- Eric Dejon bales silage for large-scale farmers in a practice that is gaining currency across the country.
- Harvesting maize or sorghum for making silage is ideal when their seeds are soft.
- As long as the bales are not damaged, the packed silage can stay for two years, reckons Dejon.
- Though leguminous fodder like lucerne can also be used, they are rich in proteins and low in sugars making them a bit difficult to ensile
Rumbles of a tractor rented the air on the vast Chemusian Farm in Nakuru as the machine made several trips scooping silage before feeding it into a baling machine.
The baler compressed the fermented fodder before packaging it into huge cylindrical rolls of 400kg each.
Erick Dejon, the operator of the baler, looked on closely at the machine to ensure all was well. At one point, he stopped it to instruct workers to move the packed fodder away from the machine.
“We make and pack silage in bales for large-scale farmers. We also grow our own maize for silage-making. But right now we are here to offer baling services,” said Dejon, who works at Fodder Innovation Team.
Situated some 15km from Nakuru Town, Chemusian is an expansive dairy farm hosting some 2,000 dairy cows of Friesian and Jersey breeds on over 150 acres.
The farm has mechanised its daily operations such as milking, distribution of silage and now baling and packaging of silage.
The farm has set aside several acres of land for growing maize for silage-making to supplement natural pasture. The silage, which also comes handy during droughts, is further sold to other dairy farmers.
Currently, it is preparing the fodder that would be used after the current rainy season.
“We work with farmers who own at least 50 acres,” says Dejon, adding that they charge Sh1,000 per bale when hired to do the work.
The silage is prepared the usual way, where a pit is dug out and then a polythene sheet placed on the floor and walls.
The walls are covered by the polythene to a metre-high so that the forage does not come into contact with soil.
The sliced fodder is then put in the pit as it is compressed and molasses added to aid fermentation.
The molasses is, however, first diluted with water at a ratio of about 1:2 and sprinkled evenly over the forage layer using a garden water sprayer.
Apart from molasses, other additives like common salt, formic acid, lime or urea can also be used to enable good fermentation process.
The more molasses one adds, the faster the acidification and preservation process will occur.
LAST FOR TWO YEARS
The fermented silage is normally baled after six months when mature. Once baled, the silage can be stored for about two years so long as it remains properly wrapped to prevent it from decomposing.
“Silage should be prepared when there are minimal rains. In rainy periods when the fodder is too wet, containing more than 70 per cent water, it is advisable to wilt it in the sun first,” says Felix Opinya, a livestock expert from Egerton University.
But silage-making is not a new practice among local dairy farmers and pasture growers, but most farmers manually make their silage and don’t bale it.
“Normally, silage is made in pits where it is covered with polythene bags or put in drums. But we are introducing mechanisation in the silage-making process, which can either be done right from the start on the farm from harvesting of the maize or after the silage has already been fermented like in the Chemusian Farm case,” explains Dejon.
Dejon and his team began silage packaging in 2015 where they packed the feeds in airtight drums. But they later abandoned it for a less cumbersome mechanised packaging.