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Poster
Silage Production and Techniques in Malaysia

F. Y. Chin
Department of Veterinary Services, 8th Floor, Wisma Chase Perdana,
Off Jalan Semantan, Bukit Damansara, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

ABSTRACT

Silage production activities and techniques used in Malaysia are outlined. Ensilage is done through the use of horizontal silos, including surface bunker, surface stack and trench; vertical cylindrical silo; plastic bags; plastic drums as well as through plastic film wrapping of baled fodder.  Ensiled materials are mainly crops such as grass, maize and forage sorghum as well as crop residues/ by-products such as sweet corn stovers, pineapple waste and oil palm fronds. Wilting and the use of additives are encouraged, but not often carried out. Molasses, ground maize, palm kernel cake and poultry litter have been included to improve quality of the silage. Silage has been successfully produced with neither wilting nor use of additives.

INTRODUCTION

Fodder conservation has the main objective of ensuring feed availability during periods of scarce feed supply (Mohd Najib et al. 1993). Periods of feed limitation are usually attributed to drought but in certain countries, such as Malaysia, flooding in certain parts of the country due to monsoonal rain result also in a situation of feed shortage for farmers thus making fodder conservation useful. Fodder conservation can be achieved in three ways: by sun-drying, artificial drying and addition of acids or fermentation (`t Mannetje 1999), the latter referring to the ensiling process to produce silage. Silage is defined to be forages, crop residues or agricultural and industrial by-products preserved by acids, either added or produced by natural fermentation by anaerobic bacteria in the absence of air (Mannetje 1999).

Silage production is preferred in the tropics as it is less dependent on weather conditions than sun-drying for hay and since artificial drying is expensive and not easily available to farmers.  Silage can be kept for months or years (Wong 1999) and can be used at any time as and when required, especially during periods of drought (Koon 1993). In Malaysia, silage in trenches had been opened and utilised after 5 years. Ensilage activity has been pursued in Malaysia since the sixties (Chin and Idris 1999). A brief description of silage production activities in Malaysia is outlined.

Ensilage strategy, program and activities
As mentioned, the main objective of silage making is to conserve feed reserve for feeding during times of feed deficiency. However, the local strategy to produce silage also serves other purposes. One of these is to increase productivity where ensilage will increase the amount of feed available as well as maintain the quality of feed fed to livestock. In the case of pasture and fodder, a silage making strategy also enables the use of excess growth, for example during the rainy season or during periods of non-utilisation, so that the forage is not allowed to mature, decline in quality and thus be wasted.  Ensilaging can also be  used to aid management of pasture or other crops where the pasture or crop is removed as silage to facilitate other management practices. This includes ensiling the initial growth of a newly established pasture to enable it to be defoliated without damage and to allow a more uniform regrowth for the subsequent first grazing. Local work by the Department of Veterinary Services has involved cultivating maize on a freshly sown grass pasture field and later harvesting both grass and maize crops together for ensilage (Chin and Idris 1999).  There are fresh /wet crop residues or agro-industrial by-products which are useful feed resources, but these cannot be stored for a long time.   Ensilage will enable prolonged storage of such potentially unstable materials.  These directions of the local ensilage strategy have also been highlighted earlier and grouped as advantages of using silage (Cowan 1999).

Production figures for ensilaging work carried out in Malaysia before 1983 are not attainable because it had been carried out on a rather ad hoc basis.  Subsequently, more organized ensilage programs had been introduced. The surface stack system of ensilage had been successfully carried out between 1983 and 1985 by the Department of Veterinary Services (DVS) in a joint effort with the New Zealand Dairy Board. In those three years, the surface stack-ensiling project resulted in 400 tons of grass silage.  In year 1985 to 1986, a project was carried out by dairy farmers, with the assistance of DVS and German Technical Aid (GTZ), to produce silage for feeding dairy cattle in the northern part of Malaysia using small round vertical concrete tower-type silos. The ensiling of 250 tons of forage sorghum, 66 tonnes of maize and 30 tonnes of Napier grass silage were achieved during the two years (Chin and Idris 1999).

An on-going silage making activity that was introduced in 1991 to livestock farms and grazing reserves involves the mechanized wrapping of small cylindrical or round bales with plastic film (Koon 1993; Chin and Idris, 1999; Shariffah Noorhani et al. 1999).  Annually, about 500 bales of plastic film wrapped bale silage, equivalent to 15 tons, are being produced to feed cattle and sheep during adverse drought seasons.  An estimated total production of about 290 tonnes of plastic film wrapped bale silage had been achieved during year 1999. 

Another on-going DVS ensilage activity, initially started in 1994 as a joint project with the Department of Agriculture, makes use of sweet corn stover, the crop residue derived from the cultivation of sweet corn in the northern and east coast states of the country (Chin and Idris 1999; Idris et al. 1999).  An estimated 400 tons of sweet corn stover were ensiled in plastic bags and drums, mainly the latter, for feeding farmers’ cattle in those areas. Farmers that were involved in the integration of cattle with oil palm or undertaking livestock rearing in the vicinity of oil palm holdings, are also ensiling chopped oil palm fronds (OPF) in plastic drums to supplement grazing wherever there is insufficient forage resource. Usefulness of OPF silage, in terms of fermentation characteristics, palatability, digestibility, voluntary intake or its effect on animal performance, has been studied  (e.g. Abu Hassan et al. 1996; Abu Hassan and Ishid, 1991; Ishida and Abu Hassan 1997; Oshio et al. 1999, Wan Zahari et al. 1999).

Since the early seventies, an existing large-scale commercial feedlot in the southern part of the country has been ensiling pineapple waste and other materials in vertical silos as part of a ration for fattening cattle. The feedlot was in fact started to make use of the abundant quantity of pineapple waste produced during the years when the pineapple canning industry was thriving.  Research on silage making has been mainly pursued by the Malaysian Agricultural Research and Development Institute (MARDI).

Production techniques 

Types of silo used
Ensilage is done through the use of several types of horizontal silo, small vertical cylindrical silos, plastic bags, and plastic drums as well as through plastic film wrapping of baled fodder (Chin and Idris 1999). Horizontal types include surface silo with walls - such as wooden or concrete bunkers, surface silo without walls (Ojeda 1999) or surface stacks, and trenches. Bunker silos range in size from small 4 metres square wooden-walled types to the large permanent twin-walled concrete bunkers measuring 13 meters long, 5 meters wide, with 1.23 or 1.74 meter high walls. Trench silos, constructed through earth excavation, have dimensions of 5 metres width and 20 metres length. Since these trench silos are normally located on slightly sloping ground, they usually have a depth of about 3 metres at the higher closed end which gradually decreases to zero at the open end. On the other hand, it has been stated that wedge-shaped excavations in the ground to facilitate entry and exit of trailers during silage making and feeding are usual trench silos but, if the capacity is less than 2 m3, the trench can be rectangular (Garcia 1999).

The small vertical cylindrical concrete tower-type silos used during the joint DVS-GTZ programme measure 2 meters in diameter and 3 meters in height and are capable of ensiling 10 tons of material which results in about 7.5 tons of silage. Large vertical silos are used by the commercial cattle feedlot project ensiling pineapple waste and other materials in order to fulfil its daily large requirement of feed.

Plastic drums of about 100 to 120 litres capacity have become popular for making silage as they are convenient for filling, packing, sealing, handling and feeding-out.  Chopped OPF was ensiled in plastic drums of approximately 100 litres (Wan Zahari et al. 1999). Plastic bags used in the corn stover ensilage activity are specially designed large bags.  In Pakistan and Nepal, ordinary plastic bags were promoted under the shopping bag silage or little bag silage (LBS) technique developed during 1988 to 1992 for small farmers (Lane 1999).  Each little bag has the capacity of ensiling 5 kg of freshly chopped green fodder sorghum.

Special commercial silawrap film is used for the wrapping of small cylindrical or round bales in the local technique of producing plastic film wrapped bale silage. Plastic film wrapped bale silage was also reported to have been produced from wet season pasture in Northern Territory, Australia (Regan 1999). Both high-density cylindrical or rectangular bales can be used (Garcia 1999).            

Silage making process
Apart from the making of plastic film wrapped bale silage, normal ensilage involves five stages - forage harvesting or material collection; transportation to the silo; filling the silo; packing/ compacting the material in the silo to rid it of air for an anaerobic condition; and, finally, sealing the silo. In the production of plastic film wrapped bale silage, steps involved are mainly mowing of the pasture, baling of the mown forage and then wrapping on a mechanical wrapping machine. Silage can be made using fresh or preferably wilted material (‘t Mannetje 1999). In the case of the latter, another stage of wilting needs to be incorporated into the silage making process. Ensilage of pasture wilted to about 40% moisture was done in Northern Territory, Australia (Regan 1999).  In Malaysia, much of the silage had been produced without wilting. The silage making process involving the large horizontal silos are usually highly mechanised (Chin & Idris 1999). Forage harvesters, both tractor-mounted bin and the tractor drawn wagon types, as well as tipper lorries and trailers are used for the harvesting, transporting and filling of the silage crop. Packing/ compaction is achieved by the weight from the wheels of a heavy-duty tractor, driven strategically over the heap. 

Crops and other materials ensiled
Materials to be ensiled can be grasses, legumes, fodder crops (sorghums and maize), crop residues or by-products (‘t Mannetje 1999). As had been indicated above, in Malaysia, ensilage work had involved crops such as grasses, maize and forage sorghum as well as crop residues/ by-products, mainly sweet corn stovers, pineapple waste and OPF.  Grasses involved in the ensilage programmes are chiefly Brachiaria decumbens (Signal grass), B. humidicola (Koronivia grass), Panicum maximum (Guinea grass), Pennisetum purpureum (Napier grass), and Setaria sphacelata cv Kazungula (Kazungula grass). The suitability as silage of six tropical grasses, namely B. decumbens, B. humidicola, Digitaria setivalva, P. maximum, P. purpureum and S.  sphacelata var splendida, and three fodder crops, namely maize, forage sorghum (Sorghum bicolor) and sorghum (S. almum) have been studied  (Aminah et al. 1999).

Two varieties of forage sorghum, Sugargraze and Jumbo, were mainly used. Pineapple waste is documented as a non-forage material useful for ensiling (Machin, 1999, citing Bello and Fernandez 1995).  Recently, study on the ensilage of kenaf or Indian hemp (Hibiscus cannabinus) has also been undertaken (Chin et al. 2001). Work on the ensilage of fruit wastes from the guava and passionfruit juice extraction industry is currently being looked into for the fattening of cattle.  

Additives used
The main concern with the ensilage of tropical forages is the low dry matter and water-soluble carbohydrate (WSC) content. Wilting can overcome this problem but it may not be preferred or always possible during adverse climatic conditions. Suitable additives become an alternative to wilting. Even where wilting is carried out, additives are being recommended to improve fermentation and nutritive value of conventional as well as round bale silages (Bates et al. 1989; Staples 1995; cited by Muhlbach 1999).

 The additives are used to improve silage preservation by ensuring that lactic acid bacteria dominate the fermentation phase in the ensiling process (Titterton and Bareeba 1999) and they are divided into three general categories - the fermentation stimulants, e.g. bacterial inoculants and enzymes; fermentation inhibitors such as propionic, formic and sulphuric acids; and substrate or nutrient source, such as maize grains, molasses, urea or anhydrous ammonia (Woolford 1984; Henderson, 1993; Bolsen et al. 1995; cited by Titterton and Bareeba 1999).  Use of molasses not only improves the energy content of silage but also ensures low pH and prevents proteolysis (Rasool et al. 1999).  Four percent molasses added to the ensiled material generally improved silage quality derived from grasses in terms of increased lactic acid content (Aminah et al. 1999).

Molasses, ground maize and palm kernel cake have been utilised locally as additives. Ensiled poultry litter can be successfully included in the feed of ruminants as a protein supplement (Kayouli and Lee 1999) and, locally, poultry litter has been ensiled together with pineapple waste. However, the inclusion of additives, although encouraged, is not often carried out due to additional costs and the availability problem.  It should be noted that silages have been successfully produced with neither wilting nor use of additives.  Maize and forage sorghum crops were made into excellent silage and S. sphacelata var. splendida and P. purpureum were converted into acceptable silage without additives (Aminah et al. 1999). 

Impact of silage making
The silage making program contributes to economic development of the livestock industry by enabling greater use of local feed resources through conservation. This is particularly so with regard to fresh/wet crop residues and agro-industrial by-products which otherwise will be wasted. Included are pineapple waste, corn stovers and even poultry litter. Greater feed availability throughout the year, feeding of livestock is improved thus increasing animal productivity and production giving greater profitability to farmers. This in turn improves the income and social status of farmers. Another impact of the silage making programme is the reduction in environmental pollution from certain crop residues and agro-industrial by-products, including pineapple waste and poultry litter, which,  if  not  utilised,  will  have  to   be disposed of as waste material. 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

The author wishes to thank the Director General of Veterinary Services, Malaysia, for his permission to present and publish this paper.

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