Mechanics of pack tractors and packing weights – Jon Orr, Orrson Custom Farming LTD.

Posted on March 11, 2020 in Forage Foundations
Click here for Orr’s PowerPoint presentation.

Jon Orr has been custom chopping for a long time.  As the owner of Orrson Custom Farming LTD., he has seen almost everything when it comes to packing a bunker or pile.  During his breakout session at the 2020 Vita Plus Custom Harvester Meeting, Orr discussed the pitfalls of packing oversized piles for customers and he provided his solutions to the problem.

Orr asked the group how many of them have heard a customer say, “I need it all right here,” and ask the harvester to put up an unsafe pile.  Orr showed pictures of piles two times the height of normal piles placed in potentially hazardous locations.  These piles become hard to pack at such heights and steep slopes, and they pose threats to the harvest crews during packing, as well as the employees who need to get on top of those piles.

This is the reality most custom harvesters face.  With space and concrete at a premium, they have to make it fit and pack those oversized piles the best they can.  Orr’s solutions on how to pack these piles better included:

  • Adding more weight to the pack tractors
  • Adding more pack tractors
  • Slowing down the choppers
  • Using better pack tractor drivers

It doesn’t take long for the room to start murmuring because they know most of those solutions are easier said than done.  Orr recognizes this and said custom harvesters also have the option to try and convince the customer to pour more concrete.  One way to do this is to discuss the additional costs of shrink with the customer.

Going back to the oversized bunker he showed earlier, Orr did some math to illustrate the amount of feed and dollars lost to shrink.  In a standard-sized bunker (75 feet wide, 300 feet long, 8 feet tall) with a 3-to-1 slope, he said you can store a total of 6,818 tons of silage in a safe and smart pile.  In the unsafe example he showed, they put 12,000 tons on the pile.

Orr used 10% to estimate standard shrink.  In the bunker with 6,818 tons of feed, Orr estimated the producer would lose 682 tons of feed.  At $45 per ton, they would lose $30,690 worth of feed.

Moving over to the 12,000-ton pile, based on the inefficient way the pile was put up, Orr estimated shrink at 25%.  Doing the same math, he estimated the customer would lose 3,000 tons of feed worth $135,000.  For the sake of comparison, if the pile was put up correctly, Orr estimates the loss would be around 1,200 tons of feed worth $54,000, an $81,000 difference.

Taking it one step further, Orr applied dollars to the production that would be lost and estimated, on a 1,000-cow dairy, the producer would lose $90 per cow in decreased cost or net income.

“That’s a lot of value lost due to lower milk production,” Orr stated.

He emphasized it is best to carefully discuss these numbers with the customer and you should also include the herd’s nutritionist or forage specialist during these talks.  Orr said a friendly reminder of the additional cost of more pack tractors also wouldn’t hurt.

Orr said another solution is to refuse to fill unsafe or dangerous piles.  With safety as a priority of his, Orr closed his session with a reminder:

“Our number one goal is for every employee to go home safely at the end of the season.”

Category: Forage Foundations
Forage harvesting
Forage storage and management