Silage is the material produced by controlled fermentation of chopped crop residues or forages with high moisture content.
The purpose is to preserve forage through natural fermentation by achieving anaerobic conditions.
Forage which has been grown can be conserved while still green and nutritious 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 making eases the serious feed shortages experienced in the dry season.
- Stable composition of the feed (silage) for a longer period (up to five years).
- Plants can be harvested at an 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 two to three crops annually.
- Silage is produced in both wet and cloudy dry weather conditions.
- The fermentation in silage reduces harmful nitrates accumulated in plants during droughts and in over-fertilized crops.
- Silage production allows crop byproducts 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.
- Two (2)kg of silage (70% moisture) has the equal nutritive value of 1 kg of hay.
- With adequate feed available year-round, animals remain in good condition.
- Advantage can be taken of the higher milk price during periods of feed shortages.
- It requires a silo (a permanent structure) in comparison with the simpler methods of field curing and storing hay, this is likely to mean higher costs for smallholder farmers.
- Wastage may be more, if silage is not properly made or stored.
- Poorly prepared silages are not accepted by animals.
- It possesses considerably less vitamin D than sun-cured hay.
- Ensiling incurs an added expenditure when preservatives are necessary.
- Extra labour is needed at silofilling time.
- Transportation problem is generally experienced in silage than for hay.