Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Blowin' In the Wind

"The answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind."

The answer to some of our cattle feed needs for the winter was indeed blowin' in the wind yesterday. As the big-teethed cutter took great gulps of our forage sorghum and "chewed" it into silage, it seemed the wind was trying to take away what the drought hadn't already robbed from our silage yield. (After all, that Peter, Paul & Mary tune, Blowin' in the Wind, was a 1960s protest song. Still, it doesn't do a lot of good to protest against Mother Nature's stinginess with the rainfall this year. We just have to make the best of the situation.)

Even though it wasn't an ideal day for silage harvest because of the wind, Randy was glad to have the cutters come before the forecasted frost. A frost can increase the amount of nitrates in the feed, already a concern during a drought year.

Like last year, we had about 25 acres of forage sorghum planted to be cut into silage and put in the trench silo. Last year's fields filled the silo to overflowing, and we sold the excess to a neighbor. The drought impacted this crop just like it has every other crop this summer. The silo's 500-ton storage capacity was only about half filled at the end of the day.

After loading "on the go" by driving alongside the silage cutter, the truck drivers made the short trek to the trench silo. There, they backed their trucks into the silo and dumped the load.

Then the tractor driver packed the silage down, where it was left to ferment. Once in the silo, the silage goes through an "ensiling" process. It goes through chemical changes, and the heat builds up. It raises the pH of the silage so that it doesn't spoil or ferment any longer. The top 6 inches of it will rot, then it forms an airtight seal, protecting the silage underneath.

"It's better than a snowbank," my husband intoned when I asked him about this year's silage harvest.

Don't worry. I didn't know what that meant either. So I asked. He said that's what the oldtimers would say when talking about rotten hay. I guess the point is, "Something to eat is better than nothing."

I'm guessing the cattle will concur this winter.

February 2011 (For more feeding photos, click here.)

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