Wheat silage is an essential feed source for livestock.
Wheat silage and corn silage are the most common types of silage used for feeding cows for milk production in Israel. A dairy cow’s ration contains a significant amount of wheat silage as its primary roughage source. Since it is only produced once a year, its preparation must be of the highest quality.
Silage is made by acidifying vegetables under anaerobic conditions (oxygen-free environment) and lowering their pH from 6.5 to 4.0. Sugars are converted to organic acids, mainly lactic acids.
There are several stages involved in the production of wheat silage in Israel. Wheat kernels are harvested before they are full and dry, between milk ripening and dong ripening. The timing of the harvest has a significant effect on the quality of the material, with early harvesting leading to an improvement in protein quality and digestibility levels but reduced crop yield.
Harvested wheat is then transported to large pits for storage. The material is unloaded and chopped, followed by clamping with shovels to prevent the formation of air pockets. Anti-oxidation substances or fermentation enhancers may be added to the material, and it is then covered with plastic sheets to prevent the action of oxidizing bacteria that could spoil the material.
A two-week anaerobic fermentation process is followed by the fermentation of the wheat silage. To prevent spoilage, it is essential to reveal a little material each time the material is used. It is possible to store silage for years under optimal storage conditions.
Stages of making silage in Israel:
1. In the aerobic stage, starting at harvest, the plant’s environment is not yet oxygen-free and enzymes and microorganisms attached to the plant use sugars and proteins from the plant for respiration and culture. In these processes, heat is generated and sugars and proteins are lost, so it is important to shorten this phase as much as possible.
2. Fermentation begins when all the oxygen trapped between the vegetable particles is consumed (about 24 hours after closing the pit). In this stage, soluble sugars are fermented in the plant by a variety of bacteria, usually from the enterobacteria family, which are resistant to the high temperature created during the first stage. At pH 5-7, these bacteria produce mostly acetic acid and lactic acid. Phase 3 begins when the pH falls below 5.0.
3. Fermentation begins in the anaerobic phase, when lactic acid-producing bacteria (lactobacilli) become dominant. It is important to note that these bacteria are resistant to low pH levels, and their fermentation product, lactic acid, is extremely effective at lowering pH levels. When the pH drops below 4.0, the bacterial activity stops and the silage is ready for use.
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In conclusion, wheat silage plays a central role in the feeding practices of Israeli dairy farming. The production process is carefully monitored, from the harvest timing to the storage and use of the material. That is to ensure the highest quality feed for dairy cows.