As corn silage makes its way from the field to the farm, proper storage becomes essential. When using bunkers and drive-over piles, a critical part of the harvesting process is packing the feed.
Iowa State University’s Hugo Ramìrez Ramìrez talked about the need for proper packing during a webinar titled, “Nuts and bolts of corn silage quality.”
Shape of the pile is one component of achieving proper packing density. Ramìrez said to keep the slope of the feed at a 3-to-1 or 4-to-1 ratio. Otherwise, it will be too steep to drive over and to maintain packing weight.
The amount of weight used to pack is critical. Ramìrez shared two equations that can be used to calculate weight needed for packing. One is to divide the weight of the packing tractor(s) by 800, which will give the tons of feed that can be packed per hour.
When working with a custom harvesting company, however, a farm typically can’t slow down the process and dictate the number of trucks that arrive to the pile per hour. In those cases, use the calculation of tons of feed delivered per hour times 800 to determine the amount of weight needed for proper packing.
Ramìrez indicated that layers of feed should be 4 to 5 inches and no thicker. Otherwise, the weight of the tractor won’t transfer to the bottom the layer, and air pockets (and opportunities for spoilage) will form.
“The person in charge of packing and distributing the feed is going to be a critical player of this operation,” he said.
The goal for density, according to Ramìrez, is 15 pounds of dry matter per cubic foot at the very least. He shared research in which silage stored at 10 pounds of dry matter per cubic foot had dry matter losses reaching 20 percent.
Beyond wasted feed, poorly packed bunkers and piles are a safety concern. If someone has to climb on top of a bunker to pitch off bad feed, loosely packed feed provides unsafe footing and puts people at risk.
“That’s another reason we need to keep spoilage from happening,” Ramìrez said.