Harvesting Our Hard Work
We get one shot at harvesting, gathering and storing our corn silage for the cows for the ENTIRE next year!! A lot of planning goes into this. First of all, how do we know when it’s ready?
First, we consult with our dairy nutritionist, the person who creates the perfect ration (recipe) for the cows to ensure they receive all of the nutrients they need. The nutritionist determines the ration, down to the individual vitamins and minerals the cows need. We ask the nutritionist their thoughts on the best time to take the corn silage off of the field and bring to our storage areas (called bunks), and what moisture he would like for the cows.
If the corn is too wet, the juice that leeches out of the bunks contains nutrients the cows need. If the corn is too dry, the ration doesn’t stick together at all, so the cows are able to sort through their food, and won’t get all the nutrients they need (like a picky teenager avoiding their vegetables).
We then consult our agronomist, the person who helps us manage all of our crops including what we plant and in which fields. We take into consideration which variety of corn is better for the rations, to meet what we and our nutritionist want to feed the cows. In the spring the agronomist recommended the seeds we planted and now helps determine which would be the best to start harvesting and when.
The final step is to test some of the corn to see if it is ready. This consists of taking a couple of whole corn plants from the fields and running them through a wood chipper (like the ones used to clean up down trees). After we send it through the chipper, we weigh the chopped up corn. After we weigh it, we put it into a “koster tester”, a device that is like an oven to dry down the feed. We then weigh it again, and figure out how much moisture we cooked off of the chopped corn, this gives us the value of moisture in the plant.
Since we use bunks, the corn silage needs to be packed down. Moisture is important for this, too. The corn has to be wet enough to pack down well and leave as little room for oxygen as possible in the bunk. If the corn is too dry, the silage doesn’t store very well and is “fluffy.” When this happens, the air that isn’t squeezed out during packing burns up the energy the cows need in the feed.
After these steps, we decide if it is time to chop our corn into silage for the cows. After doing all of this last week, we have decided that this week we need to start chopping our corn before it gets too dry.