What do you do when it’s the end of June and the first cut is ready, but there’s rain in the forecast?
The answer, generally, is silage. The problem is a silaging operation typically requires at least three people operating three machines – unless you have a self-loading silage wagon.
Don Green, who runs a 1,000- head cattle operation near Fisher Branch, has found that using a European-style self-loading silage wagon allows him to make silage on his own on his closer fields in almost any kind of weather.
“We’ve got 1,000 cows to feed here. There’s no messing around. We’ve got to get feed put up,” said Green, who gave a presentation on Interlake haying solutions at the recent Manitoba Beef Producers AGM.
“On a close haul, that is less than a mile and a half or so, I can put silage in the pile with one man and a tractor as fast as a 350-hp self-propelled chopper and two trucks.”
Three years ago, during the first year of incessant rainfall in the Interlake, Green and his father decided to buy a Pttinger 7200 demo machine for around $100,000.
“It was an option to get us out of a tight spot,” said Green.
With capacity for 72 cubic metres – about 15 tonnes – of silage, and three-foot-wide wheels on a tandem axle, the unit can be pulled with a 200-hp tractor and so operating costs are lower.
The cut length with the unit is also longer than a forage harvester, which may be better for his cattle’s rumen function, he added. The downside, however, is that the longer length means that it may be harder to pack in the silage pit.
The 42 spring-loaded knives in the cutting mechanism are better for rocky fields, but Green said he has experienced some broken blades after about 800 loads. Replacements cost about $40 each.
SEVERAL TRIPS NEEDED
The downside to the self-loading silage wagon, or chopper wagon, as Green calls it, is the time spent running back and forth from the field to the pit.
“You want your fields to be close to maintain productivity,” said Green. “I’ve had fields where I’ve done six loads per hour and fields where I’ve done one or two per hour. The biggest difference was how far we were hauling.”
And even the best technology has its limits, he added.
The first two years of using the chopper wagon saw the first cut come off quickly, which meant that he didn’t have to sell off any cattle those years. But this past summer’s quagmire meant the chopper wagon couldn’t be deployed until the second cut came around. The first cut got baled up no matter what condition it was in.
“This summer it was just so wet. We had six inches of rain in the first weekend in July and it was three weeks before we could even move,” said Green. “It’s good in wet conditions, but there is a limit.”
What silage he made this year will be used to feed calves, with the cows wintering on straw and grain, he said.
daniel. [email protected]
“We’vegot1,000cows tofeedhere.There’sno messingaround.We’ve gottogetfeedputup.”
– DON GREEN