The contribution of livestock in national GDP in year 2014-15 is 11.8% while it contributes 56.3% to agriculture. Fodder is an important factor in various farming systems as it is necessary for the normal functioning of livestock and without this animal survival is very difficult. Its demand is now increasing day by day so farmers grow multi-cut fodder like barseem, lucerne, sorghum, maize and millet. Now a days weather is tremendously changing, no one can predict its schedule accurately. So harsh weather conditions like severe cold and fog are disturbing the normal growth of fodder thats why its production is decreasing. Farmers are facing problems in managing the fodder for their animals. So to overcome this shortage of fodder, silage is best option for animals feed. Any green plant material that undergoes fermentation in silo is known as silage. Silo is a large structure for storage in which green forage is stored and fermented. This process is known as ensilage.
Qualities of good silage
Light brownish color is an indicator of good silage. It has bitter taste and little smell due to its acidic contents. Lactic acid is commonly present in it. In the absence of oxygen it can be kept safe for years. For proper fermentation, crop should be at such stage that it has maximum carbohydrates contents and moisture level should be very low.
Why silage is more preferable for feeding livestock?
Commonly fodder is used as a best feed for livestock but in the periods of fodder shortage there must be some another source of feed for livestock. Among those sources silage is the best option because it is nutritious, containing essential proteins which are required by livestock. Silage is best liked by livestock due to its high digestibility and palatability.
Following steps are commonly used in the preparation of silage
Harvesting Best silage can only be achieved if it is harvested at proper time so at that time it is best at its nutritional stage. This harvesting time can be judged by given indications:
Plant is at its maturity stage
In case of maize, half grain is in milking stage
It must have 50 % flowers
65-70 % moisture should be there
Method of checking moisture in fodder
Fodder will be at its optimum moisture content when its stem is squeezed and no water comes out of it. It is the best indication of moisture. The ratio of moisture in fodder is the best when no water seeps out of the stem of the fodder on squeezing it.
Chopping of fodder can be done with a common chopper but to enhance the process of chopping an electric chopper can also be used. Fodder can be chopped with a common fodder chopper, but an electric chopper or the tractors shaft can hasten the chopping process, which results in improvement in the quality of silage
The size of chopped fodder ¼th to ¾th inch size is considered best for silage, although 1 inch size of 15 % pieces of chopped fodder maintains its fiber level.
Storage of the silage
It can be stored in a pit on higher ground. Certain points should be keep in mind while selecting place for storage.
It should be near to shed.
It should be on at some elevation to save it from water.
No salinity at that place.
Advantages of silage
Field losses minimum
Harvest losses less
Harvesting and storage through mechanical means
No water damage risk
No risk for loss of nutrients
Used in different livestock programs
Problems in the silage production
Large volume of fodder creates problems in handling
Other machinery used for its harvesting and storage
Risk of loss if care is not taken
Factors affecting silage quality
The factors which affect the quality of silage are
Type of crop
Stage of maturity
Length of chop
Most of crops including legumes and grasses can be stored as silage but the most common is corn. Its energy contents are higher. Alfalfa and sorghum also can be used for silage purpose. We should choose crop at that stage at which it has maximum green part. This is most important for good silage. Moisture content for silage crop should be near 65-70 %.Length of chop also affect as air exclusion is affected by this. There should be good chopping and packing.
Storage of silage
Traditional storage methods on farms are silos. However bales are also becoming popular. These are wrapped in polythene material to ensile them and can be of three colors. Black is the most common color. White promotes lower fermentation temperature as it reflects the sun.