How to improve the nutrition of farmers’ milking animals when each family keeps only one dairy cow? During the cold, continental winter, the major fodders  available are wheat or maize straw, together with hay and concentrated feeds. As a minimum, it is essential to provide a green fodder supplement to enhance rumen function for bovine animals. Therefore, one should develop winter fodder crops.

By : Dr.Hafeez ur Rehman Ali Khera1, Dr. Asghar Abbas1, Dr. Shahid Ali1, Ayesha Muazzam1, Abdul Samad2*, Rabia Mehmood1, Esha Ramzan1, Raheen1


For smallholder farmers with limited production capacity, finding enough feed in the winter months to maintain good milk production is always a problem. Many are forced to buy hay, concentrates or silage just to keep their animals alive and are unable to benefit due to the higher prices paid for animal feed in the winter months


Forage which has been grown while still green and nutritious can be conserved through a natural ‘pickling’ process. Lactic acid is produced when the sugars in the forage plants are fermented by bacteria in a sealed container (‘silo’) with no air. Forage conserved this way is known as ‘ensiled forage’ or ‘silage’ and will keep for up to three years without deteriorating. Silage is very palatable to livestock and can be fed at any time

Why silage not hay

Forages can be made into hay to conserve the nutrients, especially protein, before they decline in the plant. However it is often too wet to dry the successfully and special machinery, has to be used to assist the forage to dry quickly. Forage crops such as maize, are too thick-stemmed to dry successfully as hay.

such a constraint as it is with making hay. 

Silage making is long practiced by the larger agricultural sector, but the production method relies on heavy equipment and large production, in order to dig or build storage pits and to compress the green mass, putting it beyond the reach of smallholder farmers. Silage is considered the better way to conserve forage crops. A forage crop can be cut early and only has to have 30% dry matter to be ensiled successfully. There is no need to dry out the plant material any more than that, so wet weather is not. 



  • Silage is not interesting for marketing as its value is difficult to be determined.
  • It does not allow longer transportation;
  • The weight increases manipulation costs;
  • Has considerably lower vitamin D content compared to hay


  • Stabile composition of the feed (silage) for a longer period (up to 5 years);
  • Plants can be harvested at optimal phase of development and are efficiently used by livestock.
  • Reduction of nutrient loses which in standard hay production may amount to 30% of the dry matter (in silage is usually below 10%);
  • More economical use of plants with high yield of green mass;
  • Better use of the land with 2-3 crops annually;
  • Silage is produced in both cold and cloudy weather;
  • The fermentation in silage reduces harmful nitrates accumulated in plants during droughts and in over-fertilized crops.
  • Allows by-products (from sugar beat processing, maize straw, etc.) to be optimally used;
  • Requires 10 times less storage space compared to hay;
  • Maize silage has 30-50% higher nutritive value compared to maize grain and maize straw;
  • 2 kg of silage (70% moisture) has the equal nutritive value of 1 kg of hay.

Principle of Silage Making

At harvest, plant cells do not immediately “die”; they continue to respire as long as they remain adequately hydrated and oxygen is available. The oxygen is necessary for the physiological process of respiration, which provides energy for functioning cells. In this process, carbohydrates (plant sugars) are consumed(oxidized) by plant cells in the presence of oxygen to yield carbon dioxide, water and heat: sugar + oxygen carbon dioxide + water + heat Once in the silo, certain yeasts, molds and bacteria that occur naturally on forage plants can also reach populations large enough to be significant sources of respiration. These temperature increases can clearly be limited by harvesting at the proper moisture content and by increasing the density of the silage. Generally, it is desirable to limit respiration silo walls prior to filling, harvesting the forage at the proper moisture content, adjusting the chopper properly fineness of chop), rapid filling, thorough packing, prompt sealing and close inspection of plastics for holes.

Figure 1Process of Silos Making


Silage in bags

The ‘new’ method, whereby cut green mass is stored in large sacks made from polythene, has in fact been tested in research stations for some years. It is not, however, a complex process. Ideally, this been tested in research stations for some years. It is not, however, a complex process. Ideally, this is pressed removing the air and thereby preventing decomposition once the bag has been filled and shut. The feed can be stored in this way, without losing the nutritive quality, for up to a year. This allows farmers to maintain feed levels through the winter.

  • The purpose of chopping and compacting forage for silage is:
  • To release as much plant sugar as possible for fermentation
  • To ensure that all the air is pushed out of the plant material so that when the silo is

Sealed, the plant material is free of air. This is when fermentation works best to produce lactic acid

  • Chopping can be done by hand but this can take too much time for forage on more than 0.1 hectares, so it is preferable that a forage chopper be used.

It is important to time the cutting of the forage so that the cut forage is not sitting for more than a day waiting to be chopped and ensiled, otherwise it will become moldy or to dry. It is important that once the forage has been chopped it is placed in the silos and compacted as much as possible to get the air out before the silo is sealed. A key feature of silage bags is that it allows conservation as possible to get the air out before the silo is sealed. A key feature of silage bags is that it allows conservation traditional silage making techniques, where large amounts of fodder are harvested and chopped at one time. As example a farmer family might conserve a couple of bags a day over the growing season, which would allow their milking animal to be fed over the 200 days of autumn and winter. The fodder might include all parts of the corn plant, leafy grass weeds, etc., which could be also partly air-dried before chopping and ensiling. It is also possible to progressively remove leaves from maize plants as they commence to senesce.

Figure 2Storage of Silos in bags


  • Plastics silage bags are an economical alternative to traditional silage storage systems, such as pits and silos when related, harvest and storage losses are considered.
  • It is an effective way for preserving feed with minimum nutrient loss. (The anaerobic environment that is created eliminates spoilage from the growth of yeasts, molds and adverse bacteria while maintaining essential proteins and nutrients).
  • Allows farmers to store silage anywhere they need it. A well graded and well drained ground surface is all that is necessary.
  • The silage is completely sealed in the bag. This means that all the acid is retained in the silage, that in pit silage when it seeps out through the bottom of the pit as effluent. This compensates for the longer pieces of forage and poorer compaction than that found with silage machinery, so that the quality of the silage is just as good.
  • Ensiling in a bag avoids the hard work of having to remove silage, as it has to be from a pit, when it has to be dug out every day.
  • Because the whole bag is fed out to the animal, it means the rest of the silage which is in the other bags is not exposed to air at removal and is therefore unspoiled. Much of the silage in pit s has been found to be spoiled due to poor sealing and exposure to air every day when the silage is removed for feeding.
  • The bag is easily stored and easily portable so that any member of the family can carry it to the feed trough for the cow


Dr.Hafeez ur Rehman Ali Khera1, Dr. Asghar Abbas1, Dr. Shahid Ali1, Ayesha Muazzam1, Abdul Samad2*, Rabia Mehmood1, Esha Ramzan1, Raheen1

Affilation Address

¹ Department of Animal Science, Faculty of Veterinary and Animal Science MNS-University of Agriculture Multan.

2Department of Poultry Science, MNS University of Agriculture Multan, Pakistan.

Corresponding Author

Abdul Samad