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Silage can supplement fodder shortage

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In India rain-fed crops are more than irrigated crops. In hot summer months it is difficult to find a blade of grass on ground; consequently, animals...

Dr K RAMA SATYAM

In India rain-fed crops are more than irrigated crops. In hot summer months it is difficult to find a blade of grass on ground; consequently, animals suffer. Green grass is required particularly for milch animals throughout the year for better yield of milk. To meet the green fodder shortage in summer months, farmers have to go for silage making. Silage is green succulent roughages preserved more or less in original condition with minimum deterioration of nutritive contents. The process is known as ensiling. The silage prepared in silage pits are known as silopits. They are mostly prepared in an elevated ground.

Pits are dug to a depth of three meters. One cubic meter of pit will produce nearly 400 kg of silage. The size of the pit is selected by farmers according to the size of the animal he has and the number of months it has to be fed. Each animal requires about 2.25 MT in 3 months. For one animal 6 cm space is required Crops rich in carbohydrates/sugars are most suitable for silage making; maize, sorghum, bajra, legume fodders can also be mixed in 3:1 ration if available.

The silage is made in October and November when green fodder is plenty. The crop selected is cut in the flowering and milk stage. The dry matter content must be less than 30-35%. It is better to fill the silo pit with chaffed fodder to accommodate more quantity and easy for fermentation. Fermentation takes place in the silo pit under anaerobic conditions. The air in the pit should be removed while packing.

The pit is packed in the chaffed fodder as layers; 0.5% salt, 1% urea and 3 to 3.5% molasses are sprinkled on each layer. The layers are hard pressed to remove air in the fodder. This is done manually or with a tractor or bullocks. The pit is filled upto 3 to 4 feet above the ground, then covered with paddy straw or with plastic sheet and over that with mud. It is fully covered to prevent air or water entering into it.

As the sides of the pit and bottom are cemented or constructed with bricks, there is no possibility of water percolating inside. Under the anaerobic conditions the fodder undergoes fermentation producing 270 C to 380 C of heat. Under the above circumstances, lactic acid bacteria become active to produce eventually good clean-smelling silage of high quality. After two months, the silage is ready for feeding animals. The pit can be opened in March when there is no green fodder available. Once the pit is opened, it should not be closed. It must be covered in the tarpaulin to prevent rain water.

The silage with good smell and taste is more palatable to animals. This silage will meet the shortage of fodder in the summer and meet the green fodder requirement. Every farmer rearing milch animals in particular should go for silage making.
Pit construction may be a costly affair for poor farmers. The Government should give subsidy upto 75% of the cost to enable the farmer to ensile his greens available in plenty during Rabi season.

In draught conditions the Government will be spending crores of rupees to supply fodder to animals. If financial help is extended to the needy farmers, the burden of supplying fodder in dry months will be reduced.

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