A Guide to Understanding How Silage Processing Works
Farmers raising livestock are more familiar with the term silage. This is because silage plays a critical role in the rearing of livestock. Silage is fermented fodder that is stored in high-moisture conditions. It can be fed to most cud-chewing farm animals such as cattle, sheep, and goats. The feed is made from grass crops such as barley, sorghum, millet, oats, and maize. In a process called ensilage, these green plants are fermented into a nutritious feed for the animals. Agriculturalists may use different terms to refer to the fodder depending on the field crop used to make it. Haylage is silage made from alfalfa, while oatlage is made from oats.
Farmers use different methods to make the ideal silage for their animals. One of the most common methods involves placing cut greenfield plants in a pit or silo. The farmers then pile the vegetation heap in a large head. They then purge out as much air as possible by compressing the pile down. To avoid air reentering the mass of vegetation, the farmers wrap the pile with a plastic sheet.
Why Is Silage Fed to Livestock?
Silage forms an integral part of the diet of the dairy livestock. Not only is it good for the animal’s health, but it also provides the necessary nutrients for increasing milk production. For animals that farmers are rearing for meat production, silage keeps them well wed and in good health. Silage can be stored for extended periods. This is why the feed comes in handy during dry seasons when the fields do not yield enough animal feeds. Compared to hay storage, silage requires less floor area, and hence farmers can store more feed in limited space. According to agriculturists, silage is highly digestible, palatable, and laxative. It has also been proven to be more nutritious than most other forms of animal feeds.
The Process of Making Silage
Farmers can make silage in a few steps. However, you must have a clear procedure to ensure that everything goes according to plan. This is because a simple fault can cause a whole lot of vegetation to rot or develop mold, which can kill or harm the animals. Below is an outline of the process of making silage:
Choose the Type of Crop- to start, you must decide on the type of crop you intend to use to make the silage. Different plants have different nutritional levels. You can choose to grow or buy the crops. If you intend to grow them yourself, go with perennial or hybrid crops that grow in a short period.
Choose an Ideal Dry Spot for Digging a Pit- it is highly recommended that you dig the pit in slightly sloping ground. The pit should have a wedge-like shape, with the depth decreasing from the ground’s higher side. The size of the pit will be determined by the amount of fodder you intend to make.
Cut the Green Plants- the plants should be reduced to small pieces of about I inch. You can use a chaff cutter to chop the plants after harvesting them from the fields.
Cover the Bottom and Sides of The Pit- before dumping in the cut greens, you should cover the bottom of the pit with polythene. This is very important as contact with soil will lead to rotting and infestation of worms and insects.
Place the Crops in The Pit- finally, you can place the chopped plants into the pit.
Spray Molasses to Help with Fermentation- the molasses used should be diluted with three liters of water for each liter of molasses. A garden sprayer or any other efficient sprayer can be used to splash the molasses.
Compress to remove air- you can use something heavy to press the greens. The goal is to purge out as much oxygen as possible. If the room created by the shrinking plants is sufficient, you can add more greens and compress more. Cover the filled pit with a polythene sheet after compressing.
Cover the Pit with Soil- this keeps the air out. Silage can be stored for as long as two years. You can use it after two weeks of storage. If you need to use the silage, you can open the lower side of the pit and take enough feed for the day.