What actually is Silage…..
May is a busy month for us here on the farm, the weather is dry, the fields are full of lush green grass which means cows out to the fields and most importantly we can start cutting silage.
Now you might wonder two things – what is silage and why is it important? We farmers just take it for granted that everyone knows what silage is and why it is so important, we talk about a lot and our cows eat it every day.
Here at Roan`s Dairy we want to make sure you, our customers know why we do what we do and explain things that we just presume everyone knows.
So lets start with Silage.
Now some people get Silage and Slurry mixed up – they are very different – one goes in the front end of the cow and the other one comes out the other end of the cow. Both have a smell but Slurry doesn’t smell nice but Silage does (well we think it does).
Basically Silage is preserved grass – its grass that has been pickled. So how it is pickled? Well that’s down to a process called fermentation which is done by microscopic organisms living in the grass that converts the sugars in the grass to acids. The fermentation process is done by covering the cut grass in our silage pits with two layers of plastic sheets and then sealing it with a layer of tyres to stop oxygen getting in and water.
Silage starts out as grass in the fields which is usually ready in late May. These are fields that haven’t been grazed since March to allow the grass to grow.
It’s really important that we cut the grass when it contains its highest nutrient levels which is usually in May when the weather is sunny and dry.
We use a tractor and Mower to cut the grass into lines which is left for a day or two depending on the weather. We are very much controlled by the weather at Silage time.
The grass is then rowed up into less rows to make it easier for a machine we call the Chopper, also known as a Forage Harvester, to come along and hoover it up and also cut the grass into smaller pieces. The Chopper has a large spout on it which then blows the grass into the trailers that are following the Chopper. Once a trailer is filled it heads back to the farm to empty into the Silage pit.
Rocket Fuel – fresh chopped grass from the Chopper – full of Red Clover.
Once tipped a tractor and Buckrake push and roll the silage down (known as Buckraking). The job of buckraking is one of the most important during the silage making process as it is the driver’s job to pack the fresh grass into the silage pit. It is most important to get as much air out prior to sealing with the plastic sheets and therefore the grass must be “rolled” by the tractor’s wheels squashing the air out. Removing and keeping out oxygen is a key part of making silage. This is because fermentation has to happen under anaerobic (oxygen-free) conditions, or the correct type of microorganisms won’t grow.
So why is making good Silage so important to us?
Silage for us is a home grown food source for our cows, it’s feed for our cows during the winter months for when they can’t be outside. We also have the right climate for growing grass – the rainy conditions here in Dumfries and Galloway make it ideal for grass to grow . It’s also a cost effective and sustainable way to provide our cows with many of the nutrients they need to stay healthy and produce great tasting milk.
So hope this has explained what silage it and just why we make it.
Any questions please just ask us – we`d love to hear from you.