Friday, May 24, 2024
General Agriculture

Methods of Forage Conservation

Forages can be conserved to feed livestock during periods of shortage caused by limited pasture growth or inadequate pasture conditions, or fed as a supplement. Conserved forages can take the form of hay, haylage, and silage. Although several methods have been proven to be efficient ways to store and preserve forages, it is important to keep these facts in mind.

At best, conserved forages can rarely match the nutritive value of fresh forage because some losses of highly digestible nutrients (sugar, protein, and fat) are unavoidable during conservation and storage. Our goal in forage conservation is to focus on minimizing losses, which start immediately after cutting.

Each of these methods plays a crucial role in ensuring a reliable and nutritious feed supply for livestock, contributing to the overall sustainability and productivity of agricultural operations.

Methods of Forage Conservation

1. Hay Making

Methods Of Forage Conservation

Haymaking is a time-honored method of forage conservation. It involves cutting mature grasses or legumes at their peak nutritional stage and allowing them to dry in the field before baling. The key factors in haymaking include timing the harvest to maximize nutrient content and weather conditions conducive to drying the forage effectively.

Forage is cut before it is fully mature (long before it has seeded), to maximize its nutritive value. Although cutting hay early will result in lower total volume, the increase in nutritive value will more than compensate for reduced yields.

Leaves are more nutritious than the stems, and so when cutting forage, it is important that it is cut with as much leaf and as little stem as possible.

• Do not leave cut forage to dry in a moist environment, as this will encourage the growth of molds. These can be extremely harmful to livestock and to people handling them.

• The cut forage is laid out in the sun in as thin a layer as possible, and raked a few times and turned regularly to hasten drying.

• Chopping forage into small pieces after drying will hasten the dying process.

• The drying process may take between 2 to 3 day.

• Hay should not be overdried, as it may start to ferment and also become a fire hazard.

• The dried hay should ideally be stored in the form of bales when the moisture content is low, ideally less than 15%. This helps with storage and requires less space.

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Storage of Hay

1. Hay must be stored in a dry environment.

2. Hay can be baled and stored under cover or can also be stored by creating hay stacks. 3. 3. 3. Stacks may be covered by plastic sheets to keep out rain and prevent exposure to excessive sun.

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Problem with Hay Making

If hay is dried in a moist environment, for example, during a heavy rainy season, mold may grow on the hay. These molds can be extremely toxic to animals as well as the people handling it.

In such cases, it is advisable to wait till the end of the rainy season before cutting the forage. This may lead to lower nutritional content in the hay, but this is better than toxic hay. The result may be supplemented with other feeds.

On the other hand, drying the hay too fast may lead to the shattering of the delicate parts of the plant, causing a subsequent loss of nutrients. To avoid this, drying can be done in barns by passing hot air through the forage.

Although artificial drying produces hay of good quality, it is expensive, but can be attempted on a community basis in areas where there is a need, and the necessary facilities. (NR International, Livestock Production Programme.

2. Silage Making

Silage making is a popular choice for preserving forage with higher moisture content. This method entails chopping the forage into small pieces, packing it tightly into a silo or bunker, and excluding oxygen to initiate fermentation. Through this process, lactic acid bacteria convert sugars into organic acids, preserving the forage’s nutrients and creating a stable feed source.

3. Haylage Production

Haylage production combines elements of haymaking and silage making. Forage with intermediate moisture levels is baled and wrapped tightly in plastic to create an anaerobic environment, similar to silage making. This method retains the higher nutrient content of silage while maintaining the fiber structure of hay, resulting in a palatable and nutritious feed option.

4. Drying Methods

Drying methods are employed when weather conditions or time constraints hinder traditional haymaking. Mechanical hay dryers or innovative techniques like haylage tunnels expedite the drying process, allowing forage to be harvested and stored efficiently while minimizing nutrient loss.

5. Chemical Treatments

Chemical treatments, such as inoculants or preservatives, can be utilized to enhance forage preservation. Inoculants introduce beneficial bacteria to aid fermentation and improve silage quality, while preservatives inhibit spoilage organisms and maintain nutrient integrity during storage.

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Benadine Nonye is an agricultural consultant and a writer with over 12 years of professional experience in the agriculture industry. - National Diploma in Agricultural Technology - Bachelor's Degree in Agricultural Science - Master's Degree in Science Education - PhD Student in Agricultural Economics and Environmental Policy... Visit My Websites On: 1. - Your Comprehensive Practical Agricultural Knowledge and Farmer’s Guide Website! 2. - For Effective Environmental Management through Proper Waste Management and Recycling Practices! Join Me On: Twitter: @benadinenonye - Instagram: benadinenonye - LinkedIn: benadinenonye - YouTube: Agric4Profits TV and WealthInWastes TV - Pinterest: BenadineNonye4u - Facebook: BenadineNonye

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