Since thousands of the years the fermentation has been widely used all over the world, from areas like modern day Iran and Mexico to Sudan, Egypt and ancient Babylon. Fermentation was discovered in mid 1800’s when bacteria and fungi became the agents responsible for this process. There are some well known fermented foods and drinks which includes wine, beer, yoghurt, vinegar, yeasted bread, prosciutto and salami. Among all these, there is one another important product which undergoes fermentation and that is “Silage”. Silage is a fodder crop for farm animals but it holds in itself a great significance.
There are series of methods involved to make silage. To start off, the pasture must be first cut when the nutrient levels in the grasses are high. This is usually before the grasses are fully mature and it is very important in order to make the end product as nutritionist as possible. The grasses are then allowed to wilt in the open field for few hours until their moisture content is reduced to upto 60-70%.
The reduced moisture level will allow for the optimum fermentation and better results. Moreover, if grass is left out for longer period of time, it may get too dry or it may get rained on which will affect the fermentation. Also, the result shows that if the grass is left uncut for longer time there are high chances of loss of nutrients which is why a proper care is needed when the grass is wilting.
The next step is to further chop the cut grass into even smaller pieces and get rid of as much oxygen as possible by compacting the grass. This is an important step in making of silage because anaerobic condition is required for the growth of microorganisms, called lactic acid bacteria which will carry out fermentation. Now depending on whether the silage is stored piled in a large pit, the tractors are driven over the chopped grass until the grass is firm or if the silage is stored as bales the baling machine compact the grass. The compacted grass is then further sealed with the plastic to keep out the oxygen.
Therefore, removing of oxygen is a key part in making silage. It allows lactic acid bacteria to multiply in number and convert the plant sugars into lactic acid. The pH level drops down to around 4-5 and sugar breakdown stops.
The grass is then preserved until the silage is opened and exposed to oxygen. However, if by any chance there is some oxygen included in this process the plant enzymes and other microorganisms react with the plant sugars and proteins to make energy which reduces the overall amount of nutrient in the grass. Furthermore, the pH is also an important factor in silage making which needs to be taken care off. If the pH is not low enough a different kind of bacteria will start fermenting the silage which forms a by-product called ammonia, which cows and sheeps do not like and it taste bad to them. Overall, silage is an important fodder crop which is beneficial to the society as well. It has high nutritionist value and helps to optimize the work of the farm animals. Also, the forage of the poor quality can be utilized fully when preserved as silage.
Therefore, it is convenient to make high quality silage from poor quality forage which makes it worth investing. The other benefits of silage are that it requires less space when stored whereas loose hay requires more space and it becomes a problem when the room is not spacious enough for the storage. Hence silage is more often preferred over hay. However, despite these advantages there are some risk factors associated with silage making which needs to be taken care off. One of them is difficulty in maintaining the moisture content of the forage. Furthermore, compacting the grass and creating an anaerobic condition is also pretty difficult which can alter the results. Sometimes even an extra labour is required and a heavy investment is needed to purchase the machinery.
Having said all that, silage is a worth investing fodder crop but only when the safety measures are taken properly.