Preparing feeds for animals can be a strenuous and tiresome job if you do not have everything right. Making silage for cattle, sheep, and other ruminants can be a simple process, but you may have to follow some laud down a guideline for you to achieve the best results. Silages are generally a type of feed made from green foliage crops preserved through acidification which is achieved through fermentation. Getting the silage processing right helps reduce losses that result from drying of the fodder.
The process of making silage usually starts from harvesting. To get the best silage, you need to get the crop at the right moisture within the appropriate age, rapid filling of the storage structure, firm packing of the ensiled material and proper sealing of the structure with plastic. To get it right, here are the important steps you need to observe.
The first step begins with harvesting the crops with the right moisture conditions and chop length, then sealing them firmly and fast. This step continues till either the oxygen or water supply has been depleted. This step is characterized by increased temperatures from the fermenting crops resulting from the ongoing respiration reaction where water, carbon dioxide and heat are produced. At this stage, aerobic spoilage organisms occur and begin to increase in numbers resulting in heating in the feed bunk, lowering feed consumption.
During this phase, the trapped oxygen begins to diminish and lasts up to 72hrs. This phase is marked by anaerobic hetero-fermentation. The bacteria used in this step, Enterobacteria, is capable of tolerating the heat produced during the first step and can survive at a pH of 5 to 7. During this step, acetic and lactic acid is produced. The proportions of these acids vary depending on the maturity, moisture and bacterial populations within the mixture.
This is stage can last up to 24hours. During this phase, homo-fermentative bacteria act on the forage, rapidly dropping the pH by producing lactic acid as the end-product. During this stage, the silage mass temperature begins to drop. The mass and pH also continue to decrease, giving rise to the lactic acid bacteria to start increasing in preparation for the fourth stage.
At this stage, the farmer is expected to start stabilizing the temperatures of the fermented crops. Homo-fermentative bacteria begin to convert water-soluble carbohydrates to lactic acid. This helps to further drop the pH to help preserve silage. Your silage’s final pH is usually determined by the type of crop you choose and the moisture within the foliage. You need to keep in mind that legumes have less water-soluble carbohydrates, higher buffering capacity, and a final pH level of 4.5. On the other hand, Corn silage has a lower buffering capacity with more water-soluble carbohydrates, reaching a pH of about 4.0. The pH of silages does not determine the overall quality of the final feed. You need to carry out a fermentation analysis to determine the amount of acetic, lactic and other acids within the feed. This phase can last for up to 3 weeks. To reduce the fermentation time, you can apply specific inoculants.
This phase marks the final stages of the fermentation process and storage. The fermentation process is usually stable due to the restriction of oxygen. You should also maintain the temperatures within the silo walls between 75 and 85 degrees. During this phase, the starch becomes degraded into the rumen, with changes occurring in the digestibility of the neutral detergent fiber.
After about six months, you can then reintroduce oxygen into the fermentation process. You need to take extra caution during this step to reduce losses resulting from dry matter loss. You need to follow the necessary guideline when it comes to silage face and feedback to optimize feed intakes by the animals.