In Summary

  • A tonne of silage compacted at 60pc moisture content requires a space of 1.4 cubic metres.
  • Making silage is one of the best ways to ensure your animals do not lack feeds.
  • Generally, a tonne of silage compacted at 60 per cent moisture content requires a space of 1.4 cubic metres.
  • White polythene is preferable due to its superior UV light resistance and reduced silage temperatures beneath it.

In any livestock enterprise, feeding costs will constitute the highest proportion (usually above 70 per cent) of overall costs of production.

The basal diet of ruminants mainly comprises of forage.

However, without prior planning, you can easily run into shortage of essential feeds, especially during dry seasons at a critical time when livestock products fetch premium prices. As such, it is important to conserve forage to ensure availability of quality feeds all-year round.

Making silage is one of the best ways to ensure your animals do not lack feeds. However, while most farmers know the procedure of making silage, choosing the silo to use often presents challenges.

To begin with, the silo you use will determine how long your silage lasts and in what quality.

Start by knowing how much silage you will need, and choose an area to be used to meet this requirement.

The amount of silage you require is determined by the number of animals you have, their nutritional requirements and quantity as well as quality of other available forages such as hay.

The area required to make the silage is calculated from the expected fodder crop or pasture yields, which are in turn determined by growth curves and management practices (including fertilisation).

The silo space required to accommodate the yield is calculated from the known density of well compacted pasture silage.

Generally, a tonne of silage compacted at 60 per cent moisture content requires a space of 1.4 cubic metres.

This translates to between 650 to 700kg of silage per cubic metre. It is also important to obtain the right machinery best-suited to the silo of choice and magnitude of silage making operation.

Joseph Kinyua with his wife, Rachel make their silage in polytube.

Joseph Kinyua with his wife, Rachel make their silage in polytube/ silo bags in Imenti. The main limitation of this type of silo is destruction by rodents and high labour requirements in the long run. FILE PHOTO | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Further, ensure the machinery is in good order before the operation starts, since you cannot afford to have a breakdown once the operation has begun.

TYPES OF SILOS

Tower silos

Tower silos are good for making silage because of their elevated heights, which aids compaction and air exclusion.

However, their major disadvantages are high cost of construction and need for specialised machinery to propel silage material over high elevations.

Heap or stack silos

Apart from the polythene sheet cover, no structure is necessary to conserve silage in this silo.

The silage is simply placed on a convenient patch of ground with continuous compaction up to a height of about 2-4m and sealed in a day, or a maximum of three days.

The area round the heap must be drained. Heap silos are cheap to construct and for this reason, they are very popular with many Kenyan farmers.

However, sometimes silage along the sides may get spoilt due to improper compaction.

Trench or pit silos

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