Fodder production is an important activity of the dairy farms particularly farms maintained on commercial lines. Without sufficient fodder production there is no dairy farming. Animals need sufficient green fodder along with dry fodder and concentrates. They cannot be maintained alone with concentrates. The cost of the milk production will become high if fed on high concentrate diet. Everybody experience that fodder production varies with seasons. In some seasons particularly in rainy seasons the fodder is generally surplus and in summer months it will be less and fodder becomes shortage. Therefore it is wise to conserve the excess fodder in surplus seasons so as to use it when there is shortage. The green fodder should be preserved well and conserved to maintain palatability and the nutritive values. There are various methods to conserve the green fodder.
- Making Hay
- Making into silage
- Making into complete dry fodder(Straw)
Hay is a semi dried green fodder with very little moisture about 20% and 85-90% dry matter. It is made by sun drying the green fodder. Crops like maize, Jowar and Bajra are not suitable for hay making because the stems of these crops are thicker and difficult to dry. They take more time for drying. Whereas crops like Berseem, Cowpea, Lucerne, Sunhemp, Pillipesara and grasses are more suitable and hay can be made with them easily. Therefore such crops should be used in making hay. The time of harvesting the crop is very important to get more nutritive values from the crop. If the crop is harvested early and preserved the yield of hay will be less and if harvested lately we can get more fodder hay but with less nutrients. Therefore appropriate time should be selected for harvesting the crop. The best time is to harvest when 2-5% of the crop is in flowering stage.
Harvesting of the crop should be made during the cooler part of the day preferably in the morning hours. Protect the harvested fodder from direct sunlight. Keep the harvested crop in shade.
Arrange the harvested crop into small heaps on elevated ground with proper drainage or spread it in well ventilated sheds. Allow them to dry. After drying preserve it by stacking. The leaves should not fall after drying. Some farmers store the Sunhemp hay along with Paddy straw. They believe that Sunhemp hay will give particular aroma and animals relish and eat well.
A good quality of hay should be in green or greenish brown with leaves intact. The stems should be soft and free from moulds, weeds and dust. Moreover it should be palatable and nutritious.
Hay making is advantageous to farmers as it can be made without any difficulty and least expensive. Due to exposure to sun some of the harmful pests or organisms die. The vitamin D in hay will increase.
Points to be observed for Hay making:
- The crop should be harvested only when there are no rains.
- The crop should be harvested when it is in 2-5% in flowering season.
- The harvested crop should be stacked in small heaps and turned to all sides for drying in shade.
- Stacking should be done in a sloppy angle so that it dries from all the sides.
Silage is a succulent and moist feed obtained by storing the green fodder in a silo pit. Leguminous crops, Sorghum, and other grasses in fact any green crop can be preserved and made into silage. The preserved grass undergoes partial fermentation and becomes succulent and more palatable. Silage can be preserved for months and fed to dairy animals in lean seasons when there is no sufficient fodder production. Silage is rich in beta carotene (Vitamin A).
Crops that can be ensilaged:
- Hybrid Napier
- Leguminous crops
How to make a silo pit?
A round pit or a rectangular pit sufficiently deep should be dug on an elevated place without stagnated water. The pit can also be made with bricks and cement mortar so that it will be strong and impermeable to water seepage. The size of the pit depends on the number of animals to be fed with silage and for the period it is required. 20Kgs of silage can be fed to each animal. For making 15 tons of silage a pit of size 5’X25’X8’ is required. The edges of the pit should be smooth and soil should not fall from the sides.
Making of silage:
The crop at flowering should be harvested and cut into small pieces with chaff cutter. It should be harvested at flowering stage. If there is an excess moisture > 65-70% allow it to dry in the harvested field. Silage should be made only in days when there is no rain. Always the work should commence in the early morning only. It should be taken care that the soil from edges should not fall into the pit. Cover the bottom and sides of the pit with a thin layer of paddy straw. Then pack the chaffed fodder within the pit layer by layer pressing with feet to expel the air. If packing is not done properly or if the air is left inside the silage will not form properly and moulds develop and spoil the silage by preventing fermentation. After filling the entire pit with the grass cover it with paddy straw or with a thick polythene sheet. Finally cover the pit mud and make it smooth by smearing with dung. By doing this the pit will become air tight and ideal for formation of good quality silage. Silage can be preserved for 2-3 years without opening the pit. If the pit is opened it should be used within one month. Silage should be fed to milch animals after milking or before four hours of milking. If not the milk will get the smell of silage and the consumers may not like it.
Silage can also be enriched with molasses @ 10-20 Kg/ ton of grasses or 30-35 kgs/ton of leguminous fodders.
Good silage will have a pleasing aroma and yellowish green in color. It should be palatable and the moisture content should be less than 75%.
Straw can be made when there is bright sunlight. The harvested fodder is dried in direct sunlight till it is completely dried. The fodder should be turned now and then for drying uniformly. After complete drying it can be stacked and stored.