Corn silage harvest is here for some farms and just around the corner for many others. To gear up for the 2022 chopping season, Iowa State University Extension is hosting a virtual discussion series on the topic of corn silage. During the first episode, Aaron Masssen from Maassen Dairy and Bill Mahanna of Pioneer talked about harvest preparations.
When discussing storage, an attendee asked for recommendations when switching from bag storage to bunkers. First, Mahanna said it is important to build the bunker so that it can be driven over from every direction. Along with that comes the need for packing. He said to have, at a minimum, two pack tractors and one push tractor for every self-propelled chopper that is running. “Make sure to have adequate tractor capacity,” he advised.
His other piece of advice involved covering the pile. “I am a firm believer in oxygen barrier film, especially to protect the tails of the pile,” he said.
Maassen shared that they use a plastic that has the oxygen barrier embedded into it, which makes covering the bunker easier. While Mahanna noted its convenience, he did emphasize the need to not let oxygen get under that layer. When using the two-step approach, if air gets underneath the plastic, the oxygen barrier is still protecting the feed. When using a combined product, there is less room for error.
In either case, he recommended the placement of pea gravel or tires along the front face to ensure the feed is protected.
Maassen added that feedout is different when comparing bags to bunkers. Depending on the dimensions of the bunker, a farm has to determine if they can take off enough feed each day to prevent spoilage.
Mahanna agreed, adding that farms will likely see more consistent feed from a bunker than they did from a bag. That’s because removing feed from the larger face averages everything out.
When asked what growers should be doing now prior to harvest, Mahanna said, “Get out and walk the fields. You need to walk the string of cows to know what’s going on, and you have to walk a cornfield to know what is going on.”
Monitoring the crop allows for quick decisions when it comes time to harvest. The key is assigning someone to this task, whether it is the agronomist, the crop manager, or the farm owner.
Maassen agreed that good communication and a team approach works well for them. They also invite their nutritionist to come out the first day of chopping, so they can look at the feed together as it arrives to the bunker. That way, changes can be made early on in the harvesting process if needed.