Before I met my husband I had seen these big weird-looking mounds and had no idea what they were except for ugly. Covered in old tires and usually partly surrounded by an old wood slab fence, it was another pile of stuff in a farm-yard.
Now I look at that mound with awe and sometimes envy depending on the size. I have my own pile now, and this year will be even bigger than last.
What is this thing I speak of? It is called silage and it is amazing. When you get close to a silage pile it is the smell that you will notice first. It is a sweet earthy smell that makes me think of wine, but made from a crop. When you grab a handful of it or dig into it you will feel the warmth from the heat it produces as it ferments.
What is silage made of? It is made from chopping up a green crop, which means it is not ripe and there is still moisture content, and then piling, compacting it, and covering it to reduce the amount of oxygen it receives. This will cause it to ferment.
How do we do this? I drive the swather and cut the crop down. The machine lays the crop in a row called a swath, and then a crew we hire comes along with the forage harvester and a truck to pick it up. The forage harvester picks up the crop and chops it into small pieces then blows it into a trailer. When it is full, they dump it into a pile where we drive over it with our largest tractor, repeatedly, to compress it. as more gets added
Why do we do this? Well because cattle love it and it provides them with more nutrients and energy then just dry forage in the winter.
We silaged barley this year, along with whatever weeds grew with it. We did not use a herbicide this year as the barley grew well enough to choke out most of the weeds. Some years we have had to spray or the crop would not have been able to compete with the weeds even though we tilled the land.
It was a week full of long days but well worth the effort. The cows will love it!