How To Make Silage: Best Guide For Beginners

How to make silage is the common question by the farmers who are raising livestock animals. Silage is actually fermented and high-moisture stored fodder which can be fed to cattle, goat, sheep and other such ruminants or cud-chewing animals (1).

Silage is fermented and stored in a process which is called ensilage, ensiling or silaging. And silage is generally made from grass crops including sorghum, maize, barley, oats, millet or other cereals. Entire green plants (not just the grain) is used for making silage.

Although, silage can be made from many field crops, and special terms may be used depending on type. For example, the silage is called oatlage which is made from oats, haylage is the silage which is made from alfalfa.

Silage is actually made by following different methods such as by placing cut green vegetation in a silo or pit, piling the vegetation in a large head and compressing it down so as to purge as much oxygen as possible and then covering it with a plastic sheet, or by wrapping large round bales tightly in plastic film.

Why Feeding Silage to the Livestock Animals?

Silage is full of nutrients for the animals and it is good for their health. Silage ensures high milk and meat production and keep the animals healthy.

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Silage is especially very good for the animals during the dry seasons. Silage is highly palatable, laxative, digestible, nutritious and it requires less floor area for storage than hay. In a word, ‘silage increase overall production and keeps the animal healthy’.

What are the Uses of Silage?

Before discussing more about how to make silage, you should know more about the uses of silage. Common uses of silage are mentioned below.

  • Silage is definitely a very good source of nutritious food for the animals, and widely used as livestock animal’s food.
  • Silage is used to make the animals gain more weight in short period (especially in sheep and goats).
  • Silage is used to feed the dairy cattle, and it helps to produce more milk.
  • Silage is used to feed the the animals in summer when there is no scope for natural grazing.
  • It is used as animal fodder and can be fed to most of the animals such as cows, buffaloes, sheep and goats.

How to Make Silage?

The process of making silage is divided into several process. You have to make proper plan and do everything according to the plan for making silage.

First of all, decide the type of crop to be grown for silage, choose a dry place for digging a pit on slightly sloping ground, cut the greens using chop cutter, and then prepare and preserve the silage.

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However, here we are describing everything about how to make silage for your livestock animals.

Type of Crop

First of all, decide the type of crop to be grown for silage production.

You can choose both hybrid and perennial varieties of crops which can be grown in a short period of time and produced multiple times.

Growing sorghum, maize, barley, oats, millet or other cereals will be very good for making silage.

Choose a Dry Place

Choose a safe and dry place for digging a pit. Choose the place on slightly slopping ground and the depth of the pit should decrease from the higher side of the slopping ground to the lower side by giving wedge like shape.

Size, shape and dimension of the pit depends on the amount of the forage to be stored.

For example, you have to dig the pit size of about 2 cubic meters for making 20 bags of silage. And you will need about 10 meters of polythene and 30 liters of molasses for such a pit.

Cut the Greens

After making the pit, harvest the greens and cut them to small pieces by using a chaff cutter. Cut the greens into 1 inch pieces.

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Cover the Bottom

Cover the bottom of the pit with polythene sheet for preventing the greens contact with soil. Also cover all the sides of the pit.

Place the Chopped Greens

Then place the chopped greens into the pit and spread it into a thin layer and repeat the process until one third of pit is covered.

Sprinkle Molasses

Dilute 1 liter of molasses with 3 liters of water. And sprinkle the solution evenly on the greens to be preserved.

Using a garden sprayer for distributing the solution will be good. Doing this will help for preventing the forage from rotting.

Sprinkling the solution throughout the silage pit will help in feeding the micro-organisms, for making the silage ferment quickly and saving the silage from rotting.

Press the Greens

Then press the greens with feet or something heavy for making the air out and protecting the greens from fungal attack.

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Do this very carefully, because very little air can even cause the fungus and damage the forage.

Add More Greens

Add more greens into the pit after pressing and making more room inside the pit. Repeat sprinkling molasses and press again. Do this continuously until the pit is filled in a doom shape.

Cover the Pit

Cover the top of the pit with polythene sheet after final pressing. Covering the top is important to prevent the silage from any water contact, and if possible dig a small trench around the sides of the pit.

Cover the Pit With Soil

Cover the top with soil, after pressing and covering the top with polythene. Doing this will make the air out and prevent the polythene damage from rain, birds or any other animals.

Leave the Pit

Leave the pit until there is a shortage of fodder. Because the conservation through fermentation may take some time, even few weeks.

But you should wait at least 2 weeks before using. The silage made in such process can be kept for long time, generally up to 2 years.

Using the Silage

Open the pit from the lower side of the slope for using the silage. Then take enough silage fodder for one day and close the pit again. Repeat the process when you need silage for feeding your animals.

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These are the steps for making good quality silage for feeding your animals. Hope you have learned a lot about how to make silage for animals. God bless you!

Frequently Asked Questions

People ask many questions about how to make silage. Here we are trying to list the most common questions about making silage, and trying to answer them. Hope you will find your answer. Don’t hesitate to ask us if you have more questions.

Can you make silage at home?

You can easily make silage at home by using lawn mower clippings, molasses and a more or less airtight container. If you are a small scale livestock farmer, then you can easily make silage at home.

How do they make silage?

Making silage is comparatively easy. The common process of making silage includes cutting the green fodder, compacting it and storing and fermenting it under controlled conditions in a silo. Ensure air can not come in contact with the silage in a silo. You can use any green forage crop for making the silage.

How long does silage take to ferment?

The fermentation process generally take between 10 to 20 days for completion. You should feed the silage to your livestock before the fermentation process is completed. So, wait at least 20 days before feeding the silage to your livestock.

Is silage cheaper than hay?

Yes, silage is much more cheaper or economical than most hay. If you have large herd then feeding silage will be more economical for you than most hay.

Is silage better than hay?

Generally, hay is more efficient livestock feed than silage. Hay has around 10% water, while silage has up to 60% water. If you want to store silage for long time, then it must be remain sealed. And once the seal is broken, then it will start to heat and spoil.

What are the disadvantages of silage?

If you want to store silage for long time, then it must be remain sealed. And once the seal is broken, then it will start to heat and spoil.

Can you turn grass into silage?

Yes, sure! You can turn the grass into silage. And it will take about 28 days to turn the grass into silage.

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Which crop is best for silage making?

The best fodder crops for making silage include oats, maize, sorghum, pearl millet and hybrid napier. All these fodder are rich in soluble carbohydrates which are most suitable for fooder ensiling.

How to improve the quality of silage?

You can improve the quality of silage by using suitable additives such as molasses, salt, urea, formic acid etc.

Can I make silage without molasses?

Yes, you can. But silage made without molasses has poor nutritional value and storage characteristics.

How much is a ton of silage worth?

Depends on the quality of silage and it’s moisture level. But you can expect price between $25 and $30 per ton.

How long can silage be stored?

Silage can be stored for longer time if made and stored in the right way. You can store the silage for as long as 3 years.

Can cows eat straight silage?

Yes, your cattle can eat straight silage.

Can you feed cows just silage?

Yes, you can feed your cows with silage only. But it will better if you mix grain with the silage.

What is difference between silo and silage?

Silos are used in agriculture to store grain or fermented feed known as silage.

What does good silage look like?

Well-preserved or good silage is green, yellow, or pale brown in coloration and has sweet, tobacco smell.

What grass is most suitable for silage?

Ryegrass is the most suitable grass for making silage.

Can corn be used as silage?

Yes, sure! Corn can be used as silage. Actually, corn silage serves as a high-energy forage for dairy cows and increases their milk production.

What is the difference between silage and haylage?

Today the most common definition is that haylage is drier than silage, and some haylage is so dry it is hay wrapped in plastic.

Why does silage smell?

Smell in silage is usually caused by the growth of clostridial bacteria in the silage. A good silage has sweet, tobacco smell.

How long does silage last in a bag?

Silage last in a bag for around 12 months.

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