From a photograph by Solomon D. Butcher of four daughters of rancher Joseph M. Chrisman, at their sod house in Custer County, Nebraska. From left to right, Harriet, Elizabeth, Lucie, and Ruth. Photographed in 1886.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Corn for Silage

Tractor and silage chopper


A neighbor is chopping his field of tall corn for silage this week. Yesterday evening, he had made a few rounds with his tractor and chopper before parking for the night. I suppose he was checking out his machinery to see if it was all working correctly.

Today when I passed by, harvest was proceeding full steam ahead. The farmer was driving his tractor down the rows of corn, pulling the chopper and a big metal wagon. Chopped cornstalks were arching out of the chopper's long spout, in a steady stream into the wagon. Another tractor was taking a full wagon to be emptied.

I am curious where this silage is being stored. I doubt if it's going into a pit silo because we usually get a lot of winter rain in Kentucky. A pit silo would quickly become a pond. I don't think this farmer has any upright silos, so the silage is probably going to a bunker silo or perhaps just a silage pile on the ground or on a concrete slab.

It's not too common around here to chop corn for silage, unless you are a Mennonite farmer. They like the tall, cylindrical silos made of interlocking concrete staves that were popular fifty years ago or more. They often buy old, unused silos of this sort from local "English" farmers to reconstruct on their own farms.

Wherever the chopped corn plants are ensiled, it's vital to pack it thoroughly to eliminate air pockets and to cover it tightly right away. Air in the silage increases the growth of mold and and slows the fermentation that changes the green chop into silage. Making silage is a lot like making sauerkraut on a very large scale -- the crock must be tightly packed and the lid put in place.
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Stave silo image from the NPS

2 comments:

Sarabeth said...

What do you do with silage?

Genevieve said...

Silage (also called ensilage) is livestock feed, mainly for cattle. The Mennonites who make silage use it for their dairy cattle herds.

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