Storage quality and marketability potential of bagged silage for smallholder dairy farmers in Zimbabwe
Bagged sole maize and maize–cowpea silages in three bag sizes were assessed at 42 and 282 d post-ensiling for sensory and chemical quality. A survey of dairy farmers on silage use and preferences was conducted in the Chikwaka communal area and Marirangwe small-scale commercial farming area. Only silage dryness changed with time. Percentage neutral detergent fibre significantly changed in 20 kg bags from 58.1 ± 0.75% at 42 d to 52.3 ± 0.86% at 282 d and in 10 kg maize–cowpea bags from 48.6 ± 0.75% to 56.0 ± 0.86%. Percentage crude protein significantly decreased (P < 0.05) for 15 kg (11.8 ± 0.30% to 9.4 ± 0.35%) and 20 kg bags (11.4 ± 0.30% to 8.9 ± 0.35%) for maize– cowpea. All 45 farmers surveyed knew about silage and 90% were feeding it to cows, 53% were making their own and 37% purchased silage. Challenges in making silage included unavailability of forage choppers, lack of requisite resources and inadequate knowledge. Silage unavailability and difficulties in transportation and storage resulted in a low frequency of silage purchases. There was no association (χ2 = 0.18; P > 0.05) between farming system and farmers’ willingness to buy or sell silage, and larger bags were preferred (χ2 = 78.96; P < 0.05). Computed silage costs per tonne were farm-produced sole maize US$57.54, maize–cowpea US$58.59 and bought-in sole maize US$89.80.
Keywords: bag silage, dairy, marketing, nutrition, quality