Getting green fodder throughout year is a challenging task as in India it is mostly depends upon the rain. Silage preparation is the most important and innovative way to preserve the green fodder and it is done when available plenty. Fodder crops are very important for managing nutrition requirement of dairy cows and reduces the cost of milk production effectively.
- We can feed green fodder to cows throughout year.
- Cost of production of silage is very low.
- Smart farmers make silage when green fodder is available in high quantity and sell in the summer when the market price is very high.
- Silage have high nutritive value throughout the year.
- The process of ensilage enhances the taste and flavour of the fodder and palatability increases.
Silo is a place or pit of making silage. Farm should decide a suitable type and design depending upon the quantity to be stored, availability of space, manpower or machinery. The dimensions of length, width and depth/height are also decided based on silage requirements. Approximately 20-25 kg can be stored in one cubic foot after good pressing. Pressing the fresh fodder helps in removing the trapped air and that results in good silage.
For example a trench type pit may be suitable when large area is available, quantity is large and tractor is available for pressing while feeding. A bunker could be below ground level of half below ground level. If it is above ground level then the open sides will have to be closed by wooden planks by arranging them one over the other with their ends inserted in slots on both the sides. Silos can be fabricated or constructed as towers when the pressing will have to be done mechanically. Silos in form of polythene tubes or bags have become more common as they offer wide choice for storing and also yield better quality of silage.
- Quantity: The quantity of silage to be preserved is calculated based on the quantity required per animal and the number of animals in the farm etc. For example, for a farm with 10 Adult animals and feeding 20 kg of silage then 200 kg of silage is needed every day.
- Mechanical Harvesting
- Reaper – Mechanical fodder harvesting helps to save time and cost of labour at a commercial dairy farm. Reaper is a tractor operated machine that harvests the crop 1 – 2 inches from ground and it can harvest one acre per hour.
- Maize Chopper- It is an economical machine powered directly by the tractor power-take-off shaft and used to perform high quality cutting that is without losing nutrients and moisture of plants. Lengths of maize cuttings can be adjusted as per requirement.
- Harvesting of Crop: Crops having good percentage of sugar and appropriate moisture (35-40% dry matter; 65-60% moisture) are good for silage making. Crops like maize, jowar, bajra, napier bajra and oat are most suitable for silage making. Crops should be harvested at pre-flowering to flowering stage for silage making.
- Preparation of Corn Silage: It can be made from maize fodder that is after harvesting it at ‘milking stage’ that is achieved between 55-60 days after sowing or it may be also pe prepared from corn along with cobs. Milking stage is when the harvested corn grain actually yields a milky exudates when squeezed or pressed.
- Moisture Level in the Crop: This is the most important factor to be considered for silage preparation. Moisture level of 60-65% is recommended on the day of filling. So as to get fodder at an appropriate moisture level, irrigation of the crop should be stopped at least one week before harvesting. Alternately the harvest is allowed to lie in the shed for some loss of moisture, called as wilting over several hours.
- Chopping: Fodder must be chopped into pieces of one inch width. Machines are available to chop the fodder in the field and load it to the tractor.
- Pressing and Coverage: Compact the forage as tightly as possible. Using sharp knives at harvest to enhance packing, aiming for a fill rate of 1 minute/ton and a packing density of at least 700 kg/m. Complete the entire storage quickly within 1-2 days. Cover the silage with polythene sheet properly and weighing down plastic adequately.
Different varieties of additives are available in the market. These additives help in improving nutrient quality by altering the rate and amount of acid production.
Opening the Silo Pits
The opening of silage is very important as it would get exposed to air and that may lead to aerobic fermentation. To avoid this, silo pit should be opened from one end so that minimum area is exposed to the environment. It should not have rancid odour which indicates clostridial fermentation. A vinegar odour is associated with high levels of acetic acid. An alcohol odour indicates fermentation by yeast. Ideally it should have mild, pleasantly acidic, sour aroma which indicates normal lactic acid fermentation relished by dairy animals.
It is better to make sure that the roughage portion is available in the farm to control the cost of production. Preservation in the form of silage helps you to feed more cows with the nutrients that are available in the green fodder. Make a small quantity of silage initially and experience yourself and understand the art of silage making!!