Making Silage from Lawn Clippings

Small-scale farmers and poultry producers can use this method for making silage from lawn mower clippings, molasses and other fermentable carbohydrates.

| October 2014


By using lawn mower clippings, molasses and a more or less airtight container, small-scale farmers and poultry producers can make their own silage.

Photo by Fotolia/exousia

In All Flesh Is Grass (Swallow Press, 2004), author Gene Logsdon explains why he believes pastoral farming is the solution for a stressed agricultural system, and shares some of the historically effective practices and new techniques from recent years. In this excerpt, which is from Chapter 20, "Making Hay and Silage," Logsdon explains the differences between hay and silage, and also provides small-scale farmers and poultry producers a method for making silage from lawn mower clippings, molasses and a yard bag or container.

You can purchase this book in the GRIT store: All Flesh Is Grass.

Making Silage

Where early summer climate is so rainy that making that first cutting of hay on time is difficult, commercial dairymen resort to silage. Silage is green forage that is cut, wilted a little or a lot (a lot is better), chopped, and stored in a variety of ways to keep air out of it. Tall upright silos, once commonly seen on all farms, allowed the stored green grass to settle down by its weight so solidly that only a little spoilage occurred around the edges and on top. Then came sealed silos that kept the air out completely. Then came the much cheaper bunker and trench silos, where the silage was piled on the ground or in a trench and run over with tractors to pack it tight. Bunker and trench silos drew rats, and the livestock churned up mud in thaw weather. Concrete bunkers came into use, still not as satisfactory as upright silos but cheaper. A later storage method put the cut grass into huge plastic sacks that when filled look like enormous caterpillars lying on the ground. The silage was in this case not compressed because the plastic was supposed to keep out the air that would cause spoilage.

Now the most modern method is to make big round bales out of the cut and wilted grass and wrap each bale in plastic—all done mechanically. The forage is then referred to as balage and keeps very well, as long as the plastic wrapper is not punctured.

I have participated in all these methods personally, and I’d rather make hay. Balage really is making hay rather than silage, and I think it will become the prevalent way to provide forage other than pasture itself. It avoids most of the worry of bad weather ruining the hay. As long as winter or emergency feed is needed along with pastures, balage will be the preferred method of making it. Where hay is made to sell off the farm, standard baled hay will remain the choice because it is easier to transport.

When green silage ferments, it can give off a chlorinelike gas, especially in big enclosed upright silos. A whiff can kill you. I have elsewhere described my other reservations about silage. Mostly I think that hay or balage is better nutritionally for the animals.

5/20/2016 2:23:58 PM

I have saved my dried lawn clippings in large plastic shipping containers, then used them during the winter, I did not mix them with anything and I did not cut it into tiny pieces, I just let it dry on the ground, then put it into the 4X4X4 plastic containers and put the snug plastic lid on top and left the containers sitting outside. I did not have any mold or rot. Was IO just lucky? This just seemed natural tome since my goats and poultry otherwise would eat the grass if I let them graze there.

5/20/2016 11:42:26 AM

I'd like to know what kind of lawnmower can process fresh grass into 1/4" bits. The only way I can feature that happening is mowing your grass all level and then lowering blade 1/4" each pass. Sounds like lots of fossil fuels involved.

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