Saturday, 10 March 2012

Our First Attempt at Silage Making

The grass came out near black and toasted, but smelt sweet with the molasses, the cows liked it, but not much feed value left in it.

The first silage that we saw demonstrated was at our local Farming College in the 1950's, they had a concrete tower silo that was loaded with a tractor driven cutter blower. This was hand fed by a man with a pitch fork, and was blown up to the top of the tower and let to settle with its own weight. It was of coarse dangerous to enter a silo after it had stood for a few hours as the gasses would build up.
A notice on the side of the tower pointed this out and only after the blower had been run for a while was it safe to enter. It had an external ladder shrouded in to get access to the hatches that are sealed as it was filled or opened as it was unloaded.

Unloading was a heavy job as it had all got to be dug out by hand, one good thing was that the grass had been chopped short much like the double chop forager produce today. It was then pitched out of the nearest hatch, to fall down the covered in ladder acting like a chute, it also needed a reliable man at the bottom to load the silage onto a cart or barrow, if it built up in the ladder chute the un-loader was trapped.

It made excellent silage as the height provided the weight to compress the forage, but was very labour intensive.

At home our first attempts at silage making were very crude to say the least, the silo was a welded mesh wire formed into a circle with sisal paper (tarred paper) pegged to the insides, when the first six foot had been filled another six foot ring was mounted on top and continued filling.

Mown grass was picked up from the field from windrows with a green crop loader, stacked on a trailer and unloaded by pitch fork into the wire mesh silo.

This shows the back end of a green crop loader, to read about our near disaster with a loader like this when it became blocked, click  on this 

When the two tier were filled and well trampled down, it was capped off with ground limestone.Needless to say it over heated; it was long ‘as cut grass', with added molasses, and was impossible get solid enough and exclude all the air. ( The grass came out near black and toasted, but smelt sweet with the molasas, the cows liked it, but not much feed value left in it.)

The next spring we had an earth scoop for the back of the tractor ( Fordson E27N) and dug a silage pit up in the middle of the grass field that were shut up for mowing. The grass was picked up with the buck rake from the windrows, in fact we had two, and taken directly onto the clamp, it was a lot more successful as we could compress it with the tractors as we went on.

A couple of men were on the clamp with forks levelling the grass and adding the molasses. Again it was capped off with lime which when it got wet formed a good seal. The silage was dug out by hand, cutting six foot squares with a hay knife, and loaded by hand onto a trailer.

This is a hay knife, used to cut blocks of loose hay from a bay or a stack, it was more difficult to use in silage.

We had a couple of years doing it as described above, then we had a David Brown Hurrican Harvester , see video clip

These two machine in the video clip are only topping short grass and following each other, but in long mowing grass where one set of wheels are running in the crop, the next run had to be in the opposite direction to pick up the wheel mark. We had two three ton hydraulic tip trailers, and the local wheelwright made high sides and a swing from the top opening tailboard.

The trailers had screw jacks and a block of wood to go under the foot and hitched and unhitched with a drawbar peg to the forage harvester and then to the towing tractor, the hydraulic was a screw connecter in those days.

A larger silage pit was dug back at home the trailers ferried up and down the road, by this time the additive was in the form of a powder to help neutralize the fermentation of the grass. The consolidation of the clamp was with the buck rake tractor and with the grass being short, flailed, and direct cut; it was heavy and green consolidated easily.

 Plastic sheeting was just coming in to cover the top and a layer of soil was spread to weigh it down, other things were tried for holding the sheet down, then eventually settle with car tyres then eventually plastic sheeting was put up the sides completed a better seal. At this stage it was still being loaded from the pit by hand.

It was not until we had cow cubicles that the silage clamp moved inside a purpose made shed that it became self feed, where by a barrier with a long spiked foot at the feed face was buffeted into the face each day for the cows to brows adlib. By this time, 10 years on, we had progressed to a Class Jaguar off set double chop forager and six ton trailers.

When I started farming on my own for a while I had a self fill continental type silage trailer which cut the crop as it went through the pickup reel, but it was pitifully slow at unloading and with only one trailer running up and down the lanes with each load it only lasted two years before I got rid and went back to flail harvesting.

Field Names of Seighford

Out in Britons countryside, looks like a patchwork quilt,
Of roads and lanes and field tracks, evolved and some were built,
They lead from towns and villages, and farms, map nailed on beam,
Each field a hedge and ditch and gate, watered by pond or stream.

The fields both large and small have names, you wouldn't dream exist,
Some relate to owner past, and others the type of land persists,
Red Rheine's is one of these mean fields, when ploughed reveals red clay,
Unless the frost into it gets, no seed bed though you work all day.

Best known one I've no doubt, behind Yews farm is Cumbers,
Ten houses built along the village, take that name and numbers,
Down by the ford is Mill Bank, four acre few trees by the brook,
The Hazel Graze another great name, nut bushes to make a crook.

Fosters by the railway line, named after a soul long gone,
And Pingles also down the Moor Lane, that defiantly is a mystery one,
Noons Birch is the most beautiful name, one that congers' you mind,
Public Field it was part of the land , run to the pub up back and behind.

Hoble End is another nice name, where two cottages stood in the fields,
No track did they only footpath, lonely place only a well and concealed,
Moss Common a field where the ditch, springs in the middle to pick up,
It is important that they are there, to water the ewes and the tup.

Ash Pits are three fields in a row, the Big the Middle and Little,
Ash trees are the obvious reason, and only one pit in the lot,
Hanging Bank is most sinister name, it's a cold north facing bank,
More research into this is what's needed, but all we've drawn is a blank

Lanes to the fields also have names, Moor Lane runs way from the ford,
Connecting with that is Love Lane, a grassy rut track half way Bridgeford,
The Oldfords Lane goes up to the farm, to Coton not a short cut by car,
And Smithy Lane runs way through houses, the shortest of all by far.

Moss Lane is one that runs eastwards, cow lane that it is can be seen,
Grass up the middle and is long, see cattle grazing fields so keen,
It has path that runs up it, and gates shut on each end,
The path is quite long; it comes out near Doxey on bend.


Knowing trees, I understand the meaning of patience.Knowing grass, I can appreciate persistence.Unknown