How to Feed Cattle on Silage

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Cattle can be fed silage as a natural and nutritious supplement.
Cattle can be fed silage as a natural and nutritious supplement. (Image: Jupiterimages/BananaStock/Getty Images)

Silage can be used to feed cattle during periods of food scarcity. To make silage, green fodder is fermented to retain its moisture. Silage can be stored under anaerobic conditions in a silo, for long periods of time. The silo must be airtight. Acids, such as lactic acid, that are good for the cattle, are preserved in the silage during storage. Silage is made during times of abundance, from green fodder, such as hay. It is a good source of nutrition.

Things You'll Need

  • Sheet plastic
  • Spade
  • Grass cutter
  • Stone weights
  • Scythe
  • Hay knife
  • PH testing kit

Make a silo by digging a pit or trench in the ground and lining it with plastic sheeting. A common silo pit measures about 6 feet by 6 feet by 6 feet. Cut plastic sheeting ready to put over the pit as an airtight cover, with rocks to weigh it down.

Cut the grass to make the hay using a scythe. You can also use crop residues or agricultural byproducts. Harvest the grass or crop at a young age, this produces the best silage. Choose a time of dry weather, such as early summer, and leave the hay to dry in the Sun. Minimum exposure to rain is highly preferable. Artificial drying can be performed using an external contractor, but it can be expensive and therefore not cost-effective.

Chop the cut material once it has dried using a hay knife. It should be in small, palm-size pieces. Chopping makes the material more compact and removes the air.

Fill the silo with cut material layer by layer. Tread on each layer of material to compact it, this also helps to remove the air.

Add molasses or other sources of sugar to the forage, before fermentation in the silo commences. This can quicken the fermentation process and produce more suitable conditions for bacteria.

Store the material in the airtight silo so that facultative anaerobic bacteria can multiply. The forage (cut material) will naturally have this bacteria present already. The carbohydrates of the forage will convert to valuable acids for the cattle. Ensure the plastic sheeting cover is weight down correctly with heavy stones or rocks, so that air is not able to flow beneath.

Leave the forage in the silo. Test the pH value of the resulting silage at regular weekly intervals using a pH testing kit. When the pH value levels out and remains at a very low value, then the fermentation process is complete and the forage is well ensiled. The life processes of the forage ensiling, have come to a natural halt. The newly created silage is preserved so long as the silo remains airtight.

Feed the silage to the cattle in their usual feeding troughs. Feed as a good source of roughage or with the cattle’s other regular feed, as a supplement.

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