Animal feeds: How to make hay, silage

Wednesday March 25 2015

Photos by Pauline Bangirana

Photos by Pauline Bangirana 

By Pauline Bangirana

With the unusually long dry season, some farmers have been lacking water and pastures for their animals. This is a clear indication that animal feeds are a challenge most farmers face.

Against this backdrop, National Animal Genetic Resources Center and Data Bank (NAGRC&DB) and Gayaza High School held a training in animal feeds conservation and feeding technologies. The focus was on how to make your own animal feed, which is cost effective, and thus helps to increase productivity. This was to equip farmers with the skills on how to deal with the dry seasons.

Christopher Musiime, who works on the school farm, explains that there are four types of feeds namely; “silage, hay, green pasture which has been the most common and still remains the major mode many farmers prefer, concentrates and the lick block.”

However, Musiime explains that silage, hay and the lick block all contain the major nutrients needed by the animal in small volumes and last long depending on the preservation method a farmer uses.

Brian Kibirige, assistant manager, Gayaza school farm, explains the process of making hay. He adds that the best grass for hay is brachiaria or elephant grass.
What you need includes dry grass, strings and a hay box. The box makes it easier to tie the grass together. Place the strings in the hay box, with the strings over the sides so that you can pull them out when tying the bundle of hay.

Place the hay in the box, keep compressing as this helps push out air in between. It also enables you tie more hay, thus have more weight. Keep adding hay as you press until the box is full with no room for more. You then tie the hay and pull the bundle out of the box. You can sprinkle the hay with some maize bran. If you do not have a box, you can make the hay bundle with just the strings.


Nutrient blocks
A nutrient block is a technology for concentrating the nutrients in small volumes in a block. These nutrients include carbohydrates, proteins, minerals, vitamins and roughage.
When making a nutrient block, consider the following items; a basin for mixing, maize bran, molasses, protein seed cake, sunflower cake, brown salt, lime, builder’s lime, mineral premix, a trowel and hoe or a rake.

Dr Semambo explains that builder’s lime and cement act as binders although it can be replaced with clay. He warns against counterfeits and urges farmers to be cautious so that they do not buy expired products.

If you mix lime with cold water, use your finger to test. If you do not feel a burning effect on the finger, chances are the lime is fake or expired. Mix the ingredients and the quantity will be determined by how many blocks you are interested in making.

Points to note
Hay is dried grass tied in bundles while silage is semi-dried grass or leaves that is stored in airtight containers. Abdunashir Galiwango, the in-charge of nutrition at NAGRC&DB explains silage is a technique of conserving animal feeds. This is determined by the method that was used in making it.
When making silage, the efforts start from the planting so if you want to make silage, the way you prepare the land will determine the quality of silage you will make. It is advisable to prepare the land during the dry season and cultivate it before the rainy season starts, this helps kill weeds faster because it will dry them up.

After the cultivating, it is recommended that you use DAP fertiliser as it helps in root development especially during the germination period. “However, when you dig the hole, put some fertiliser of about 10 grams which is equivalent to a cover of a plastic soda bottle and spread it evenly in the hole. Cover the fertiliser lightly and then put the seeds,” advises Brian Kibirige.

He explains that covering the fertilizer with light soil prevents direct contact with the seed because it has a burning effect that affects the quality of the plant. Plant the seeds in a line because this makes it easy to plough and weed later. “When planting maize for silage, use 60cm by 60cm and put two seeds in one hole unless you are unsure of the quality, you use more than two seeds in a hole.” Kibirige recommends.

It is recommended that in silage production, weeding must be done once and in case the plants are not developing faster, additional fertilisers like cow dung can be used.


Silage can be made from sorghum, elephant grass, banana leaves but the best is maize.
When maize is used, items necessary are: maize foliage, a foliage cutter/ panga, a plastic sheet, a rake, water, molasses locally known as “sukari ggulu” is a black thick substance made from sugar, molaplus which is a light brown liquid packaged in a jerry can and measuring cans.
The foliage must be chopped into a maximum length of 2-5cm.

In a small basin, mix three litres of water in one litre of molasses, and add one cup of molar plus. Dr. Daniel Semambo, the director NAGRC&DB explains that molaplus contains microorganisms that speed up fermentation.

Use the black polyethene bags, a height of approximately 1.5metres and this can pack about 50kilograms of silage. Use the mixture and sprinkle it in the maize chops. Sprinkle evenly and mix using a rake. Pack the silage in the garbage sheet while compressing as you put it in. The compressing helps keep out air which can possibly cause decomposition.

Galiwango stresses that if stored properly, silage can go up to ten years. There are several ways of storing silage such as; tubal, trench and surface storage. “In urban places, tubal storage which is the same as using a plastic sheet is better because they help save space and are easy to manage.” Galiwango adds.