Hacker: Testing the Limits During Harvest

Posted on February 22, 2013 in Forage Foundations


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Riverview LLP, headquartered in Minnesota, milks 45,000 cows at seven different sites. Putting up forage at this scale requires a well-oiled machine.

Andy Hacker oversees trucking, commodities and forage harvesting for Riverview. During his presentation at the Vita Plus Custom Harvester Meeting, he said it all begins with core values.

Values stressed at Riverview include: strong work ethic, spirit of humility, keep it simple, integrity and candor.

There is a focus to continuously develop people because those people will continually improve the company.

In working with people, safety is at the forefront. Riverview’s Be Safe program requires employees to wear safety vests and safety glasses all day, every day, Hacker said. Custom workers are asked to do the same.

In order to keep everyone in the right place at the right time, Hacker sets up a system for both haylage and corn silage.

For haylage, he lists the equipment to be used and who will operate it for three different sites. If an assigned individual cannot fulfill their position for the day, Hacker said he grabs his phone and starts calling until he gets a yes from someone.

The crew cuts alfalfa in wide swaths. Two mergers run in front of each chopper.

“We can’t keep ahead with one merger,” Hacker said. “We learned if we drive too fast it will shake merger apart.”

The choppers cover 30 acres per hour.

Alfalfa is chopped at 59 percent or drier. A water tank is pulled behind the chopper for added moisture.

“I love chopping alfalfa because I know it’s a for-sure feed in the pile if it’s growing,” he said. Right now the farm is working to increase the quality of its alfalfa. It feeds a high forage ration and would like to feed more haylage if the quality were better.

The system for corn silage is a little different. Again there are individuals assigned to equipment and tasks, but here there are two shifts, one from 2 a.m. to 2 p.m. and another from 2 p.m. to 2 a.m.

John Deere and Claas choppers are used for corn silage. They average 250 tons per hour, and even more at the season’s peak.

This past season, seven choppers cut for two weeks to fill a massive 200,000-ton silage pile. To adhere to safety, the farm is shaving the pile at an angle and no one is allowed on top of the pile.

Hacker reported the pack densities are really good except for on the edges. He prefers flat storage to bunkers and said one of the biggest benefits is using an oxygen barrier film for covering stored forages.

Of course, something is bound to go wrong during harvest and when it does Hacker said he remembers something his son told him, “It’s in God’s hands.”

For harvest, the crew works for six days a week and rests on the seventh day.

Hacker has his own trucking crew, but also hires some of the trucking done at harvest. He sees two benefits in using a custom operator. First, with one phone call, someone else takes over the task and second, it helps to draw workers from 70 to 80 miles away. Riverview’s main facility is located is an area with a lot of trucking opportunities, so it can be helpful to draw from outside of the county.

When asked if he had considered harvesting as Shredlage, Hacker said his nutritionist had recommended it, but Riverview decided it wanted more information before switching its harvesting method. Meanwhile the farm is working closely with its chopper manufacturers to get the machines set right for kernel smash and cut length.

Hacker said he has an advantage because his father runs the dozer. He will periodically check the pile for processed kernels and moisture and report back to Hacker.

Riverview buys 75 percent of its feed, so it does not have the ability to choose the varieties planted. They prefer to have corn that is agronomically correct for forage or grain. The farm also plants two test plots at its home facility. A number of local farmers will visit those plots and choose their variety based upon those results.

Area farmers can sell their crops to Riverview in four different ways. One way they use to calculate a price is to select a date of sale. On that date, the price from a local elevator and ethanol plant is averaged. That amount is multiplied by a divisor the farm uses to arrive at a price per ton. Riverview incurs the cost of harvest.

Article written by Progressive Forage Grower Editor Karen Lee

Category: Employee management
Forage Foundations
Forage harvesting