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Silage making for smallscale farmers

Rodent control

Silage bags, especially silage from fodder maize attract rodents. Once in, rodents could easily hide between bags, chewing through the plastic bags, and resulting in aerobic spoilage.

  • Monitor the silage bags on a regular basis for any rodent, bird or livestock damage;
  • Do not use elemental sulfur or chemical means for rodent/pest control, as life expectancy of the plastic is reduced when exposed to chemicals;
  • Frequently some form of construction may be This might be within an existing store such as large cement or clay storages jars;
  • Alternatively, storage (shelves) can be constructed with legs in order to keep the store off the ground, shaped in a way to prevent rats and mice climbing (such as mushroom shaped legs used for grain stores, or protected legs with metal horizontal discs or downward facing cones).

Sealing the bag

If bags are used, leaning heavily on the forage material in the bag then tying the remaining plastic as close to the material as poss ble and as tightly as possible, will compact the silage and then seal it from air. Make sure there is enough plastic to tie, up, so that it does not come free from the twine. Tobacco twine or hay baling twine is best for tying up the bag and it should be twined around the top  of the bag several times to ensure the bag is completely sealed. Remember to seal tightly. Several methods can be used to seal the bags:

  • For larger bags. Stretch the remaining plastic as far as it will reach, then place a wooden board on the plastic and wrap it around the board back toward the bag, like re-sealing a bag of potato chips;
  • For smaller bags, the neck of the bag was twisted then turned over and tied with twine;
  • You can also practice nailing of wooden boards to the one used to wrap the end of the plastic bag. Just roll the board and plastic two or three times and place a second board on the top. Nail the two boards together slightly alternating the angle of the nails


  • Fodder with high sugar content, will conserve well;
  • Fodder with low sugar content is more likely to rot than ferment;
  • Many crop residues lose much of their solu- ble carbohydrates during the final stages of grain ripening, and while the residue is left to dry in the field;
  • The drier the silage, the more dry matter is packed into a given volume but the more susceptible is to air movement and dry matter losses;
  • Densities also tend to decrease as particle size

Evaluation corn silage

Once the silage has undergone an adequate fermentation, usually in 3 weeks. Evaluation of the silage pH and fermentation acids can provide feedback on whether the fermentation occurred under ideal conditions using a pH sensitive paper. In general, pH values for corn silage should be in the 3.5 to 4.3 range, lactic acid levels should be in the 4–6% range, acetic acid 2% or less, propionic acid 0–1%, and butyric acid less than 0.1%. Ammonia N levels should be less than 5%. Other factors that can be used to evaluate the silage include temperature, smell, and the appearance of the silage. Silage temperatures should generally be within 15 to 200F of the ambient temperature. Higher temperatures indicate that oxygen is penetrating into the silage and resulting in aerobic decomposition. The silage should also not have a rancid odor, as- sociated with clostridial fermentation in wet silages. A vinegar odor can also be associated with wet silages that have high levels of acetic acid. An alcohol odor is associated with fermentation by yeast, which results from slow feed out rates and air penetration in the silage face. There should also not be any visible mold in the silage, which is often an indication of high dry-matter content at ensiling or poor sealing.

Making a field assessment:

Step 1: Collect a sample of silage that is representative of what is to be fed to the animals.

Step 2: Make an assessment of the silage on physical appearance and texture.

Step 3: Make an assessment of the silage on the basis of color.

Step 4: Make an assessment of the silage on the basis of the aroma of the silage.

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Graduate Farmer

Graduate Farmer aims is to empower young men and women from becoming job seekers to creators through the agribusiness value chain.

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