Today's Quote

“If people let government decide what foods they eat and what medicines they take, their bodies will soon be in as sorry a state as are the souls of those who live under tyranny.” Thomas Jefferson

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Putting up Silage

Silage is a method of preserving green forage for the winter months. Typically silage on a farm is put up in large amounts and in very large silos, especially constructed to store silage. When making silage, the green forage is put up still green in an oxygen free environment. The lack of oxygen keeps the silage from spoiling and instead causing an anaerobic fermentation which preserves it. Not many small homesteaders have the capacity to grow large hay fields to meet their needs, however they do produce silage and can store at least small amounts. Any amount put aside means that much less hay that has to be purchased to see the livestock through the winter. So how does the small homesteader put up small amounts of silage at a time with very little effort and time consumption? Easy! First you will need a good supply of those annoying plastic grocery bags. I use what few I get from the grocery in addition to the supply from neighbors, friends, and family. Each bale of silage will take 3 bags. Simply cut your silage material and chop it pretty fine. Load one bag about 3/4 full, then squish all of the air out of the bag, really packing the silage down nice and tight. Twist the top and duct tape flat to the bag. Place this bag upside down in another bag and repeat the squeeze, twist and tape process. Next take the double bag and place again upside down in the third bag, twisting and taping. It is absolutely important that all air is squeezed out of the first bag. Any air in the bag will cause the silage to rot and this absolutely cannot be fed to your livestock. The only way to preserve silage is without oxygen so squeeze really well or you will be wasting your efforts. Be cautious of grass clippings as they can get very hot if not properly preserved and start to compost. They can catch fire. I check my bags daily for any signs of heat and remove them from the feed room if I find any that seem warm. I always stack my new bags in the feed room so that it becomes habit to check them daily. I find that if they are put in the hay lofts they don't get checked as often, which can lead to trouble. I try to put up several bags a week all through the growing season and this tremendously cuts down on my feed bill during the winter. Make sure you put up what your animals typically eat or you will have wasted your effort. We have tons of dandelions and since my goats, rabbits, chickens and horses all eat dandelions they are the first thing to be put into silage. One of the keys to being self sufficient on a homestead is to reduce your dependence on outside sources for your needs. It does no good to trade a large grocery bill for a large feed bill, you are still dependent. Look for ways in which your homestead can support or at least help support all of its members, including the ones with fur and feathers.

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