|A Lovely Old Silo|
We have all heard, for the last year or two, a great deal about ensilage, or the packing of green fodder crops in silos, for preservation and use for the winter feeding of cattle. The word, therefore, has become familiar; but doubtless there are many who do not fully comprehend its meaning and its significance. A silo is a close pit, usually built in masonry, with brick or concrete walls, and calculated to exclude air. The most convenient form is thought to be rectangular, the width about one-third of the length, and the depth about two-fifths of the length. It is to be filled from the top, and hence will save labor if sunk wholly or mostly beneath the surface. The material to be used in filling is any green forage crop, rye, millet, sorghum, or green fodder-corn, taken in the blossom, and cut by a fodder-cutter into little pieces less than half an inch in length. This fine material is packed down as tightly as possible, the top covered with plank, and heavily weighted, to drive out and keep out the external air. In this way it is preserved in very much its original freshness and condition for months, to be fed out to stock as it is wanted from day to day. The fodder kept in this way is called ensilage.
|Ensilage cutter & blower|
This method of storing and preserving green feeding substances for stock has been known in France for many years, though nowhere generally adopted. It has been tried, to a limited extent, in this country, and with apparently great satisfaction and economy.
Every farmer knows that the amount of fodder-corn that can be grown on an acre of well-cultivated land is something enormous. Forty or fifty tons, as it comes from the field, is by no means unusual, and a far greater weight than that can easily be grown under favorable conditions, the plants being allowed to grow till they “tassel out,” or blossom, when the ears are just beginning to form. Taking it, therefore, for granted, that the amount of nutritive properties in forage plants is at its height at this stage of growth, the amount of nutritive feed in an acre of corn is something amazing; but the practical difficulty heretofore has been to cure and preserve it without a positive and large loss incident to drying and housing so bulky a product. The silo seems to solve the problem. It avoids the necessity of drying entirely, and keeps the material in very much its original condition. The ensilage, as it comes out of the silo, has undergone but a slight fermentation, but if allowed to lie on the barn-floor, or loose in a bin for a few hours, heating and fermentation set in, and a strong and very marked alcoholic smell is generate. Stock of all kinds are exceedingly fond of it, and will leave the best of hay to seize it with avidity. The process to which it has been subjected has rendered it more digestible, probably; and if so, the animal system will more completely utilize the actual nutrition which the plant contains when it its best condition.
.We all know that dry hay, and dry fodder of any kind, will pass the animal only partially digested, very much of it appearing in the form of woody fibre in the excrements. If we feed oats, or any unground grain, to horses, we know very well that considerable portions of such food pass undigested, and very much of the actual nutriment which it contains will be lost. It has done far less good, no doubt, than if it had been finely ground, or more completely masticated. It has served some good purpose in distending the stomach, and so keeping up the healthy condition of the animal economy, and preventing a sensation of hunger, but its real elements of nutrition are by no means all assimilated so as to become incorporated, as it were, in a form to build up the animal system. It is apparent that there is some loss, more or less considerable, in proportion to the completeness of the process of assimilation. The reason why cattle appear to thrive better on an abundant supply of green grass, succulent forage of any kind, is, probably, that it is more easily, and so more completely digested. It is the natural form of food of most of our domesticated animals; and all forms of dried forage for winter feeding are artificial, and designed to form the best substitute we can get for the natural summer food of stock.
|Corn stalks being fed into the ensilage cutter & blown up into the top of the silo.|
Now, if we can preserve the forage in its natural and succulent condition, without loss of its succulency, as the silo appears to do, it certainly seems to be a great gain. More extended, complete, and satisfactory experiments are needed to prove conclusively that this system will effect this result, and it may prove to be good economy to supplement the feeding of ensilage by the addition of oil-meal to make a complete feeding substance; but so far as we can see now, the system bids fair to lead to the most important practical results.
[Thomas’s Farmer's Almanac]
The 1881 almanac explains what ensilage is to the readers of 1888. Here is part of what Wikipedia says of it 131 years later...
.Using the same technique as the process for making sauerkraut, green fodder was preserved for animals in parts of Germany since the start of the 19th century. This gained the attention of a French agriculturist, Auguste Goffart of Sologne, near Orléans, who published a book in 1877 which described the experiences of preserving green crops in silos. Goffart's experience attracted considerable attention. The conditions of dairy farming in the United States suited the ensiling of green maize fodder, and was soon adopted by New England farmers.
Ensilage creates a nutritious food for livestock. It can be substituted for root crops; it is easily digestible; milk produced by animals eating silage maintains its quality and taste; it can be provided irrespective of the weather; it provides grass all year round; and a larger number of livestock can be supported on a given area by the use of ensilage than is possible by the use of green crops..
I have made sauerkraut, and I have been involved in the making of ensilage, and the same technique is not used for both. But it is similar in that a natural fermentation takes place..
If you have never read my silo story, Click Here.
Alas, but I have violated an unwritten rule of the Agrarian Nation blog with today's post. Can anyone tell what it is?