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Silage Making


To preserve the fodder in the green succulent form at low pH under anaerobic condition to microbes is called silage.

The specialized device or container used for preparation of silage is called silo. The silo are:


Pile - In this type of silo there is no need of construction. Only a pile of chopped fodder is made on a ground and it is pressed with the help of tractor. This type of silo is recommended for short term preservation of fodder.  


silage pile



Long Silage Bag - This type of silo consists of long stretchable bag. After proper filling and compaction, the end of bag is closed.

silage long bag

silage stretch bag



Silo tower - These are long vertical silo of steel or concrete.

Chaptel Nutrition Dairy Feed Wanda

vertical silo  silo tower

Silage Bunker -
Silage Bunker is most commonly used type of silo. This is rectangular structure which is open from one side or both sides. On both sides of walls of wood, steel, concrete are constructed. Dimensions of bunker depends upon the amount of fodder to be stored. 

silage bunker 

Temporary Bunker -
Temporary bunker consists of two frames of steel or iron which are covered by sheets of steel, iron or wood. The function of these frame is same as that of the wall of bunker but difference is that these are portable and can be easily transferred from one place to other place. Wherever fodder is to be preserved, these frames are fixed with the help of stands on both sides and space is filled with fodder. After compaction of fodder these frames are removed and can be used somewhere else. Hay bales can also be used in place of frames for this purpose.


Silage P
it - In this type of silo, a pit is constructed in ground. It may be rectangular or cylindrical

silage pit  

Trench Silo -
This is compromised form of silage pit and bunker in which some fodder is preserved inside of pit and some outside of pit

silage trench

Baled Silage - This is the most modern way of silage making in which fodder is preserved in the form of bale. Fodder is converted into bale via machine called silage baler and this bale is then tightly wrapped with polyethylene sheet with the help of wrapper. This bale can be easily transported. 

baled silage transportation  baled silage 

Site Selection for Silo:

  • Site should be easily approachable from fields as well as dairy farm

  • The area should not be low lying because such type of areas are prone to water logging

  • The chaffing shed should be adjacent to the site

  • It should be away form residential area

  • Tractor should easily reach the site

  • It should be 60 meters away from water pond etc.

  • Trees should not be around 

Construction of Silage Bunker:
For construction of bunker, concrete floor is constructed which is kept 1 feet high in middle giving slope on both sides. On both sides of this floor, walls are constructed. For construction of wall 1.5 feet high base is constructed; width of first step of this base is kept 36 inches, width of second step is kept 30 inches and width of remaining step is kept 27 inches. On this base, construction of wall is started. Width of the end of wall attached is kept 27 inches and after this width is started reducing until it reaches 13 inches. Height of wall should be 6-7 inches. The width of bunker should be at least double than the width of tractor. From front and back sides bunker should be open. Out of front and back side,  concrete floor is constructed upto 15 feet. Benefits to keep both sides open are:

  • Due to slops on both sides, there is no danger of falling of tractor

  • Due to lack of fear, driver is comfortable and compress fodder at corners

  • Silage can be utilized from both sides

  • When half of the bunker becomes empty, this space can be again filled for silage making, while prepared silage can be utilized from opposite side

  • Expenditures of construction are reduced

Regarding the dimensions of bunker one formula should be kept in mind that one cubic fit space will be filled by 18-20 Kg fresh fodder i.e. bunker having 1 feet length, 1 feet width and 1 feet height will carry 18-20 feet fresh fodder. On this base we can say that a bunker having 75 feet length, 25 feet width and 7 feet height will carry 235-265 ton fresh fodder and silage prepared from this will be sufficient for 40-50 animals for 6 months.

silage bunker size

Steps in the Preparation of Good Silage

To get a good silage one should take care at every stage of ensiling.

Selection of Fodder:
There should be adequate amount of fermentable carbohydrates and more than 65% moisture in fodder selected for silage making. Commonly used fodder for silage making are maize, sorghum, millet, oat, and sorghum sudan grass. Leguminous fodder crops can also be used for silage making but they contain fewer amounts of carbohydrates hence molasses or mineral have to be sprinkled over them at the time of silage making. Most of the time maize is used for silage making as maize silage is considered the best silage throughout the world.

best crop for silage   
Maize                                              Millet                                          Oat

               Sorghum                   Sorghum Sudan Grass

Harvesting and Chopping of Fodder:
Crop should be harvested at the stage when there are maximum nutrients present in crop and 65-70% moisture content. In case of maize moisture reaches this level when:

  • Color of Lower leaves of plant starts changing to light green

  • Husk's color is from green to light green

  • Kernel has visible dent

  • There is 40-50% moisture in grain

  • Kernel Milk line is 50%

milk line

Grab test is used to measure the moisture concentration in fodder. To check the moisture, take a hand full of fodder and press it in hand for few seconds. On opening of hand, there will be a ball of fodder:

  • If this ball suddenly opens, it means moisture connect is too low

  • If this ball remains it shape, it means moisture content is too high

  • If this ball opens slowly, it means moisture content in fodder is suitable to be ensiled 

grab teste

Another test to check the moisture content in fodder is oven test. This test consists of following steps:

  • Take fresh fodder (not more than 50 grams)

  • Note down the weight of this fodder

  • Place it in oven for few seconds and again weigh it

  • Again place in oven and weigh it. Repeat this step again and again until no change occurs in weight of fodder.  No change in weight shows that moisture is no more in fodder and only dry matter is left

  • Now note down the weight of this dried fodder

  • Find moisture content in fodder with the help of this formula

% Moisture =

Weight of fresh fodder - Weight of dry fodder


Weight of fresh fodder

Moisture content in fodder can also be checked by electronic moisture tester

digital moisture tester

Use maize chopper for harvesting and chopping of fodder. If maize chopper is not available then harvest it and chop it upto size of 1-2 cm.

toka   mize chopper

Filling of Silo:
After chopping and adding additives silo is filled. Inside silo chopped fodder should be compressed with tractor or some other means so that it is packed tightly and there is no air left. If air left anaerobic condition will not be created. In case of baled silage, silage baler makes bale in well compacted form.  

Silage bunker filling  silage pit filling

Mixing of Additives:
Different feed additives may be mixed to stimulate or inhibit the microbial activities in silage. These additives may include:

Inorganic chemical - Calcium carbonate, magnesium carbonate, ammonium sulphate, sodium sulphate, zinc sulphate, copper sulphate, ferrous sulphate, manganese sulphate, sodium chloride, sodium nitrite, calcium phosphate, calcium silicate and phosphoric acid.

Organic chemicals - Acetic acid, citric acid, benzoic acid, formic acid, lactic acid, propionic acid, formaldehyde, ethylalcohol, propylene, glycol, gention violet, lactate, sodium gluconate, ethyl acetate, ethyl butyrate, ethyl diamine, dihydro iodine and urea etc.

Feed stuffs - Used as silage additives are wheat bran, crushed maize, starch, dextrose, molasses, whey and yeast etc.

Fermentation products and microorganism - A few enzymes,  extract of fungi and several species of microorganism like Lactobacillus acidophilus, Turolopsis species, Bacillus subtilis etc.

Some commercial inoculants to enhance the process of ensiling are also available in market.

Sealing of Silo:
The air tight sealing is necessary to avoid the entrance of air in the silo. So after filling of silo, cover it with polythene sheet and put tires or sand filled bags over it or cover it with mud (Lepai). It is better to cut tires in small circular pieces for maximum usage. In case of baled silage baler automatically wrap the bale with wrapper.

 covered bunker

silage baler and wrapper

Removal of Silage:
After a period of 40-45 days the silage is ready for feeding to the livestock. After the removal of silage the open end of the silo should be covered in such a manner that contact with the air is minimum.

Dairy Lac TMR Feed Wanda Dairy

Process of Ensiling

The whole process may be divided into four different phases. Although initial two phases have no any clear cut marking. In most of the cases these are merged together, however, for easy understanding they have been described separately:

Phase I – The phase I immediately starts after sealing the tightly filled silo. The plant cells continue to respire till the oxygen trapped is exhausted. The carbon dioxide production makes the silo anaerobic. This favors the growth of anaerobic bacteria.

Phase Il - At the initial stage clostridia and coliform bacteria are active, causing degradation of protein and amino acid and production of amine and acetic acid. Lactic acid producing bacteria are also increased.

Phase III - The lactic acid producing bacteria dominate and cause increase in lactic acid production and reduction in pH of ensiled material. The presence of readily available carbohydrate enhanced the growth of such types of desired bacteria producing lactic acid and reducing the pH.

Phase lV - This phase is quite variable and dependent on phase III. If pH is reduced to around 4 silage is stable and no further degradation occurs. If sufficient acid is not produced to bring down the pH round 4 microbial activities still continues.  High moisture contents favours this undesirable fermentation.

Advantages of Silage Making

  • Surplus green fodder abundantly available can be preserved as silage for feeding during lean season

  • The organic acids produced in the silage are similar to those normally produced in the digestive tract of the ruminants; so digestibility of fodder increases

  • It eliminates wastage of the less favoured parts of the fresh fodder like stem because the animals consume entire plant.

  • It is highly palatable 

  • It cannot be destroyed by fire

  • It provides succulent feed particularly during dry periods, when the vegetation growth is dormant.

  • It is more economical as compared to cut-and-carry prevailing system.

Quality of Silage

Good silage should have a milk, pleasant aroma, an acid taste and a slightly greenish color. It should be free from sliminess and mold and have sufficient acid to prevent further action of microorganisms.

Causes of Poor Silage:

These are different factors which may lower the quality of silage:

Acid Production:
If during silage making acid is not produced in sufficient quantity, it will stop the fermentation, and there will be putrefaction due to undesirable bacteria. Such bacteria will produce enzymes that will cause the breakdown of protein causing an off flavor and slimy silage. On the other hand if there is production of acid in high quantity due to high proportion of sugar content, it will result in sour unpalatable silage. Such silage is not only unpalatable, but when fed in large quantity causes cattle to scour.

Moisture Content:
When there is high moisture content in fodder, the silage will not be packed well and more air will be left in it. This will result in moldy silage. High moisture content causes undesirable fermentation to take place. In case of less moisture content there will be no proper fermentation.



  Copyrights Dr. M Jassar Aftab, All Rights Reserved