Farmers can store excess livestock feeds for more than one year by adding sugarcane molasses to the silage for preservation.
Molasses, which is a by-product of sugarcane, takes about 18 months to crystalise or turn mouldy. After that period, the sugary substance may not release enough organic acid required to prevent the feeds from rotting.
Nyeri County farmer and molasses supplier Boniface Mwangi said molasses initiate fermentation process, which generates organic acids as a result of microbial anaerobic respiration.
“The presence of oxygen causes decomposition of organic matter. Organic acids produced after fermentation prevents decomposition of the silage. After silage making, the fodder remains fresh and compact with the nutrients intact,” Mwangi said.
Molasses liquid is sprinkled over compacted silage after about 20cm in depth. Apart from the sugar keeping the fodder together, it adds flavor that boosts livestock appetite.
Maize, Napier grass, rice straws and other silage materials are stored in pits dug into the soil. Large polythene bags are packed with the chopped feed to appear like a cylinder. Large heaps can also be stored whereby pits are dug and a polythene lining is laid at the bottom and at the top.
No matter the choice of storage, the pits have to be done under sheds to prevent direct sunlight.
At least 40 litres of the molasses can be added to 1.5 tonnes of silage. At the same time, 20 litres of the molasses have to be diluted by 40 litres of water to reduce the sugar concentration, Mwangi said.
For best results, the fodder must not have more than 70 per cent moisture. In case, for instance the Napier grass has been harvested after rains or from water lodged areas, they have to be wilted a bit. To confirm the moisture is below the required level, a farmer can twist a handful of the material by free hand. If droplets are released, then the moisture content is above the recommended percentage.
Mwangi cautions farmer that after opening the silage, it should be sealed immediately to prevent entry of oxygen. Any entry of oxygen initiates rotting.
Because of the sugary flavour, livestock feed more of the fodder and take in more water, translating to improved milk output.
Silage is used alongside other feed to boost milk production. At the same time, excess feeds can be stored for later use, for instance when it is dry.
PHOTO: Tractor slashing and packaging silage into polythene bag for storage. Addition of molasses increases the shelf-life and the flavour of the silage for better feeding.
PHOTO BY IRISH FARMERS JOURNAL.