Years ago, bunkers were only known as a military hide-out. Those bunkers were safe. The bunkers on our dairy farms can be anything but. Deaths can and do occur because of poor face management, accidental slips when pulling back plastic or tires, and poor silage compaction. Based on a market study completed by our magazine, it was estimated that over 30 percent of dairy farms in the U.S. utilize either drive-over piles or bunker silos as a method of storing forages.

Bunker and pile management is important not only to improve and maintain forage quality, but for safety as well (to learn more about it from an article, click here). Silage that is not packed with the correct amount of weight is more prone to collapse. Most farm safety specialists recommend keeping a healthy distance from the exposed face of bunkers and piles and to always work in teams. A secondary safety risk happens at the top of the pile. At feed-out, silage covering plastic and typically tires are pulled back to allow for further removal. This "danger zone" poses a serious risk for slipping, especially during wet or snowy weather. If you'd like to learn more about proper packing, click here.

Last week, we attended a dairy forage symposium held in collaboration with the University of Wisconsin Extension. Paul Dyk, a livestock and dairy agent in Fond du Lac county discussed ways we can listen and learn from our feeders. One concern Dyk brought forth was the dangers on top of silage piles and bunkers. Dyk says that one option for those working on silage piles is to wear harnesses connected to an anchor point. Dyk also points out that OSHA is continuously growing more concerned with worker safety.

As we begin to enter our fresh bunkers from last fall's harvest, enter with caution and be careful. Don't be a safety statistic.