At last, some progressive farmers of the Malwa region have started storing silage with a new technique for their cattle that will be useful for one year. The technique was launched by the Punjab agriculture department a few years ago across the state, but farmers did not show any interest in it due to lack of awareness and publicity by the department.
An adequate supply of quality fodder during the lean period of November-December and May-June can be ensured by preserving the green fodder as silage. Non-legume kharif fodder, such as maize, sorghum, bajra, hybrid napier and guinea grass, rich in sugar and carbohydrates and low in protein possess excellent qualities to be conserved as silage.
Experts say that tractor drawn or self-propelled forage harvesters collect and chop the plant material, and deposit it in a trolley. “For maize, harvest begins when the plant moisture is at a suitable level, ideally a few days before it ripens. Harvest the crop for silage when nutrient contents are at their peak and it has enough dry matter. A crop with 30-35% dry matter makes quality silage. The proper time for harvesting maize crop for ensiling is flowering to milk stage," the department suggested.
Dr Jaswinder Singh Brar, agriculture development officer (ADO), Moga, inspecting the harvester and the silage making process at the farm of a progressive farmer Makhan Singh at Chrik village, said that to make silage, the size of the silo-trench depends upon the number of animals, period for which to be conserved and availability of green fodder.
"On an average, in one cubic metre space 5 to 6 quintals of chopped green fodder can be packed in a 10-metre long 3-metre wide and 1.5-metre deep trench, about 350-400 quintals of chopped green fodder can be packed. The depth of trench always be kept at 1.5 to 2 meter. It should be on a high level spot near the animal shed," said the agriculture development officer.
He said, "Tractor-drawn forage harvesters chop the harvested crop to 5 to 8 cm pieces and pack them into the silo trench. Chopped crop is pressed in the trench thoroughly with a tractor or bullock and raised to 1 metre above the ground level, to create proper anaerobic conditions to make quality silage.
"Every half a metre thick layer of chaffed fodder should be regularly pressed into the trench.
Cover the fodder with 10-15 cm thick layer of kadbi or wheat bhusa. Put mud on it and finally mud-plaster. See that the silo-trench is completely airtight. Silage will be ready within 45 days. Open the silo-pit from one end only and take out the daily requirement of the feed. The remaining silage, if kept covered, stays good till used," Brar added.