silage (sĪˈlĭj) [key] or ensilage ĕnˈsəlĭj, succulent, moist feed made by storing a green crop in a silo. The crop most used for silage is corn; others are sorghum, sunflowers, legumes, and grass. In a sealed silo, typically in the past a tall cylindrical structure but often today in a surface pile covered tightly with heavy-gauge plastic, the crop ferments for about one month. This fermentation process, called ensiling, produces acids and consumes the oxygen in the silo, preserving the plant material. In pit ensiling, compacted silage ferments in an unsealed underground enclosure. Silage replaces or supplements hay for cattle, horses, and sheep. It is rich in carotene, an important source of vitamin A. A machine called an ensilage harvester cuts and chops the crop in one operation, preparing it for storage in the silo.
See publications of the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.