Silage is fodder preserved in its fresh (green) state through anaerobic process of fermentation. Fodder preserved in this state has the advantage of retaining most of its nutrients and the feed value is slightly higher than some fodder dried as hay
Silage can be made in a pit or trench, bunker, plastic silos, polythene sheets.
Silage is a good source of feed which can be relied on during dry season. Ruminants relish it once they get used to it.
Some materials used for silage
Maize stalks/corn stover
Agro industrial-by products such as spent malt etc. (moisture content should be between 65-70%)
When to cut materials for silage
Maize and sorghum should be cut when grains are still soft and milky, whiles grasses and legumes are cut at flowering stage. This is the stage when the plants abound in protein, carbohydrates and mineral salt and vitamins.
Sorghum should be cut at the right time to avoid prussic acid and poisoning.
Some important tips to consider:
It is important to use quality fodder materials to obtain quality silage. This is because silage does not improve the quality of fodder being ensiled.
There are three necessary conditions that must be observed:
- Cut and ensile the fodder quickly
- Pack very tight to avoid pockets of air in the trench/pit
- Seal appropriately. Make sure water or air does not enter the trench/pit either from rain or from ground water
How to dig a trench/pit
The trench/pit should be dug in a well-drained area/ground such as hill side (concreted pit/trench is preferred).
The size of the trench/pit depends on the quantity of silage needed.
A drained ditch/gutter depends should be dug on the upper side of the trench/pit to prevent run-off from entering.
Steps to follow
- Dig a pit/trench
- Cover the floor and sides of the trench/pit with plastic.
- Harvest and chop the fodder material into pieces (about 3-5cm)
- Put the chopped fodder material into the trench/pit in layers whiles you compress it.
- Pack and compress every layer till the trench/pit is filled.
- Cover the trench/pit when it is full, first with plastic and then a layer of soil to make it air tight.
Some effluent may come out from the silage after a few days which is normal.
The silage will mature for use in a month or two (1-2) but can stay for over a year once it is not opened. Normal matured silage when opened has a sharp smell (but not unpleasant). It is yellowish green or light brown in colour.
To feed silage to stock, open and scoop quantity needed and cover well with the plastic again.
For further information, Contact:
Animal Production Directorate,
Ministry of Food and Agriculture
Any Regional/District Agric. Office
Across the country.