Tuesday, September 30, 2014


I like the competition cooking show, "Chopped," on the Food Network. I usually DVR it, and watch it while walking on the treadmill. (The irony is not lost on me:  I watch chefs prepare calorie-laden food while I attempt to walk off some calories.)

Anyway, we had our own version of "Chopped" on the County Line last week, but it didn't involve mystery ingredients tucked into brown wicker picnic baskets. And I wasn't tempted to eat it. Instead, our 2014 silage crop got chopped into cattle feed for this winter.
If you're a regular reader of Kim's County Line, you know how I like using my 6-foot-1-inch tall "measuring stick" to assess the height of the crops we produce. Silage is rather tall - whether you're comparing it to my lovely model or the Jaguar cutter.
Back when Randy was young, his folks and a neighbor family got together to cut silage. The families shared a one-row, pull-type silage cutter. Then they upgraded to a two-row, pull-type silage cutter. They each provided a tractor, one to pull the cutter and the other to use to pack the trench silo.

They each furnished a truck to haul the cut silage from the field to the silo. And the wives made a harvest meal for the four- to six-man crew. Randy says it took two days to get everything ready. It took a week to get both family's silage cut and in the silos. And then it took another two days to get everything cleaned up.

These days, we hire Sallebradra Harvesting to cut our silage. They get it done in a day. That's my kind of harvest!
We grow the silage (also known as forage sorghum) for cattle feed. This particular variety is dual purpose: It has both grain and forage (or roughage), both of which are important to the cattle's diets as TDN - total digestible nutrients.

Silage cutting is another one of those choreographed farm "dances." The silage feeds into the cutter and is chopped. An auger carries the chopped silage into the truck.
All this happens "on the go," with the truck and the cutter continuing in sync through the field until they get to the end of the rows. They then move into position for the next swath down the field.

If maneuvering around curves in the field wasn't impressive enough, one truck driver backed up to save time. (It was just for a short distance, but I was still impressed.)
The cattle were evidently enthralled with the process, too. (Or maybe they were dreaming of their full bellies this winter. Or maybe they are just curious.)
As one truck was filled up, another arrived back from the silo to collect another load.
We store the silage in a trench silo. The full truck backs up into the silo.
The driver tilts the truck bed to dump out the silage, dumps the load, and then goes back to the field.
The tractor driver then packs the silage down. There are two goals for packing the silage. It allows more to be put into silo, and it helps the fermenting process. 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.
After we bring the cows and calves off the summer pastures, the guys will start feeding the silage to the cattle. The mama cows will get the silage as is. For the feeder calves, Randy & Jake will add about 3 to 4 pounds of vitamin- and mineral-enriched grain per head, since they need the additional energy to grow to get ready for market.
Photos from Winter 2011 - (from upper left) Scooping out silage from the trench silo with the loader tractor; dumping it in the feed truck; the truck putting it in the feed troughs; the cattle enjoying their breakfast!
(This winter, the guys will get to use the new feed truck. They may have to draw straws to see who gets the honors!)

It's good to get another harvest crossed off the books ... and to see the cattle's "pantry" full and ready for Old Man Winter.


  1. This is very cool. Ive never seen a trench silo. Hope it lasts all winter! Thanks for the post!

    1. Thanks for taking time to comment. Trench silos are fairly commonplace in our part of Kansas.

    2. Kim, we had a trench silo on our farm, and I heard the words, 'silo, silage, ensilage' all my life. But as a girl interested in lots of other things, I was having trouble remembering what it was all about. Thanks for this blog!