Agribusiness in KenyaAnimal ProductionDairy Farming

Silage making for smallscale farmers

Storage

It is important to pick a suitable location for the storage bags. Obviously, one would wish to keep them relatively close, in an area that has adequate drainage and easy access. Keeping the bags away from other feed sources, may reduce damage from birds and rodents. Stacking the carefully in a room can protect them against rats, mice and other pests. Although open storing in a way disabling rodents to form layers, and covering with a thin plastic foil to prevent damage from birds is sometimes most effec- tive. The surface area selected for storage of silage bags has a large impact on silage quality and ease of feeding from the bag. Based on experience the surfaces rated as follows:

  • Concrete Pad. Provides excellent surface for silage bag, easy removal of feed with little or no damage, can achieve exceptional drainage of water away from bags, discourages pests and makes inspection for damaged bags very
  • Asphalt surface. Less expensive than concrete. Has most of the same advantages of concrete. Precautions to maintain surface adequate during the hottest hours on summer
  • Is good surface for placing silage bags. Weed and pest control are quite good. However the crushed rock surface does not support traffic very well.
  • Dirt surface. This can work if there is adequate drainage away from bags. Weed control must be practiced and it is very helpful to have a second location of silage for use when it is extremely wet, especially in

Packing

Packing the silage bag correctly is the most important factor that will affect silage quality. Therefore, the following recommendations should be followed when selecting the packing materials.

  • Select a good bag. Strong high density plastic bags (from fertilizer bags to shopping bags) are available, with capacity from 50 – 5 kg of fresh chopped green fodder. Bags with no obvious holes can be purchased in packs of from ten to hundred;
  • The quality of bags used is important. High- rather than low-density plastic reduces the potential for tearing. The seal must be without holes and this may relate to factory practice. If holes are present along the seal, sticky tape or tar/mastic may be used to repair seals as the bags are
  • Inner bags (if more bags are used) also tend to get damaged, but thicker bags are always less damaged, to the extent that two rather than three layers of bags are
  • Plastic fertilizer bags make very good silos. The fertilizer bag will last for at last three

Maintenance

As damage on the bags can happen for various reasons, birds, rodents, and other animals can puncture  the plastic. This lets air in the bag and can result in spoilage. Children and cattle can do the same. For maintenance of the stored bags containing the silage the following recommendations should be followed:

  • Inspect the bags on a regular basis and if possible mend holes;
  • Do not allow dogs, cats and other animals to climb the bags;
  • Number and date the bags for easy identification and recall of materials bagged;
  • Do not leave the silage bags opened over night;
  • Inspect frequently and seal holes at once;
  • If damage is extensive, the silage needs to be re-bagged as soon as possible;
  • If maintenance is appropriate after three – five weeks, excellent lactic acid fermentation will result and bags kept well for six months, with no or little fungal spoilage
  • After emptying, the bags must be carefully washed, dried and stored in a safe place for use the following year.

Filling

While filling your silage bags:

  • Do not allow the feed to become contaminated with dirt;
  • Ensile at proper maturity and moisture (58% – 68%);If moisture levels are higher, reduce the pack- ing pressure to avoid creating mushy, silage, or better yet, wait until the forage is drier; If moisture levels slip below 65%, increasing the packing pressure can help;
  • Pack not later than 24 hours after
  • Fill rapidly and pack uniformly. Each bag should be filled in one or two hours at maximum. This is needed to maintain forage consistency;
  • The silage must be packed as densely as possible, in order to avoid air pockets that can interfere with proper fermentation. Air pockets can develop more frequently when longer chop lengths are used.
  • Monitor particle length. A shorter chop length of 3/8-cm will pack better, but may not retain enough physical fiber for the ration.
  • The fodder can be hand chopped, or chopped through a cutter;
  • 5 – 50 kg of chopped green fodder is carefully packed into a bag, in order to avoid making any holes in the bag;
  • the bag is gently but firmly squeezed by hand to expel air, and while compressed, the bag is closed;