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Dairy Farming Manual

Volume 3

Husbandry Unit 5.4 -Part 2

The Chamber Silo

49 The Chamber Silo


Walls      -Bricks (12 cm) 900 pcs
               - Sand 1.0 m3 (for brick laying & coating)
               - Cement 370 kg
               - Iron wire 90 m (< 0/ 5 mm) (between every 2nd layer of bricks)

Floor      -Layer of gravel 0.30 cm
               -Gravel 1 m3

50 Chamber silo with 4 chambers and roof.
This type of silo is quite expensive, but the silo can last for many years.  You can fill and close each chamber separately so you can fill quickly and reduce losses.  You can add or remove slats at the front of each room. This makes it easy to fill the plant matter into the silo as well as remove the silage from the silo.

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52 Specifications:

Silage requirements: 

To feed 3 milking cows for 30 days.

Silo measurements : 

2.00 m x 1.50 m x 2.00 m= 6.00 m3

(per chamber)

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54 Large upright silos are convenient and not expensive if labour costs are high.  They keep air out to reduce losses.  Unloading structures and mechanical feed handling systems make it easy to fill and feed.
1 Locate silos carefully, plan the location of other structures.
2 Fill and feed out quickly to avoid top spoilage.
3 Arrows show drainage away from silo.
Investment (1986): First cost US$ 12-16 per ton capacity
55 Investment (1986): First cost US$ 20-35 per ton capacity

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Cut the crop at the right time to get the best feed value. Here are some examples:

Crop                                       Cutting Time
Lucerne                                                   full bud
Elephant grass                                       before 1.5 m high
Other grasses                                        just before flowering
Grass/shrub                                          end of the rainy season
Oats                                                        beginning of the "dough" stage
Maize                                                      50-55 days after silking


Check the dry matter content of the crop. If necessary, wilt the crop to 30-35% dry matter content. This improves the feed value.


Chop the crop to a length of 30-35 cm.

56 This crop is chopped to the length of a match box. It is easy to compact and remove the air.

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57 You can chop by hand but it is slow.
This is a problem because you must fill the silo quickly.
58 Machines are expensive but you can share them with your neighbours.

This one can chop 1,500 - 1,800 kg of crop per hour and fill a 10,000 kg silo in one day.

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Silage Additives
You can add substances to the crop to make your silage better and more quickly.

Some green plant material, e.g. young grasses and legumes, does not have enough carbohydrate to make a good silage. Add molasses to the crop to provide carbohydrate.

59 Mix 1 part of molasses with 2 parts of water.

Put the mixture in a large sprinkling can.

60  Add 35 l of the mixture for every 1 m3 of crop (less for short, leafy grass, more for legume crops).
61 Measure the amounts of crop by marking a pole along the silo wall.
After adding each layer of crop, sprinkle on the molasses mixture.


62 Note

Molasses is not so necessary:
- after wilting the crop
- for maize silage.


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63 Salt
Salt helps the silage process in the same way as wilting.
Add 1-2% of salt to the crop (less if the crop is dry, more if it is not so dry).
64 Keeping out soil
Do not put any crops with soil or other dirty material into the silo.

This will slow down or spoil the silage process.

65 Compacting

Compact the crop all the time as you fill the silo.
This will remove the air

66&67 Compact the crop by continuous treading.

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68 This farmer compacted his crop well.

The silage is good.
He can slice it with a spade and there is little waste.

69 This farmer did not compact his crop well.
The silage is poor.
It is difficult to harvest with a spade and there is a lot of waste.
You can also compact the crop by machine.
How long does it take to fill a silo?
70 Fill your silo in one day and seal quickly.

This will improve and speed up the silage process.

Important when planning:

1 How long to chop the crop?

2 How long to put the chopped crop into the silo?

If necessary, ask your neighbours to help fill the silo in one day.

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71 Fill the silo to 1 - 1.5 m from the top.
Fix the plastic cover inside the silo walls.
72 Upright silo with plastic cover.
The plastic sheeting follows the inner side of the silo wall 1-1.5 m.
73 Fill the silo above the level of the edge.
Cover the silo with the plastic and seal quickly.
74 Place a layer of soil or daub on top.
This protects the plastic against animals and sunlight.
The weight also compacts the silage.
You can use old tyres for weight and a barbed wire fence to protect the cover against animals.


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75 Dig drains to carry the waste away from the silo.

Make sure the waste does not go near your drinking water.

76 Fill the drains with stones or crushed rocks.
78 If there are no stones or rocks, fill the drains with branches or twigs.


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\ 79 Make a wooden platform to protect the top part of the silo against sunlight.You can move the platform as you remove silage from the silo.
80 Nail gunny bags onto the wooden platform.
This shades the front part of the silo.
The plastic sheet (from sealing) also covers the silo.
81 Make a curtain of gunny bags.
This is easy to lift.
Record feeding instructions in the black area.
82 You can remove the roof on this "wattle" silo.
This shades the silage surface during feeding time.


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83 You can use a filled wattle-and-daub silo.
84 Make the feeder from twigs.
Brickwall trench silo
85 Build a barb wire fence to protect your silo.

86 Cut oil drums in half to make feed troughs.
87 Make a simple shade for silo.
Use wire-mesh and cover with straw.


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The feeding value of silage depends on the type of crop and the success of the silage process.

Smell Texture



Yellow green/brown

Dark brown

Olive brown

Pleasant acid






Dry Matter Content

Take a wad of silage.
Twist in the hand.

Hand pressure Amount of moisture Dry matter content





A lot

More than 25 %

About 25 %

15% or less


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What do you know about silage making?
Feeding good silage increases your milk production
Good silage:
1 has up to 85% feed value of the original crop 
2 is fed when you have no other crops 
Making silage for feed requires planning and equipment
Making a silo
Think about:
1 Location
- cutting crop 
- feeding
- transport
- drainage
2 Size
- costs 
- one-day filling
3 Strength
- for compaction 
4 Sealing
- no air, water, sun 
5 Drainage
- capacity 
- away from drinking water
6 Base
- for unloading 
Types of silos
1 Stack silo 
2 Wall clamp silo 
3 Trench silo 
4 Circular wattle silo 
5 Bamboo silo 
6 Chamber silo 
Preparing crops for the silo
1 Cutting
2 Wilting
3 Chopping 
Filling and sealing the silo
1 Additives
- molasses 
- salt 
2 Keeping out soil 
3 Compacting 
4 Time for filling 
5 Sealing 
Draining waste
1 Location of drains 
2 Filling drains 
Removing and sheltering silage
1 Wooden platforms 
2 Curtains of gunny bags 
3 Thatched roofs 
Feeding silage
1 Wattle and daub silos 
2 Brickwall trench silos 
3 Oil drums 
4 Shades 
Feeding value
1 Appearance
2 Dry matter content

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