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Saturday, August 25, 2012

Silage: Time to Start CHOP CHOP!

Sometimes it's silly to try and reinvent the wheel.  It's harvest time again, or at least the beginning of it for us here, and that means cutting silage.  The post below is an early one from my first year of blogging, so now it's a couple years old, but it's all good. I love the pics, the people are still the same, the machinery is still the same, and the field is still the same.  The only difference is that it's taking 6 rows instead of the usual 4 to fill up the wagons, NOT a great sign for things to come, AND there isn't as much actual corn kernels in the silage.  DRAT!  Tall Guy used the combine to "open up" the field, which means he cut a swath big enough for the chopper and wagon to run through the middle of the field, and I think he took off some of the end rows.  He saw the corn monitor go from 0-145, but the average was 50.  That's a far cry from the 180-200 we are used to seeing.  Something tells me a few "projects" might be on hold until later next year now.  Sigh.... it happens right?  But read on.  This is what we do to make sure we have good food for our cows.  It's called Chopping Silage.

Harvest started here on the farm Wednesday with our first crop.  Silage is chopped when the corn is still a bit green, so that it will help "cure" itself in the the silo.  You all have probably seen a silo before; it is a tall round tower-like structure, but I bet you never knew what was inside of it!  For those of you that do farm, our corn tested about 29-30% moisture.  It needs to be down to around 14-15% before we like to pick it to store in our bins, and we store just the kernels in the bins, no cobs or other parts!

Let me show you how we make our silage that feeds our cattle:

Ok, First we have to get out all the equipment.  The rule on our farm is to put everything away ready to use the next time, so Tall Guy and his dad usually just give everything a once over with the grease gun, and then we are good to go!

Next, we bring out the wagons.  These are special wagons that help move the silage around once it is blown inside.  My friend from Cranberry Morning will like the fact that these wagons hale from Wisconsin.  I think they are the only red pieces of farm machinery we have around here!

 Last comes the actual chopper.  Looks like the great, great, great, great ancestral granddaddy to a lobster doesn't it?  As you can see, it picks two rows of corn at a time, and those teeth start the chopping process up.  Silage uses ALL parts of the corn plant: stalk, husk, corn, and cob.  I will say, though, that the cob parts are the last to go in the feed bunker.  Cows must like them about as much as I like lima beans!  They are always the last veggies left in my bowl of veggie soup!
 From the picture below of the entire chopper, it is easy to see where the corn goes in, and then it comes out of the shoot in the back.  That snout will be pointed right into a wagon.  Let's get the whole thing together so you can see it in action!
 There's Tall Guy bringing out an empty wagon .
 And here is Grandpa chopping silage.  You can see it shooting through the snout and in to the wagon.
 Here is a better look:
 The chopper is powered by the tractor by the yellow top round thing.  That "thing" is actually a PTO shaft, and this is probably one of the most dangerous parts we have on the farm.  The motor of the tractor turns the PTO shaft, and that makes the "wheels go 'round" on the chopper.  It turns VERY FAST!  You never want to be too close to a PTO shaft in action.  You also want to make sure your hair is tied back, if you have long hair, and all clothing is tight and secure.  Loose shoe strings and sweatshirt strings are other no-nos around a PTO shaft.  All of these personal items can get caught in the PTO shaft, and that is how we lose limbs and lives.
 Now we have moved back to the silo, and Tall Guy is going to unload the silage and put it in the silo.  Now if you memory is good, you will know that these big guys, silos, are REALLY TALL!  How do we get the silage in them?  We blow it up another shoot with a very powerful blower, again powered by a tractor and PTO shaft!
 The arms with tines move the silage forward, and (you may have to scroll back up to the first pictures to see this, but there are also conveyors on the bottom of the wagon to help bring the silage forward) and it is dumped in to the blower below.
 Here is my picture from Wednesday!  All that you see are chopped parts of the corn, stalk to kernel!
 This is the blower.  You can see another PTO shaft 2/3 of the way down the picture.
 Here are our giants.  The silage blows up the shoot in the bottom left picture.  The pic on the right is there to help you  judge size.
 So, there you have it. Food fit for cows and home grown!  It will sit in the silo, and from its own weight, all the oxygen will be pushed out of the silage.  The lack of oxygen will stop the fermenting process so the silage will not rot.  Actually, silage is just one of the many food options our cows have to eat.  They can graze on grass, chew on hay and straw, and they also get a ground corn mix that also includes corn gluten, minerals, and other nutrients that are good for cows.  Tall Guy has a recipe to mix all this together, compliments of our feed man.  This recipe changes depending on how big our cattle are and/or how close they are to finishing out.

Happy Friday everyone!  I hope today and the weekend bring you opportunities for fun and time with your families.  The girls and I are headed back out to the soccer field tomorrow for morning games.  Woo!  At least I am pretty sure it will not rain on us tomorrow.  Be safe and happy!


  1. I see that Wisconsin is involved in your harvesting. :-)

    Can't wait to show these photos to my little grandsons who are here with us for 10 days. They're from the Big City suburbs and LOVE farm equipment. One of the things on the agenda for while they're here is visiting a farm equipment dealership. :-)

  2. I always love seeing your farm posts! You guys are some hard workers!



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