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Paper 10.0: The future of silage making in the tropics - L. 't Mannetje

L. 't Mannetje

E-mail: [email protected]


Over a period of more than three months (September to mid-December, 1999) the participation in the Electronic Conference on Silage Making in the Tropics was good and sustained. There were 355 participants from 68 countries, 148 of whom were from Latin America, although only a limited number of contributions came from there. Ten invited main papers were supported by 26 submitted posters, and several comments stimulated a reasonable and sometimes lively discussion. It was an eye-opener to me and probably to many other participants in this conference to what extent silage making in the tropics has been advocated and tried. But a question remains: “To what extent is silage production being adopted by small-scale farmers?” At this stage, we cannot gauge how many small-scale producers are actually practising silage making.


The contents of the papers and the posters show that silage making is generally known by scientists in the tropics, but that actual small-scale silage making activity is low, except in Malaysia (Chin and Idris) and China (Li Dajue and Song Guangwei). The reasons for non-adoption of this technology were presented for Pakistan (Hassan Raza), India (Rangnekar) and Thailand (Nakamanee).

The main reasons mentioned were:

- lack of know-how;
- lack of finance;
- silage making was considered cumbersome and labour intensive;
- benefits were not commensurate with effort and time;
- animals have a low genetic potential for production;
- cost and trouble of silage making did not provide adequate returns;
- lack of farm planning; and
- lack of available feedstuffs of good quality

It was also mentioned that farmers might be prepared to buy ready-made silage, which indicates willingness to feed it, but lack of time to prepare it.

It is clear that it is necessary to have trained extension staff and in order to involve farmers from an early stage in any pilot project for silage making. Only a participatory approach will lead to adoption of new technology that fits in with their system of farming; and availability of funds and labour. If farmers would like to feed silage but cannot adopt the technology, it may then be necessary to modify it in close cooperation with the farmers to suit their needs and resources.


Anything that has feeding value can be ensiled. What actually is ensiled depends on availability and quality, but only good quality material should be ensiled, to ensure that costs will be reimbursed. Materials mentioned in this conference include:

- grasses;
- legumes (both herbaceous and edible material of woody species);
- fodder crops;
- crop residues;
- oil palm fronds;
- tomato pomace; and
- poultry litter.


For large farms, the temperate approach of mechanized methods and the use of large silos is also applied in Australia (Cowan) the Philippines (Montemayor, Enad and Galarrita) and Cuba (Ojeda). Small farms use plastic bags, containers or small bale wrapping.


Although a large range of additives is available, there is little evidence of their use on small farms in the tropics. If anything, molasses is used with materials having low sugar levels.


Silage making is possible and can solve nutritional problems on small as well as larger farms, but as with many innovations to overcome animal production constraints in developing countries, socio-economic problems frustrate general adoption. The main exception is Malaysia, where silage making has become part of a scheme of small-scale milk production and collection, providing a regular income to farmers. This may be a lesson in itself: technology of any kind will only be adopted if it can be part of production systems that generate income.

This conference has been useful because it has brought together and made available the knowledge and shown the constraints concerning silage making in the tropics.


The readiness of authors for a quick turn-round of edited papers and posters has made it possible to adhere to the time schedule. I thank them for their cooperation and enthusiasm.

Special thanks to Héctor Osorio, who has given excellent assistance in technical editing and preparing the material for distribution by e-mail and posting on the Website.


Chin, F.Y., & Idris, A.B. 2000. Silage making activities of the Department of Veterinary Services Malaysia. Poster presented in the FAO e-conference on Tropical Silage, 1 September - 15 December 1999. p. 7-8, in FAO, 2000, q.v.

Cowan, T. 2000. Use of ensiled forages in large-scale animal production systems in the tropics. Paper presented in the FAO e-conference on Tropical Silage, 1 September - 15 December 1999. p. 29-37, in FAO, 2000, q.v. 3.

FAO. 2000. Silage making in the tropics, with particular emphasis on smallholders. L. ‘t Mannetje (ed). FAO Plant Production and Protection Paper, No.

Lin Dajue and Song Guangwei. 2000. Sweet Sorghum - a fine forage crop for the Beijing region, China, Poster presented in the FAO e-conference on Tropical Silage, 1 September - 15 December 1999. p. 121-122, in FAO, 2000, q.v.

Montemayor, J. M., Enad, R.A. and Galarrita, F.U. 2000. The use of silage in a year-round feeding system: The case in Sarangani Agricultural Company, Inc., cattle operation in the Southern Philippines. Poster presented in the FAO e-conference on Tropical Silage, 1 September - 15 December 1999. p. 39-40, in FAO, 2000, q.v.

Rangnekar, D.V. 2000. Some observations on non adoption of silage making in central and western India. Discussion in the FAO e-conference on Tropical Silage, 1 September - 15 December 1999. p. 11-13, in FAO, 2000, q.v.

Syed Hassan Raza. 2000. Basic reasons for failure of silage production in Pakistan, Poster presented in the FAO e-conference on Tropical Silage, 1 September - 15 December 1999. p. 9-10, in FAO, 2000, q.v.

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