The use of plastic tubes is one of the most suitable methods for small-holder dairy farmers who want to make limited quantities of silage.
Advantages of plastic tube silage
- Plastic silage bags are an economical alternative to traditional silage storage systems, such as pit silos.
- 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, moulds and adverse bacteria while maintaining essential proteins and nutrients.
- Allows farmers to store silage anywhere they need it. n The silage is completely sealed in the bag. This means that all the lactic acid is retained in the silage, unlike 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.
- Sealing in a bag reduces 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 to the animals, 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 pits 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.
- The need to chop the green mass, as chopped material tends to make much better silage, because more air can be squeezed out of it during the packing process and the small pieces cannot puncture the bag
- Most losses of silage during the process occur due to unnoticed bird/rodent damage to the bags resulting in spoilage loss and too wet (gaseous/seepage losses) or too dry silage (spoilage).
- Chop the forage to lengths of about 1 inch (2.5cm) using a panga or forage chopper.
- Spread a polythene sheet or canvas onto a flat surface and spread the chopped fodder into a thin layer.
- Dilute molasses (1 litre of molasses with 1-2 litres of water) or mix 1kg of maize bran for every 10 kg of chopped fodder and mix thoroughly. Maize bran produces better silage because it reduces the effluent from the silage.
- Sprinkle the diluted molasses (preferably in a watering can) or maize bran onto the chopped forage as evenly as possible. Turn/mix the forage repeatedly to ensure an even spread.
- Fold the black polythene tube (about 1.5 metres long, gauge of 600-800 mm for every 70 kg of residues) lengthwise.
- Tie one end of a 2.5m long plastic tubing (1.5m width, 600- 800 mm gauge) to make a large “plastic bag”.
- Tie one end of the polythene bag firmly with a sisal twine at 30cm distance from the cut edge, fold back the edge and tie once again to exclude the air. Turn the polythene bag inside out.
- Roll down or fold back the top of the polythene tube and place the tube into another synthetic sac used for packing sugar, salt, rice or maize flour. The sac protects the polythene tube from being damaged by rodents and hot weather.
- Put 50 to 70kg of fodder already mixed with molasses or maize bran into a “plastic bag” and compact as much as possible.
- Silage can be compacted and stored in plastic drums. Although the drums are expensive, they are durable and are not damaged by rodents.
- Compress the mixture firmly to exclude all the air. You can stand inside the bag and compress the mixture down thoroughly using the feet.
- Store the plastic drums with silage away from direct sunlight or rain. It may be useful to place some weight (rocks/stones) on the tied sack to remain compact. A plastic bag (600-800mm) of 1.5 metres can compact 50-70kgs of silage material, that is, on average 60kg. However, this depends on the material (fodder) you use. With elephant grass, the following costs should be considered. The cost of producing 1kg of elephant grass silage using a plastic bag silo and using maize bran is about sh250 per kilo.
Maintenance of silage bags
- Inspect the bags on a regular basis and if possible mend holes; n 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;
- If damage is extensive, the silage needs to be re-bagged as soon as possible.
- If maintenance is appropriate after 3–5 weeks, excellent lactic acid fermentation will result and bags kept well for six months, with no or little fungal spoilage.
- Monitor the silage bags on a regular basis for any rodent, bird or livestock damage;
- Do not use chemical means for rodent/pest control, as life expectancy of the plastic is reduced when exposed to chemicals;
- Storage (shelves) can be constructed with stands in order to keep the store off the ground.
Utilisation of silage
- Silage is ready for feeding at least 30 days after making it.
- Silage should be fed as soon as possible, preferably within a few hours after opening the silos.
- Only use the silage in times of shortage of green fodder.
- Silage cannot replace concentrates. Therefore, supplement your dairy cows with concentrates when using silage.
- Silage can be provided to animals in many different recipes based on its composition and the breed and use of the animals. Silage can be mixed with grass hay or fresh fodder.
- To avoid off flavours in milk, silage should be fed to lactating cows at least two hours before milking or after milking the animals.
- After feeding, the feed troughs must be cleaned out to prevent any remaining silage, which will spoil, contaminating the next feed out.
- Each time after you open a silage bag and remove some silage, expel air from the bag and then tie the remaining silage tightly to avoid spoilage.
- Monitor the silage bags on a regular basis for any rodent, bird or livestock damage; Silage for different stock Lactating dairy cow gets 10-20kg dry cows feed on 10-15kg dairy heifers consume 5-8kgs beef breeding cows get 12-20kg.