Makki ka achar is the new favourite of cattle rearers in Punjab

Makki ka achar is the new favourite of cattle rearers in Punjab

Makki ka achar is the new favourite of cattle rearers in Punjab

Farmers and cattle rearers have turned to silage-making using green corn to fulfil the nutritional needs of cattle in the wake of wheat shortage, thus earning good milk yields even in summers while reducing own labour   

Mansa/Bathinda, Punjab: Makki ka achar is emerging as an alternative fodder to meet the nutritional requirements of cattle in Punjab. Farmers cut the green maize crop to ferment it into this special feed, which is not only good for their animals’ health but also easy on their own pockets. 

In Punjab, maize is sown mainly in Hoshiarpur, Rupnagar, Shaheed Bhagat Singh Nagar, Amritsar, Gurdaspur, Jalandhar, Kapurthala, Patiala, Ludhiana, SAS Nagar and Fatehgarh Sahib districts. In recent years, farmers of Bathinda in Malwa region, Mansa, Barnala, Firozpur, Moga, Muktsar, Sangrur and Fazilka districts have taken it up.

“Silage is made using maize in milk-forming stage. This keeps all the nutritious elements of green fodder intact. Besides securing animal health, silage increases milk yield. Not just that, the milk produced contains more fat. All these factors make silage increasingly popular,” Dr Rajdeep Singh, Deputy Director, Department of Animal Husbandry, Bathinda, tells 101Reporters.

Maize harvester used for making silage in Tiona village (Photo - Amarpal Singh Verma, 101Reporters)

Farmer Mewa Singh (35) from Burj Mansa village in Bathinda district sowed maize in his four bighas of land the last two years to tide over poor wheat yield. “I sow maize only to make silage. I have been feeding straw and silage to my animals for two years. There is no need to purchase wheat flour, animal feed and grains for them,” he attests.

Nirmal Singh (27) from Chhoti Baho tells 101Reporters that he had to spend Rs 350 per day on a milch animal to buy wheat, oil cake, green fodder and straw. All that has changed because he now feeds only oil cake and silage. "Around Rs 10,000 is spent on making silage per acre, which includes employing a machine to sow maize, diesel for tractor, fertiliser, pesticides, labour charges, harvest charges of maize chopper and rent for the machine that grinds maize into fodder. Yet, silage costs us only Rs 2 per kg."

Dr Hasan Singh, Chief Agriculture Officer, Bathinda, tells 101Reporters that farmers in Malwa belt did not grow maize earlier. “At present, they feed silage to their animals and sell the rest to landless cattle herders. Selling standing maize crops to silage-making entrepreneurs is another source of income.” Farmers sell silage for Rs 400 per quintal, while factories sell for Rs 600 per bale. By selling standing crops to entrepreneurs, Rs 45,000 to 50,000 per acre can be obtained.  

Bales of silage at a silage manufacturing factory in Dugri village near Chamkaur Sahib in Punjab's Rupnagar district (Photo - Gurpreet Singh Jassar)

“Silage has been prepared in Punjab for many years, but farmers started sowing maize in large tracts only in the last two to three years after adverse weather affected wheat crop and fanned shortage of traditional fodder. In 2022, maize was sown in about 8,000 hectares in Bathinda district; it was 10,000 hectares last year. Now farmers in all districts of Malwa region have started sowing it,” he details.

"We sow maize when the fields remain empty from mid-April to July after harvesting rabi crop [November to early April]," informs Bhagwant Singh from Dalel Singh Wala in Mansa district. After wheat harvest, fields used to remain empty for two months until paddy was sown. Now, cultivation of maize is carried out at that time.  

“Maize crop for silage is ready in about two-and-a-quarter months. We grind the cut green crop using a machine. Then it is crushed by a tractor and buried in a deep pit on the ground. To prevent contact with water and air, we cover it well with a tarpaulin or polythene and seal it. Silage will be ready in about 40 days. If it is protected from air and water, it does not spoil for two years,” Bhagwant explains. Silage will develop mould if exposed to air or water.  

Bhagwant has 12 big milch animals and some small animals. The silage he produces from the maize grown in 12 bighas of land is enough for his animals for the whole year. In short, silage from one bigha crop can feed an animal for an entire year!

“I mix silage in toodi (straw) and feed them. Now I do not have to give wheat and fodder because silage is a mixture of green fodder and maize grains. Now the consumption of toodi is also down by half. No need to buy wheat flour and oil cake, too. Due to silage, my expenses on animal husbandry have come down by half,” Bhagwant adds.

Mewa Singh with a farmer from Burj Mansa village (Photo - Amarpal Singh Verma, 101Reporters)

Tara Singh Sappal, a cattle herder from Tiona in Bathinda, has nine buffaloes and four cows. He has been feeding them silage for two years. “When green fodder is not available, silage compensates for it. Animals relish it. They remain healthy also. Even in summer, silage consumption helps me get sufficient quantities of milk on a regular basis. The amount of fat in milk also increases.”

Sappal says he has been getting silage at Rs 400 per quintal from a farmer in the village. “I mix it in straw and feed my animals.”

Raja Singh from Bhamme Kalan in Mansa district says there is a huge shortage of green fodder in May, June, November and December. Makki ka achar fulfils the deficiency then. Many farmers here grow maize and make silage. So, there is no fodder shortage throughout the year.

“Preparing silage does not cost much. In contrast, green fodder has to be grown in the field and has to be cut and brought daily. Farmers have become free from the daily labour of harvesting fodder from the field and grinding it with machines. As opposed to cutting fodder daily, he prepares and stores the silage for a longer period,” says Dr Hasan, throwing light on the other benefits.

On the increasing popularity of silage, Hasan says, “Many silage-based industries are flourishing. They sell their product across Punjab and outside. There are also special machines to make silage."

Those who have brought the machines costing Rs 3 to 4 lakh operate it themselves. Every village has at least two such machines. "I brought a second-hand machine worth Rs 2.5 lakh last year. In my village, three to four people own such machines. We charge Rs 5,000 per acre," says Mukhtyar Singh (30) of Thedi Ghagga village near Malout. 

The increasing use of silage in Punjab has attracted investors to set up silage manufacturing units. According to a media report, eight big silage bale-making units and 150 small and medium units are working in the state at present. To set up a small silage unit, Rs 50 to 60 lakh is required. Medium and large units Rs one to two crore and Rs 10 crore, respectively. Notwithstanding, investors are continuously pouring in money. Rajpura-based Punjab Silage Private Limited is the largest silage maker in the state. It produces 50,000 tonnes yearly and has a market presence across the country.

Gurpreet Singh Jassar (24) has set up a silage factory in Dugri village of Rupnagar district. "We set up the unit in our two-acre ancestral property two years ago. It cost us about Rs 1.5 crore. We grow maize on our 40-acre plot and buy the rest from others. The factory employs 18 people throughout the year against the 50 to 100 during the silage-making season [mid-May to mid-August]."

Silage is packed in bales at the factory. On average, one bale costing Rs 600 contains one quintal of silage. "Besides catering to the domestic demand, we send silage to Haryana, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat. The first year's production was less, but we produced about 40,000 bales in the second year," he says. 

Edited by Rekha Pulinnoli 

Cover Photo - Mewa Singh ,Farmer from Burj Mansa village feeding his cattle (Photo - Amarpal Singh Verma, 101Reporters)


101 Stories Around The Web

Explore All News

Write For 101Reporters

Follow Us On