Making hay while the sun shines…

On Thursday 18th May we all attended a workshop ran by IPA (the Pernambuco Agronomer’s Institute), on the conservation of fodder. This is one of the many workshops that are offered to farmers in the area to arm them with the necessary knowledge to best live in the Semi-Arid region and face up to the realities here. It was an interesting day, in which we all learned a lot. It was also good to meet people from other local communities and speak to them about their work and knowledge.

Silage and haymaking

The importance of storing animal feed

During this time, the drought, the need to have been storing feed for animals becomes particularly apparent. One of the principal causes of livestock death is undernourishment. Something that is important to be aware of is the importance of good, nourishing food for your animals. Whilst much money is spent on vaccines and other such expenses, animals are much more resistant to other threats like these when well nourished. For this reason, it is important not only to be fed, but to be well fed – food with nutrients, not just something to fill the belly. Whilst now it is late to be thinking about these storage techniques, this is something that should be done in times of plenty; these techniques should help now and in the future.

Making hay

Main plants for use in haymaking:

Grasses

–          Capim estrela

–          Tifton

–          Pangola

–          Capim Buffel

Native Legumes

–          Canafistula

–          Catingueira

–          Marmeleira

–          Sabiá

–          Jucá

–          Mororó

Non-native

–          Leucine
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There are four processes involved in haymaking.

Cutting the hay – When should the feed be cut? All grasses, legumes, whatever plant you are going to use must be cut before flowering, if you cut after flowering, then all the nutrients will be gone, used up. Grasses should be about 1.5 metres high.

Preparing the hay – the cut plant must be left out to dry for about 24 hours – this means a sunny day, if it is not sunny, then it will have to be left out longer. It needs to have 20% of the moisture left in it to be ready – if it is too much, it will go mouldy, if too little, there will be no nutrients left in it. The twist test gives an indication if it is right – twist a bunch of the grass – if water comes out, it is too wet, if it snaps it is too dry.

Baling the hay – Can be done either with a machine or manually, important to be able to store securely and to prevent loss.

Storing the hay – air flow is essential to stop mould appearing and ruining, as well as somewhere dry. A barn or some similar structure is ideal, and then make sure that air flow can get through.

Making silage

There are two main types of silage – CINCHA (vertical silo, above ground, using a ring to help form) and TRINCHEIRA (dug out trench into which the silage is put, then covered with plastic sheeting)

Types of plants for making silage

–          Maize

–          Elephant grass

–          Sugar cane (not more than 20%)

–          Sorghum

–          Leucine

First cut the grass or other plant, according to guidelines above.

Chop up using a machine

Squash it – as seen at the training – this is to get all air out of the silage – it is essential that it is then stored in an airtight, and water tight way to ensure that the fermentation process proceeds as it should. For this reason the location of the silo must have easy drainage.

Once the silage has been compacted, it can then be stored by putting good quality plastic sheeting over it, forming an airtight and water tight layer. This can be stored for up to two years. You must leave for two months to allow the fermenting process to be successful.

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