Land Use

...Permanent Pasture

...New Leys



...Fertilisation of Grassland

...Farmyard Manure




...Make or Buy?

...Crop Rotation

...Why Rotate?

Silage is really pickled grass, as sauerkraut is pickled cabbage.

The grass is compressed without air, often an additive stabilises the process and the grass preserves itself in its own juice. To live near your own silage clamp is acceptable, you breathe in the odour and picture your animals growing contentedly. To live near someone else's silage heap is another thing altogether: you get all of the drawbacks with none of the profit. The newest method of silage-making is to put giant roller bales into heavyweight polythene sacks. This way the silage is easily transported still in its wrapper and the farmer avoids having to construct a special silage clamp. There have been one or two teething problems with this method, the most shattering of these to a sleepy farmer is that some of the bags have exploded with a sound like a rifle shot. These explosions have burst the bags which ruins the silage (unless it is ready, in which case you can feed it straight away), but hopefully they have not caused too many alarms.

Silage does not always work. Successful silage is itself an acquired odour but silage gone wrong is even worse. Years ago we experimented with putting grass into redundant fertiliser bags. We were aiming to make silage in small quantities for our goats. It was decidedly a hit or miss affair. If you opened a dud bag, you smelt awful for days. The goats were not dreadfully enthusiastic about the project but sheep love silage. A large ewe carrying twins will consume up to 5.5 kg a day. This can form her whole diet but she may find it difficult in late pregnancy to eat this quantity, as the lambs will not leave enough food inside her, so she will need concentrates towards the end of the pregnancy. Cattle love silage and thrive on it.

Silage effluent, the liquid that drains off from the clamp, used to be viewed as an extremely toxic problem to dispose of. It is certainly very toxic in rivers and waterways. It is twice as potent as pig slurry, another liquid problem. When the effluent enters rivers the highly soluble organic nutrients and minerals it contains give a phenomenal boost to the natural microbe population. These multiply rapidly and so deplete the dissolved oxygen in the water, with the result that the resident fish population dies of suffocation. Considerable work has now gone into investigating silage effluent and it has been found that when stabilised, it forms an admirable food for livestock. Pigs love it and will consume large quantities daily as will cattle. It now appears that a major pollution problem has a happy answer. After all no-one is going to let a valuable crop flow down into rivers.