Non-availability of green fodder becomes a problem during summer season or when the monsoon fails.

Prolonged preservation of fodder in the form of silage becomes the key to overcome the increasing constraints in green fodder availability.

“Silage making is a simple solution to this issue. It helps in ensuring availability of green food during lean period or drought conditions. It also helps in improving digestibility in animals and in maintaining milk production during lean periods.

“Timely and unchanged feeding is possible with silage,” says Dr. R.K. Nagda, Dean, College of Veterinary and Animal Sciences, Vallabhnagar Dist., Udaipur, Rajasthan.

Stored fodder

Silage is fermented, high-moisture stored fodder which can be fed to cud chewing animals such as cattle, sheep and goats.

It is fermented and stored in a process called ensilage, ensiling or silaging and is usually made from grass, maize, sorghum or other cereals using the entire green plant (not the grain alone).

Chaffed and packed in air tight conditions at appropriate moisture levels within 24 hours of chaffing, silage can get ready in 60 days. The crops suitable for making silage are ordinary green grasses, sorghum, maize and various weeds.

“After harvesting, crops are shredded into small pieces and spread in uniform layers over the floor or inside big bags. If the material is placed in bags or containers then the container mouth has to be tightly closed to prevent air from entering.

In about two weeks fermentation gets completed and the silage is ready to be fed to cattle,” explains Dr. Nagda.

Silage must be firmly packed to minimize the oxygen content or it will get spoilt.

Traditional methods

Traditional methods of making silage involve digging a pit in the soil and placing the harvested matter inside and covering it with soil. But this proved difficult since landless farmers cannot go for such pit methods.

This method makes it difficult to transport the silage from the pit to the cattle shed, making portability difficult. It is also labour intensive and costly. High wastage of silage near top of the pits also occurs due to mud contamination.

Once opened, silage must be used within a short time. “Also we find there is a general aversion among farmers to make silage themselves and this is a major impediment in wider use of it,” he says.

Plastic bags

Last year the University of Veterinary Animal Sciences in Bikaner was approached by some experts to try and make silage in plastic bags.

Called silage bags, they are easily available in different capacities, are light in weight, cost low, can be folded, stored easily and carried even on a bicycle.

Trials were conducted at various locations in Rajasthan and results have emboldened scientists to encourage farmers to use this technique on their animals.

“One of the main reasons for our finding the bags useful is that they are available in various sizes from 1.5 to 5 kg depending on requirement in the local market. “Labour requirement is low: 1-3 persons are needed to fill a bag. Moisture retention is excellent with practically no wastage or contamination.

The nutritional value of the packed silage remains intact. One 100 kg bag is sufficient for feeding 5-10 animals a day,” he says.

The first trial in Rajasthan was done at a farmer’s field on the outskirts of Udaipur at a village called Boradia. The bag was opened 75 days later and the cows immediately consumed it.

Quite profitable

Making silage can enhance fodder growing as a profitable activity by providing a marketing link between growers and dairy sector. The University is presently trying to make this technique popular among its farmers.

For more information contact Dr. R.K. Nagda, Dean College of Veterinary and Animal Sciences, Vallabhnagar Dist, Udaipur, Rajasthan, email: nagdark2006@yahoo.co.in, mobile: 09414734827 and 07742002277.

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