From the Farm: There’s more than one way to make silage

While milking cows Wednesday morning, I decided to compose my eloquent column with information about making silage.

Usually, we make corn silage and store it in our upright silos or we pack it into long white bags.

We are storing silage in both ways this year, but life is never boring here at the Hoffman ranch. In fact, two days in a row Steve and I forgot to switch a gate out to the pasture.

That sure kept life interesting Monday and Tuesday morning.

Anyway, getting back to explaining the intricacies of making silage. This year, Steve and Russell decided to make a huge pile of silage. It’s really not that intricate; it’s rather simple.

Why Joey and I never were consulted on this pile of silage is beyond me, but we were OK with this particular idea. It’s probably because Joey and I don’t want to worry about cropping and making corn silage.

When making a pile of silage there are several things that need to be accomplished, that are not required when we use a bag or fill the silo.

First, the pile has to be packed to remove as much oxygen as possible. This is done by driving a huge tractor back and forth across the pile hour after hour. In a silo, the weight of each subsequent load serves as packer. When putting silage in a bag, an auger packs the silage tighter than John D. Rockefeller, who purportedly gave his groundskeeper a $5 holiday bonus.

Our pile isn’t small, by any means, but I know a lot of farmers that have piles that are many times larger than our 50-by-150 pile.

It takes great coordination between Joey and Russell driving two tractors to pack that pile, without running into each other.

When making a pile of silage, there is also a need to cover it with a long sheet of plastic, to prevent it from the nature’s elements – although this year, rain wouldn’t be an issue.

It was up to Joey, Russell, Steve and me to cover the humongous pile with the sheet of plastic.

I think there must be a woman plastic-folder in the plastic factory. That plastic was folded perfectly for us to accomplish our task, with nary a panting breath. We laid the rolled plastic width-wise across the pile. Steve and Russell then unrolled the plastic, so we were left with one 4-foot wide plastic strip running the length of the pile. That 4-foot wide strip contained 25-feet folded underneath.

That’s when the work began. We grabbed the edge of the plastic from the bottom of the folds and just started pulling it down, along the side of the pile. Worked like a charm and we had the plastic completely covering the pile in a short amount of time. It looked like a frosting-covered long john. What can I say? I was hungry at the time.

“We should have played parachute with the plastic,” I said, which made my family of down-to-business creatures look at me like I was a dork. I added, “I also think we should slide down the side.” (From what I hear, this plastic makes a rocking slip and slide.)

After the plastic was properly situated, we covered the pile with old tires, to prevent the plastic from playing parachute without me. These tires were full of weeds and dirt and old water, which makes stinky mud. Every time we grabbed a tire and tossed it onto the pile, we were splattered. (Now that would have been a fun competition.)

Joey and Russell were in charge of tossing the tires to the top of the pile; about 10-feet high. Russell whined because he said he was “so sore from football.” Joey just kept plugging away. I was on top of the pile and scattered them around the top of the pile.

Steve was busy using the skid loader to dump sand onto the edge of the plastic to prevent air from entering.

It was actually fun working as a family. Jokes were made. Fun was poked.

It’s just one more way to make feed for the cows.

For questions, or comments, e-mail me at

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