Feeding silage to organic laying hens is practised on a daily basis by many egg producers. Since hens can eat large amounts of silage, it is important to use high-quality silage.
Different types of silage can be used. However, e.g. grass, clover grass, alfalfa, hemp, horse beans, lupines and sunflower silage often have a higher protein content than e.g. barley/pea or maize silage (whole plant or the cobs only). A chemical analysis of the harvested silage is important in order to estimate the quality.
High-quality silage can provide nutrients for the hen and encourage natural foraging behaviour, thus reducing the risk for feather pecking. Growing protein-rich silage helps increase self-sufficiency and improve the crop rotation of the organic poultry farms.
• Choose the silage type(s) that provides the best yield and quality, depending on soil type and weather conditions.
• The silage has to be finely chopped.
• Silage generally has to be preserved under proper conditions to optimize the fermentation process.
• Analyse the protein content of the silage and other nutrients if possible.
• Avoid silage with anti-nutritional factors.
• Investing in an automatic feeding system (robot) is recommended for larger flocks to distribute the silage evenly and encourage the hens to eat it.
• Including the chemical content of the silage in the feed formulation could be an advantage, when feeding higher amounts per hen per day (>20 g per day).