Silage Making From Green Fodders:
Introduction to Goat Fodder and Silage Making:- In recent years there is a tremendous goat meat demand and supply in the world. Commercial goat farming is one of the business sectors growing every year. However, the feed supply for these animals are not meeting the demand and buying fodder or feed in open market became expensive and this is impacting the profits in goat farming. There is a need for home grown green fodder crops to make the feed available all the time and reduce the cost involved in feeding the goats.
What is silage? Well, it is a process of preservation of chaffed green fodder in anaerobic condition (no air inside pit/tank) by way of fermentation method.
One can make this from these crops and feed the goats for better health, weight gain and milk production. In this write-up, let us discuss about green fodder crops suitable for goat feed and steps involved in making silage.
Fodder Crops Suitable for Goat Farming and Silage Making:- Crops should have good sugar content and required moisture to prepare good feed as sugar is utilized in fermentation process to make lactic acid by microorganisms. Cereal green fodder crops like Maize (Corn), Jowar, Bajra, Hybrid Napier, Sugar cane tops, oats are most suitable for silage making. Other leguminous crops like Berseem, Lucerne are also suitable to make silage. The area cultivated for green fodder crops depends on your goat farm size (number of animals), usage and the time to store the silage. After growing green fodder, you should harvest (cut) these crops at right stage to maintain the required moisture level. The following points to be kept in mind before harvesting green fodder crops intended for silage making.
- One should harvest crops at pre-flowering to flowering stage.
- Make sure that the crops should not contain more than 75% of moisture while silage making.
- In case of Maize (Corn), Jowar, Bajra, Hybrid Napier crops, these should be chaffed to an inch size using feed cutting machine to prevent trapping of air and spillage of silage.
- In case of high moisture green fodder crops, dry them in sun for 4 to 6 hours to reduce moisture content by 15 to 20%.
- If the green fodder crop is over ripe and over dried, adding water during packing silo is required.
Advantages of Silage Making from Green Fodder Crops:- There are many advantages of silage in livestock farming.
- It can reduce the feed cost in goat farming.
- It can be used when there is scarcity of feed or when there no forage available on ground.
- It is very much useful in stall-fed goats (zero grazing system).
- It can be stored for long period of time (2 years).
- It (due to additive treatment) can provide nutrients/minerals and vitamins to goats for better health.
- It occupies less space when compared to traditional feed crops.
- It has lactic acid; hence it is easily digestible to goats.
- It is beneficial in case of drought conditions.
- It is tasty and it can increase the goat’s appetite.
- It reduces the labour cost involved when compared to traditional daily fodder cuttings.
- In dairy goat farming, milk prices are higher during the dry season. With fodder fed animals you get more milk hence more income.
- In case of abundant fodder crops and fodder, goat farmers even can supply this to other goat farmers to make extra money.
Silage Making Plan:- There are two types of silage making methods; one is pit method and other one is tank method. Number of animals and length of feeding (feed duration) decide the shape and size of pit or tank to be constructed for silage making. If you are planning for pit method, use the location/site at higher level to make the pit so that any kind of external water flow can be prevented. If you are planning for a rectangular pit, make corner edges to round shape so that while filling and pressing chaffed fodder, air will not remain inside in the corners. The important key for successful silage making is making air tight pits and tanks. Keep these silage pits from any external moisture conditions. To prepare 7000 kg’s (7 quintals) of silage, it requires 1 m3 (1 meter width x 1 meter length x 1 meter depth) silo pit.
Steps Involved Silage Making:- The following steps are involved.
- A pit should be dug on slightly sloping ground and the depth of the pit should decrease from the higher side of the sloping ground to the lower side. When it comes to dimensions of the pit, it depends on the amount of forage to be stored, number of animals and length (duration) of feeding. For example, if you want to store to store 20 bags of fresh forage, it requires a pit dimension of 2 cubic meter and 10 meters of polythene sheets and about 30 litres of molasses.
- Cleaning and drying is required before filling silo pit / tank with fresh forage.
- You need to buy a chaff-cutter (can get on government subsidy in India) and using this, cut the forage into 1 inch pieces.
- Polythene sheets should be placed over the sides and floor of the pit so that the forage does not come into contact with soil to prevent from any air/moisture.
- Start filling all the chaffed forage into the plastic lined pit and spread uniformly into a thin layer. Repeat this step until the pit is filled 1/3rd (6 bags approximately).
- 1 liter of molasses should be diluted with 3 litres of water and should be sprinkled evenly over the layer of chopped forage in the pit by using any solution sprayer. This helps fermentation process quickly which will prevent the feed from rotting.
- Start pressing the forage down with your feet to force out as much air as possible. This will prevent from fungi attacking and destroying the forage in the pit.
- Now you can add more bags of the chopped fresh forage and diluted molasses should be sprinkled evenly and compact the forage again just like above mentioned. Can repeat this process of adding forage, sprinkling diluted molasses and compacting forage until the pit is filled in a doom shape.
- Once the pit is filled and compacted, use polythene sheets to prevent water seeping. Finally dig a small trench around the sides of the pit.
- Now cover the silage pit with soil; a layer of 24 inches for wet, fresh forage and up to 36 inches for more dry forage of soil to keep the air out and to prevent damage of the polythene by rain, birds and rodents.
- It requires 2 months (60 days) to make good quality of silage.
- For using the silage from the pit, open the pit from the lower side of the slope. Remove enough silage feed for one day’s feeding and then cover the open end again. Make sure there won’t be any air passage left behind after using.
- Usually well prepared silage can last for 2 years. Feed the silage along with other feeds until the goats adjust to the taste of it.
Treatment Process in Silage Making:- Fodder in pits should be treated for quality and long lasting.
- Molasses: When legume crops like Berseem, Lucerne green fodders are the inputs for silage making, Molasses may be added at the rate of 3.5-4% of green weight of silage to improve the quality and palatability.
- Urea: Cereal forage crops like Jowar, Bajra, Maize (Corn) can be enriched for nitrogen (protein) content by spraying urea at the rate of 0.5 to 1 % of fresh forage.
- Lime: This can be added at a level of 0.5-1% to maize (corn) silage to increase acid production.
How to Identify the Quality:- Well, always good quality silage will have sweet and sour taste and reside in brown colour. The ideas pH of good silage is ranges from 3.5 to 4.5. Spoiled or bad quality silage will be in black colour and smells rotten. If there is air present in the pit, then there is a possibility of mould formation.
Bottom Line:- No doubt about it, silage making on your own saves time, money and makes an excellent profits in goat farming.