First attempt at small scale silage

UPDATE 2nd Feb 17.

Disappointing results from the experiment below:

The plastic lid on the milk tin somehow cracked so the silage spoilt.

The metal lid was somehow not effective and that silage spoilt.

As we were packing the grass in the black plastic bags we could see that the quality was very poor, and despite 3 layers, it also spoilt.

The best looking was the grass wrapped in the tarpaulin which I offered to the goats – but they didn’t eat it!

All in all, not a success, but an interesting experiment to have tried. I will not do it again but will concentrate on using fresh leaves from trees that do well in the dry season, particulary camels foot, but also jacaranda which the goats enjoy. Both these trees grow back quickly from pruning and produce lots of firewood. Another advantage is that they do not require the plastic, sometimes costly, and eventually polluting resources of silage, that is, black plastic bags, tarpaulin or plastic bins.

MAKING SMALL SCALE SILAGE EXPERIMENT, OCTOBER 2016

During rainy season (May to October) there is lots of grass for my goats, but the rest of the year, in the dry season, it’s a challenge to feed livestock. We have many camelsfoot leaves in our garden which grow like a weed and the goats love their leaves, so this is an excellent solution for the first part of dry season. However, they run out before the grass grows, so I’ve been experimenting at making some silage. Hay is dried grass – I can’t make this as the grass grows in rainy season which leaves no opportunity to dry it. But silage is fermented grass so it doesn’t matter if it’s wet. I had a read around online to learn how to make it on a small scale and this is what I learnt:

Cut grass/maize leaves.

Leave to wilt for an hour or so.

Pack it airtight and store.

It’s basically the same method that I use to ferment vegetables for salads!

We have a helper in the garden a few days a week, Longnan, who cut the grass for me along with his friend Godwin. Then we packed it in a number of different types of storage containers and when we open them in about February, we’ll be able to see which one worked the best.

Container type

Comments October 2016

Result February 2017

img_9896-optimized

Black rubbish sacks

The quality I was able to find here was very poor. Even as we packed the bags, stalks of grass were bursting through each layer. So I doubt that it will be completely airtight. We packed one bag, squeezed the air out, tied it, then added a second and third layer. Normally with this method it should be possible to re-use the second and third bags next year, but given that the grass was piercing them already, I doubt that will be possible. I don’t like using plastic anyway, so this already makes me shy away from using this method again.

If I could find stronger sacks, one advantage of this packaging might be that it’s possible to pack portion sizes so that once opened, it is all eaten in a day with no leftovers to go off.

 Silage was spoilt
 img_9894-optimized

Milk tins – one with a plastic lid, one with metal to compare. As with the black sacks, the advantage may be that they are in portion size containers so there would be no leftovers to go off when the air enters when it’s opened. However, depending on how many days I need to feed silage (2 months?), that would be a lot of milk tins

 The plastic lid cracked and the silage was spoilt
 img_9892-optimized

A large plastic bin. The lid doesn’t screw on this one so in an attempt to increase the airtightness there is also a plastic sheet folded over the top of the grass, and some rocks placed on top.

 Silage was mouldy and smelly
 img_9891-optimized

A tarpaulin. The tarp was laid on the ground, the grass placed in the middle and the tarp folded over the grass completely and trampled to get the air out. The car tyres help to hold the cover down. An adaptation of this that I could try next year would be to store the grass in a pit and cover it with the tarp – however, I’d have to choose carefully where to dig the pit as my soil is not very deep.

 This was the best result, the silage looked and smelt best out of all the options, but the goats didn’t eat it!

They say the hardest thing with fermentation is waiting! But that’s all we can do now, wait until February when the grass and leaves are finished. Then we’ll see if the silage worked, and also if the goats like it!

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