It won’t be a good harvest if it’s not safe

Posted on August 17, 2021 in Forage Foundations
By Kyle McLain, Vita Plus dairy specialist

It’s that time of the year again – trees are starting to change color, bucks are losing their velvet, and corn silage is about to be harvested and stored for the upcoming year.

Forage quality and quantity are very important for feed efficiency and profitability. However, safety trumps all of that when it comes to harvesting, storing and feeding forages. Nothing is more important than you and your employees returning safely and soundly to your families after a successful corn silage season. Following are some safety tips to consider when harvesting, storing and feeding forages.

General harvest safety

  • Always keep yourself visible around equipment, facilities and vehicles.
  • All workers should wear high-visibility clothing – such as a safety vest – in high-traffic areas.
  • Long hours will be put in during harvest. Get plenty of rest and stay hydrated.
  • Heavy equipment is unforgiving when common sense is not exercised.
  • Always maintain situational awareness.
  • Consider full trucks or wagons have the right-of-way to the empty trucks or wagons.
  • Report any unsafe situations immediately.
  • Silo gas poisoning is very dangerous. The highest production of silo gas occurs within the first three to five days after forage is ensiled. If possible, stay away from the area for the first 21 days to limit exposure.

Storage facility safety

  • Inspect upright silos and bunker walls for cracks and structural defects and repair any damages before ensiling forage.
  • Do not pile feed higher than the bunker walls. This could potentially cause stress fractures and cracks in the bunker wall and eventually lead to a wall collapse.
  • Eliminate all distractions around the silo blowers and remove any loose clothing.
  • Do not pile forages higher than feedout equipment can reach. If equipment cannot reach the top, it can form an overhang, which can loosen and allow silage and other material on top (like tires) to fall or cause silage to collapse.
  • Consider the push tractor has the right-of-way.
  • Pack tractors should have rollover protection, seat belts and intact cabs.
  • Use a safety harness and ladder cage when climbing upright silos. Have a spotter present; never climb or enter a structure alone.
  • Limit spoilage on the top of the piles and bunkers. Not only does less spoilage mean less dry mater loss, but also less pitching of feed, reducing the risk of injury on top of the pile.
  • Avoid being at the face of a bunker or pile. Even the best-maintained faces have the potential to collapse. If a sample is required, determine what alternative methods can be used to collect it rather than putting a person at risk. For example, you can mechanically remove a sample from the face.
  • Never approach a face alone if the pile exceeds 12 feet in height. Have someone in the area that is stationed away from you.
  • Never approach a pile or bunker with a silage overhang or where tires are leaning over the edge. Also, frozen silage can be hazardous.
  • Watch your footing and your surroundings any time you are on top of the pile.

Most all accidents can be prevented.  Keep these points top of mind to reduce the risk of an accident and return everyone to their families when the job is done. Dennis Murphy, Penn State Extension safety specialist, explained it best: “We have nothing to lose by practicing safety; but we have everything to lose by not practicing it.”

On behalf of everyone at Vita Plus, we wish you a safe and successful corn silage harvest!

Category: Equipment
Forage Foundations
Forage harvesting
Forage storage and management