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Paper 12.0: Final remarks and analysis of questionnaire responses - S.G. Reynolds

S.G. Reynolds

Grassland and Pasture Crops Group
Crop and Grassland Service

FAO, Rome, Italy

E-mail: [email protected]


The Electronic Conference on Tropical Silage ran for just over three months, from early September into December 1999. Altogether there were some 355 subscribers from 68 countries [Participants by FAO Region - Africa: 28; Asia 40; Europe: 72; Latin America and the Caribbean: 148: Near East: 7; North America: 20; Southwest Pacific: 25; and Unspecified: 15]. Details of the countries (by FAO region) of subscribers and contributors (papers and posters) are given in the table at the end of this section. There were 10 main papers and a paper summarizing the discussion, as well as 26 posters.


Sixty-one completed questionnaires were returned by the cut-off date. Assuming all participants received the questionnaire, this represents a return rate of just over 17%. Details of the countries (33) from which completed questionnaires were returned are given in the table below. The returned questionnaires have been analysed and results are presented below.


Participants were mainly male (90%), in the 31 to 50 year old age group (61%) and predominantly academics (34%), researchers (26%) and consultants (16%). Only 3% were farmers and 3% extension officers.


Most participants were happy with the duration of the conference and the interval at which papers were posted (84% and 94% respectively). Although 97% indicated that the main papers covered their main interests in silage making, several respondents would have liked more information on smallholder silage production, with the focus on practical case studies, its integration into the farm system and economics. While 18% did not answer this question, 43% mentioned that they learned something from all or most of the papers, and others listed a number of specific papers that they found particularly interesting. Regarding the mechanics of such a conference, 98% of respondents were satisfied with the sending of papers by e-mail and their posting on the website.

Asked which papers or posters the participants found the most interesting, the five most frequently listed were: The future of silage making in the tropics, by 't Mannetje; Grass and legume silage in the tropics, by Titterton and Bareeba; Silage fermentation processes and their manipulation, by Oude Elferink et al.; Little bag silage, by Lane; and Use of ensiled forages in large-scale animal production systems, by Cowan.

Although the Proceedings are initially available in English, the language preference - if the Proceedings are translated in future - remained English (72%), followed by Spanish (22%) and then French (5%). This may, however, not represent the actual need on a worldwide basis.


Three-quarters (77%) of the respondents answered that silage making was practised in their area. In most of the developed countries silage making was widely practised on both large, medium and small farms (round bales and plastic wrap technology in addition to pit and tower silos) and both in the dairy (mainly) and beef sectors. In developing countries, silage making was mainly restricted to some of the larger (dairy) farms, except in Malaysia. In Thailand it was noted that in year 2000 it is hoped to demonstrate silage making to 600 smallholders. In Kenya, where 80% of the milk is produced by smallholders, it was recognized that there is a need to encourage greater adoption of silage (and hay) making.

Suggestions for increasing the uptake of silage making technology by smallholders in the tropics were:

- find least-cost, simple technologies;

- reduce costs and labour demands;

- make greater use of crop residues;

- reduce the negative impact of bad silage making by ensuring that basic principles of good silage making are understood and applied;

- reduce the moisture percentage before ensiling materials,

- use high quality materials and focus on grass/legume silage because inputs are likely to be much lower cost than maize/sorghum and other silages;

- the simple and cost-free process of wilting the source material prior to ensiling greatly enhances the quality of the silage and rate of success;

- farmers have often had poor experience because the material has been too wet;

- promote the use of molasses with tropical grass silage;

- focus on by-product silage production with simple technology (and variable formula depending on resources available) to ensure continuity of feed supply in the dry season (with benefits through more income, food security and less environmental pollution);

- intensify participatory research with farmers, especially in silage additives and machinery;

- develop techniques for production of small quantities of silage (e.g. little bag silage) which are practical and easy for small farmers to use and which can be developed in cooperation with the farmers to suit both their environments and resources;

- in some countries, there may be scope for the development of silage making by smallholders for selling on to other farmers, peri-urban dairies, etc.;

- in Pakistan, it was suggested that silage making needs to be commercialized;

- several respondents suggested that because of the costs involved there was a need for government-sponsored silage-making projects;

- in the Northern Territory of Australia, there might be scope for smallholders to produce and sell small bale silage;

- silage contractor services with the necessary machinery would also fill a need;

- some countries identified specific research needs, such as Malaysia, where focus is needed on the promotion of oil palm frond silage for beef and milk production.


More extension and demonstration activities and better training of extensionists in silage technology are needed since they are the key to better diffusion of the technology.

- There is a need for greater focus on participatory methodologies when introducing such technologies on farms;

- research-extension-farmer linkages should be strengthened;

- success stories should be publicized and demonstrated. Farmers can learn from other farmers and other countries by seeing success stories, for example, on video;

- constraints and economic benefits should be made more comprehensible to smallholders so they can see that the input of the extra labour and other inputs are justified. There is a need to demonstrate to farmers that well made silage pays off in increased returns;

- it was suggested to only target medium- to large-scale enterprises where economic conditions are favourable and farmers are more likely to adopt technology than small scale mixed farmers;

- farmers must first recognize a need (e.g. long dry season) and have on-farm evidence that feeding silage to livestock will result in benefits (i.e. economic returns);

- some respondents suggested that the technology is available, but there is need to apply and adapt it to various situations (by farmers themselves);

- case studies should be collected of where silage making techniques have been adopted by smallholder farmers and why; and

- a list of pre-conditions for successful silage making and the most appropriate techniques that can be expected to be adopted by smallholder farmers should be prepared.


It was advocated that research organizations should evaluate technologies and the benefits of silage making/utilization under appropriate farmer conditions before widely recommending technologies; in particular simpler and less expensive methods of silage making for smallholders should be considered as costs are main factors restricting silage use and there is need to identify where silage making is profitable. In this respect one should be aware that silage making and use is likely to be tied to the accessibility to farmers of high value markets for animal products to compensate for the cost of inputs required.

It should be demonstrated that silage making can be an income generating activity for non-farm groups; local government officers/extension service should take the initiative to demonstrate the methodologies and benefits of silage making and establish pilot projects to demonstrate to farmers; practical programmes of on farm research and extension should demonstrate a range of model feeding systems based on ensiled by-product utilization; machinery should be developed for small-scale operations to facilitate wilting and fine-chopping. Research is needed to clarify which of the many additives are actually useful.


Although in-depth analysis was lacking, the conference has been very useful for extension workers; this should be repeated in 2002 (and conferences on other topics held). There was excellent information in this conference on principles of silage making, but it really needs another conference to focus on the “practicalities” of getting smallholders to try out the technology. Conference material will be used in teaching at university and in preparing handouts for farmers; the idea of using posters was good as most were brief and very informative; a number of respondents noted that in addition to the formal papers, posters and discussion they had informal exchanges with other participants on various subjects.

Table 1. Geographical distribution of Contributors, Subscribers and Questionnaire Respondents, by FAO Region

FAO Region

Contributors (Papers and Posters)


Questionnaire Respondents


Kenya, Tunisia, Uganda, Zimbabwe

Benin, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mauritius, Niger, Nigeria, South Africa, Tunisia, Zambia

Kenya, Mauritius, Zambia


China, Japan, Malaysia, Pakistan, the Philippines, Thailand

Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines, Thailand, Viet Nam

India, Malaysia, Pakistan, the Philippines, Thailand, Viet Nam


Israel, the Netherlands, United Kingdom

Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France (incl. La Reunion), Finland, Germany, Greece, Italy, Malta, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, Yugoslavia

Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France (incl. La Reunion), Finland, Germany, Malta, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, United Kingdom

Latin America and the Caribbean

Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Cuba, Uruguay

Antigua, Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, Puerto Rico, Uruguay, Venezuela

Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Honduras, Mexico, Peru, Venezuela

Near East

Afghanistan, Egypt, Kuwait, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia

North America

Canada, USA


Southwest Pacific

Australia, New Zealand

Australia, Fiji, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea

Australia, New Zealand

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