silage.
  • The surplus green fodder can be preserved as silage for feeding during lean seasons.
  • The device or container used to preserve silage is called silo. Silos can be permanent structures like towers, trenches, or bunkers prepared using bricks, cement, or stainless steel, or they can be pits dug in the ground and plastered with cowdung and clay or cement mortar.

Important steps in the preparation of good silage:

  • Cereal crops should be cut at 50% flowering stage for silage making. Crops like hybrid napier should be harvested 45-50 days after previous cut.
  • The moisture content in the harvested material should be at 60-65%; if excess, it has to be brought down to 60-65% by shade drying or withering by air drying
  • The material should be thoroughly chaffed using chaff cutters into small bits of 1-2 cm size.
  • Legume fodders, if any, to be added for ensiling can be added to the chaffed material. Additives are added to promote lactic acid fermentation and discourage the activity of other organisms.
  • About 3-4 kg of urea can be dissolved in water and the solution sprinkled on one tonnes of chaffed material. For every ton of green fodder, add either 30 kg of molasses, or 50-60 kg of kibbled grains of sorghum or maize or any cereal, or add 45 kg of citrus fruit pulp. Any one of the above should be added. Usually molasses is preferred.
  • The material is filled into the silos in uniform layers and compacted to eliminate the air. It should be airtight packing. The packing should reach 1-2 m above the ground level of the bunker or pit in a dome shape.
  • To make the silo airtight for continued anaerobic conditions, it should be sealed using any type of insulators like mud, plastic sheets, mud and dung mixture etc.
  • After few days the material gets compressed leaving open space on the top. Cracks may be seen in case of mud plastering. These cracks should be immediately sealed.
  • After a period of one and half to two months, the silage is ready for feeding livestock. During this period it is fermented. Due to the activity of enzymes and bacteria, organic acids like lactic acid, acetic acid, butyric acid, etc. and also ethylalcohol are formed.
  • The pH is brought down to 4.0. Lactic acid fermentation is important for good quality silage. Aerobic conditions or more proteinaceous material used for silage, lead to butyric acid fermentation which is not desirable.
  • Good quality silage is golden yellow or greenish yellow in colour, bright and moist in appearance with characteristic pleasant aroma. While using the silage, silo is opened to remove sufficient quantity of silage and immediately made airtight. Once, open the silage should be removed and fed daily till it is finished.
  • Silage made from material with high drymatter content, or dried material is called haylage, and that prepared from waste material is called wastelage.
  • About 400kg of silage can be stored in one cubic metre space as against 66 kg of hay. If the preparation of silage is not proper, there would be more losses mainly due to aerobic fermentation, clostridia and effluents.

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Last modified: Wednesday, 17 August 2011, 10:30 AM