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Basically, silage is a just sort of fodder produced using green foliage crops that are preserved by acidification or fermentation techniques. Although, it is the best feed available for your livestock when pasture is not available for grazing. Either it is weather conditions that are causing unavailability of fodder or just some other situation, silage is the best solution no matter what. It can be used as a food source for all your dairy animals including cattle, sheep, cows, horses, etc.

Requirements for Silage Making

So if you are running a farm or just a side-ranch, you would definitely need an alternate food source for your domestic animals when grazing pasture isn’t adequate. You can make your own silage but for that, you must have availability of certain things in your farm. Stated below are four most important resource-requirements for silage making process.
  • Good quality crop, rich in nutrients and moisture, for making a healthy feed for your livestock.
  • Proper farm equipment/silage making machines, including harvesters, choppers, and balers for efficient production and surplus yield.
  • A storage place for storing your fermented silage once it is fully prepared. It can be a silo, storehouse, or a trench that is kept air-tight.
  • Several additives like urea, molasses, salt, etc. to not only increase the yield but also to produce silage with improved quality.

Suitable Crops for Silage

Silage is always proved as the best source of nutrients such as carbohydrates, proteins, fiber, and starch for your livestock animals. The fodder crops that are rich in their nutritional value are most appropriate for fodder ensiling. List of such crops include maize, sorghum, oats, and pearl millets but grass silage overshadows all these because of its vast availability. Moreover, you can improve the quality of your silage by only using certain additives that are suitable as well as compatible with the type of fodder-silage you are preparing. Urea, salts, formic acid, and molasses are the most common examples of silage-additives.

Silage Making Process

  • Fodder Selection - The principal criteria for fodder selection are that the feed should have satisfactory measures of fermentable sugars, and carbohydrates, with at least 65% water content.
  • Harvesting and Fermenting - The crop is harvested before it attains full maturity. The reason behind this is to make the end product as nutritious as it can be. When the crop to be fermented is not fully grown, it is extremely rich in various nutrients with a water-content level above 65-70% at least. Silage machine e.g. maize chopper, harvester, or forage harvester are used for this purpose. Subsequent to harvesting, oxygen is ejected from a container and the chopped fodder is exposed to microbial acidification. Keeping it oxygen-free, the fodder is fermented under the influence of Lactic acid and some suitable additives.
  • Stuffing up Silo - The Silage mixture is stored inside a silo container where it is allowed to ferment properly. The storehouse or silo should be totally airtight with no chance of water or air to make contact with the silage. So a polythene sheet is spread over the silo to limit mold-growth. pH level is an important factor to be taken care of while preparing silage.
  • Prepped Silage - Your silage mixture mainly consisting of fodder would turn into silage in a max-span of 45 days, after which it can be fed to dairy animals.

Silage Making Machine

A great variety of instruments are commercially available for helping you out with the silage making process. They make the procedure easy and also help save your time. Many types of silage making machines are feasible for purchase varying in their working, purpose, efficiency, and the type of fodder you are processing. Two major types of Silage making machines are Harvesters and Balers, which are further categorized into subtypes.
  • Harvesters - Long chop harvester, Double chop harvester, Short chop harvester, combine harvester (can be self-propelled or tractor-mounted)
  • Baler - Round baler, square baler, vertical/horizontal balers, Single Ram/Two Ram balers

Identifying Silage Quality

To find out the amount of acid in your silage, pH measurement can be of help. Different pH ranges provide some information about the silage status. 
  • 3.5-4.2 - Excellent acidic (sweet silage)
  • 4.2-4.5 - Good acidic
  • 4.5-5.0 - Fair less acidic
  • 5.0+ - Poor pungent-smelling silage

Without being tested at some research laboratory, specific criteria determine whether the silage is of good quality or bad one. Some major subjective criteria incorporate Color, Physical appearance, fragrance, and Texture of your fermented silage.

Good Silage normally has a mellow yet pleasantly acidic smell. Moreover, fermented silage has a hostile taste with a strong and impactful smell, which turns extremely unpleasant when treated with ammonia. If your silage gets overheated during the fermentation process, it would smell like tobacco having burnt-sugar flavor.